How to Make (or Lose) Hundreds of Dollars Betting Crypto on Your Fitness Goals

"If I don't walk another 4,400 steps I'll lose $333." With a new app called Moonwalk, you get daily lessons in economics – and maybe healthier, too.

AccessTimeIconFeb 20, 2024 at 10:07 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 9:52 p.m. UTC
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  • An early-stage app called Moonwalk lets users boost the stakes for their fitness goals.
  • Customers contribute cryptocurrencies to join a challenge, and if they fail to meet their daily step goal, they surrender money to a prize pool shared by the other participants.
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  • SALT LAKE CITY — It was sometime around dinner as I was drinking a jungle juice that the bad news dawned on me. I texted my boss: "If I don't walk another 4,400 steps I'll lose $333."

    Such are the economics lessons you get when you turn your daily steps into fodder for the group building a crypto-based fitness game called Moonwalk.

    The premise is this: People are more likely to hit their fitness goals (say, a daily step count) when there's some external force holding them accountable. Perhaps it's their friends or a financial reward. In Moonwalk, it's both.

    On a chilly Utah Wednesday, someone from the 8-month-old startup convinced me and three other attendees of mtnDAO – the month-long coworking space in Salt Lake City full of developers building apps for the Solana blockchain – to essentially bet on ourselves in the step-counting game. We were to be among the first-ever outside testers of their platform, in which players pool their assets, commit to hitting a daily step goal and then hope – I guess – that the other players miss theirs.

    The buy-in for our three-day challenge was $1,000 of the USDC stablecoin. Each of us had to walk 10,000 steps a day; every day we miss that goal, we'll surrender $333 to the prize pool. At the end of the challenge, those who meet the daily goal split that pool. We each have full control of our original deposits; as long as we walk 10,000 steps a day, we'll get that money back.

    "It will trick you into getting fit so you don't lose money," Marbius, a pseudonymous product manager working on Moonwalk from mtnDAO, told a potential player. Another player, the pseudonymous Grove St, summed it up this way: "I like to make money. I've been making money so far."

    We send our deposits to Moonwalk's omnibus deposit address and link our on-chain accounts with health profiles that source step-counting data from iPhones and Androids. Every 10 minutes, the app pulls step data from Google Fit, updating our game's leaderboard.

    I got a taste of life as an early-stage tester when, after sending my money to the address, I did not appear immediately on the leaderboard. Marbius assured me this was a "known bug" that happens when players reload their web pages while their deposits are in transit. Sure enough, I showed up shortly.

    I felt the need to start walking immediately. Now I had money on the line. I took a quick stroll in the winter weather. It would get dark in a few hours. I'd better get my steps in soon.

    Moonwalk's ambitions stretch beyond step-counting and into many different areas of fitness, founder KW told me. He plans to "make more games incentivizing positive behavior change."

    For now, though, it's limited to steps. Over the course of three days, I and six other players logged tens of thousands of steps in our rush to avoid losing our stablecoins. Only one player screwed up. Twice he missed his 10,000-step goal, losing $666 to be divided up by the rest of us.

    That was just as well for me. When everything was said and done, I walked away with $111 in prize money.

    "I think Moonwalk just makes it more fun and engaging to do something simple," said Anders, the intern at Mrgn Research. "It makes it more competitive, too, which makes it more enjoyable." He estimated he'd won around $800 in just over a week.

    "I definitely plan on continuing to have a game open for a while."

    Meanwhile, I'm behind on today's steps.

    Edited by Nick Baker.


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    Danny Nelson

    Danny is CoinDesk's Managing Editor for Data & Tokens. He owns BTC, ETH and SOL.

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