Fitness trackers are a Marmite issue – but could you be bribed into exercising with one?

The popularity of wearable technology for monitoring your movements has always been a mystery to me – maybe it’s because I’m a lazy lump who’s got no desire to boost my daily step count.

Given a choice I’ll take the shortest possible route to walk to where I need to get to. You certainly wouldn’t catch me pacing the newsroom floor at MSE Towers in a desperate attempt to improve my Fitbit score.

Of course I know many people like to keep track of how many steps they’re making daily via wearable technology, such as the Fitbit, so they can try to beat previous scores and ultimately get fitter. Personally, if I want to lose weight, I’ll go out for a run or dust off the old football boots.

I was recently chatting to a pal with a similar aversion to personal tracking contraptions –  his exact words were “I wouldn’t wear one of those things if you paid me”. Well, funny he should say that…

Health insurer Vitality has teamed up with Apple to produce a scheme whereby customers are effectively bribed to exercise and monitor it via wearable technology.

From mid-October, Vitality members will be able to strap a brand-spanking new Apple Watch Series 2 (RRP £369) around their wrist for a rock-bottom £69 – but there’s a catch.

The cost of the watch will rise (potentially to the full £369) if you don’t keep up a strict exercise regime.

Purchase of the watch is agreed alongside a 24-month plan and to keep the cost at £69 you must average at least 10,000 steps every day (that’s about five miles based on an average stride length).

Now, I’ve asked one of the many Fitbit aficionados we have here at MSE, and I’m reliably informed that 10,000 steps is par for the course for London commuters with a longer than average walk to and from the station.

But those who sign up to the Vitality offer who don’t make walking a core part of their day may find themselves making monthly instalments to pay off a higher proportion of the watch’s retail price.

Monthly payments can be as high as £12.50, and when you factor in the added cost of whatever you’re already paying Vitality for your insurance policy, it could get expensive.

Each day, you’ll earn three ‘activity points’ for hitting 7,000 steps, five points for making 10,000 and ten points if you top 12,500. The more you earn, the less you’ll pay, as the table below shows:

ACTIVITY POINTS EARNED IN A MONTH 0-39 40-79 80-119 120-159 160+
MONTHLY DIRECT DEBIT PAYMENT £12.50 £10 £7.50 £5 £0

Obviously whether or not the deal represents good value for money will depend on how much walking you’re willing (and able) to do, but it does at least introduce some kind of purpose to having your movements monitored.

And finally… the obvious question is –  can it be cheated? One bright spark at MSE suggested tongue-in-cheek that he could strap the watch to the tail of his cat and let it do his walking for him – although he admitted it would be tough to explain his sporadic sleeping patterns and the possibility of being monitored climbing trees.

In reality though, any attempt to do this would be classed as fraud. Vitality says it accepts there “will always be people who try to cheat the system” but insists the scheme will be monitored to detect anyone who tries to. You have been warned…