Interview with Alex Light, the man behind health and fitness app Styck
Sometimes even the die-hard fitness fanatics need a bit of a nudge to get up and go for that 5am cycle. Alex Light and his business partner Ben Walton have created an iPhone app that not only measures how much you move, but more movement means more prizes – the more you step, the more likely you are to be in with a chance of claiming free hotel stays or luxury car rentals. The creators hope that incentivising physical movement it will not only benefit an individual’s health, but the nation as a whole. The app launched at the beginning of March. Alex talks us through how the idea for it came about and how it works.
What inspired you to create this app? We were thinking about how we could incentivise and reward people for living healthy, active lifestyles. We thought it would be of particular relevance in the UAE as there are many people here who are either diabetic or at a high risk of developing the disease. A huge amount of workers are stuck behind their desks, not really moving around. Then people go to the gym for 20 to 40 minutes and then that’s all their movement for the day. So we thought we’d put together a product where corporates and brands could sponsor and offer their products and services as prizes to a person achieving better health to incentivise them to go even further.
How does it work? Users just need to download the app and it will talk them through the first stages. Once registered they just need to get out and start moving – it’s that simple. You can set goals and check which you want to work towards. They’re all staggered after you achieve your first 7,000 steps in a day. You could get a free workout course and you can work up towards hotel stays or a free Jeep rental.
Why 7,000 steps? The American average is about 4,000 and we did some tests early on to see what would be effective and taxing enough. We found that 7,000 steps is quite a tough threshold for people to break through. This can be moved as this might be too much of a challenge.
Who sets the goals? We set them within the app and there’s usually a correlation between the rarity of the reward and the level of achievement. We have three metrics – monthly steps, daily steps and the amount of consecutive days in which you can achieve the 7,000 steps a day and we can set rewards that are triggered by achieving any of these.
Why incentivise movement? Surely the benefit of good health is incentive enough? But if you look at the data, it’s not enough. Only a small percentage of people live heathy lives just for the reward of having good health. Often there are a few things that hold people back and one of them is education. I think that the commonly held position is that you have to do something ultra-intense and that’s not accessible for everyone. We incentivise every other part of our lives, so why not exercise?
Can the app register any kind of movement? Yes. Steps are the metric but wherever you take your phone, if it’s anything above an iPhone 5s, it will track any kind of movement and relate it to steps. If you go cycling, running or trampolining it will still create steps from your movements.
So how does the app know that you’re doing physical movement and that you’re not sitting in the back of the car? The key is that Styck is not GPS based. Some of the other apps just track your movement from one point to another, but the actual hardware in our app is intelligent enough to know what you’re doing. So if you are in a car it recognises that the movement is not a fluid body movement and it will be able to tell you if you’ve been waking, running or cycling just by the cadence of your steps. It’s pretty awesome stuff. It’s one of those untapped pieces of technology that goes on in the background of your telephone. Available for iOS from www.styckapp.com or from the App Store.
More apps to keep track of your fitness
Nike+ Running This tracking app measures your runs and helps you reach your goals by setting targets. You can compete with friends and share your victories on social media. Free. Available for Android and iPhone. www.nike.com.
7 Minute Workout This app is designed for those who are time-poor but want to lose weight and get a flatter stomach. The app guides you through a seven-minute, high-intensity workout that consists of 12 30-second exercises, with a ten-second break in between. Free. Available for Android and iPhone. www.wahoofitness.com
Runtastic Running GPS Tracker Runtastic uses GPS to map and track sports and fitness activities. The app records your cardio workout progress, measuring duration, distance, elevation change and estimating the total calories burned. You can also tap into the global running community for encouragement and moral support. Free. Available for Android and iPhone. www.runtastic.com.