If maintaining good health and fitness isn't reward enough for staying active, sometimes a financial incentive can be even more powerful. Sure, exercising regularly may save money on health-care costs in the long run, but more immediate returns can be had, as well, if you know where to find them. Some methods require a fitness tracker from a brand such as Fitbit, Jawbone, or Misfit. Others are open to anyone with a smartphone. Either way, you don't have to be a personal trainer or fitness instructor to get paid to work out.
AchieveMint integrates with social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and numerous fitness apps and wearables, tracking anything users do that is health-related. Going for a run or even checking in to a health-food store accrues points that can be redeemed for cash. This service is so popular that there's a wait list to enroll.
Pact (formerly known as GymPact) uses the prospect of earning but also losing money as motivation to work out. Users make weekly "pacts" with themselves, essentially betting on whether or not they will eat vegetables or make it to the gym as often as they say they will. For instance, they might make a pact to go to the gym four times a week at $10 a workout. If they check in to the gym only twice, they lose $20. But if they do go four times, they make money for each completed workout -- usually about 50 cents -- which is taken from those who don't hit their goals.
Higi rewards users for tracking health metrics such as blood pressure at check-in stations in stores such as Rite Aid, Whole Foods, ShopRite, and Stop Shop, among others. Higi syncs with assorted apps and fitness trackers, as well, to award points. The points can be redeemed for discounts on a number of health-related items.
Bounts takes activities logged through a fitness tracker or app and turns them into points that can be converted into gift cards. There are more reward options in the U.K., but the U.S. store offers gift cards from huge brands including Walmart, Target, and the Home Depot.
HealthyWage is a platform where users can bet on whether they will achieve weight-loss goals. They can sign up alone, with a team of five, or through an employer. One challenge has a grand prize of $10,000 (with several smaller prizes) and costs $25 a month for three months to enter. Participants who lose 10 percent of their weight in nine months get more money back. Those who sign up individually can name their own prize by adjusting their weight-loss goal and how much they contribute. Before and after videos are required to prove weight loss.
DietBet users can join or start "games," which are essentially betting pools for weight-loss goals such as losing 4 percent of their body weight in four weeks, losing 10 percent in six months, or maintaining weight loss for 12 months. Those who make the goal get their money back and divide the spoils from those who do not. Even if almost everyone wins, all the winners are guaranteed their money back -- DietBet forfeits the fees. Photographic proof of weigh-ins is required to collect the prize.
EveryMove rewards users for being active with points related to the type of exercise and its duration. Users can earn points for the number of steps they take (as measured by a pedometer), for checking in to a gym or an event such as a 5K, or just for manually entering their activities. EveryMove works with health insurers to convert points into lower premiums or gift cards -- and promises that premiums will never increase as a result of the data collected.
Leap4Life syncs with most fitness trackers and rewards users for healthy behavior with FitWell points that can be redeemed for gift cards. There is a strong social component to this service. Users can join virtual events or challenge themselves or their friends to earn more points. Status points doled out for participation in the community make FitWell points more valuable.
Instead of making money for themselves, Charity Miles users track their fitness efforts to reward others. Earnings for walking, running, or biking can be donated to more than two dozen charities. (The funding comes from corporate sponsorships.)
WALGREENS BALANCE REWARDS
Walgreens has a points program that syncs with assorted apps and wearable devices. Rewards come from activities such as setting and achieving goals, exercising, monitoring blood pressure or blood glucose, and quitting tobacco. Every 5,000 points earned translates to $5 at any Walgreens store.
DICK'S SPORTING GOODS
After connecting the Dick's Sporting Goods app to a Fitbit or the MapMyRun app, users get three points each day they walk 10,000 steps. Every 300 points can be redeemed for $10 off a purchase.
Anyone over 18 can create an AARP account and get points for connecting a Fitbit. AARP members get 50 percent more points. Users earn points by tracking their steps or participating in numerous other AARP activities, such as taking health quizzes. The points can be cashed in for gift cards, used to enter sweepstakes, or redeemed for discounts on merchandise.
HEALTH INSURANCE INCENTIVES
Numerous health and life insurance companies offer travel, shopping, and entertainment discounts or rewards for wearing a fitness tracker and achieving goals such as 10,000 steps a day. In some cases, the insurer even provides the fitness tracker free of charge. With John Hancock life insurance products introduced last year, policy holders can reduce their premiums up to 15 percent by tracking their activities with the wellness program Vitality and a free Fitbit, although that has raised privacy concerns.
EMPLOYEE WELLNESS PROGRAMS
Many employers provide incentives for healthy behavior such as exercise or participation in a smoking cessation program. The reward might be reduced insurance premiums, contributions to health savings accounts, discounts, or cash. In 2015, the average financial incentive offered through corporate wellness programs was $693 per employee, according to a survey by Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health, and the number has been trending upward.