The economic value of movement

The economic value of movement

Originally published for Sweat Economy

Your movement has value. If Sweat Economy did not exist, your movement would still have a value.

This value is innate and natural, similar to the value of your vision, or your hearing.

We can point to valuable industries that rely on your bodily senses, but we cannot quantify the entirety of the value of your senses. For example, the music industry is dependent upon your hearing, but that hardly captures the the value of your hearing which, to most of us, is priceless.

So it is with the value of movement. We can point to part of its economic value, but this is simply an expression of its underlying, unquantifiable value. As such, this article is by no means extensive. Instead, it is intended as a helpful response to a comment we hear so often:

“I understand that movement has some kind of value, I just don’t really see how.”

In this article, we will explore the value of movement that we can capture with SWEAT. In previous articles and the Litepaper, we have focused on the value we can create through Sweat Economy. Both these values — the one we capture, and the one we create — are part of our mission.

The value of movement

The innate value of movement is reflected in the simple fact that movement can contribute to making us happier, more productive, collaborative, and less sick. Think of all the products we, as a society, spend billions on to achieve happiness, health, and productivity!

The value behind movement is the reason employers pay for their employees gym memberships. It is why governments fund cycle to work schemes, grassroots sports, and generally subsidise physical activity. It is why health insurers offer discounts to the physically active. It is why the NHS have partnered with Sweatcoin.

The cause of health

Before we dive into the economics, a word on causality.

Exercise does not cause health. Research demonstrates an association between exercise and health.

That means that, generally, people who engage in exercise tend to be healthier, but exercise is not the ‘cause’ of their health. Health is holistic; it is determined by many factors, of which exercise is simply one contributing and accompanying factor.

For example, perhaps one explanation of the association between exercise and health is that exercise requires and reinforces positive attitudes, while preventing stress, which we know to be one of the great determinants to health.

This provides some important context for the research in this article. When we talk about the costs of physical inactivity, and the benefits of exercise, remember that exercise is not the only cause or the only solution. It is simply one factor.

We believe that by incentivizing movement, which we know to be associated with health, we can help to catalyze and bring about that health to our users.

Remember: a holistic view of your health is always best.

That means that 5,000 steps a day taken with self-care and appreciation for your ability to move is probably more beneficial to your health than 15,000 steps taken out of guilt, or a feeling that you must do better, or out of fear of illness.

Why not go for a walk because it feels amazing, rather than out of fear of getting sick?

The cost of inactivity

Onto the economics. While it may be evident that movement has value, quantifying the value can be difficult. There is no aggregate number to demonstrate the value of movement, but there are a variety of data points that show the cost of its opposite: the lack of movement.

McKinsey estimates the cost to the world economy at $2 trillion per annum.

Positive externalities

When you become active, you create a positive externality. This means that you produce a benefit greater than the personal benefit you experience. There is an ‘external’ value, which can be captured.

“Air quality, carbon emissions, health and wellbeing, congestion on our roads are all serious issues facing our society today. A common thread is that investment in cycling and walking can improve them all.”

UK Government Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy.

Some examples of the positive externalities of healthy exercise habits:

Healthcare providers

Exercise can lower the cost of care.

Health insurers

Exercise can lower the cost of care (and of cover). Some insurers, such as Vitality, already reward active clients, essentially purchasing exercise.


Exercise can increase focus and productivity, while contributing to fewer sick days, and improvements in mental health. Exercise is associated with quality of thinking, judgement, learning, and creativity. If employers pay for insurance premiums, this can be another cost saved.


The benefit to the government is the benefit to the groups above. There is a reason the UK has many tax exemptions for employers who promote exercise amongst their employees. Furthermore, governments fund exercise, sports, and fitness initiatives because they know how important it is to general quality of life, reducing the cost of healthcare, and to creating collaborative members of society. The UK government is currently piloting exercise-incentive schemes.

The benefits of movement are both a cost saved and a productivity gained.

Other externalities

The cost of congestion

An increase in walking, running or cycling will lower congestion rates. The INRIX traffic scorecard indicates the cost of congestion derived from the wasted hours spent by workers in cars when “the demand for road space exceed[s] supply”. In the US in 2019 alone, $88 billion were lost. Even if this statistic is taken with a pinch of salt, it highlights a very real cost for employers, governments, and employees (particularly those who earn by the hour).

The problem of pollution

An increase in walking, running, or cycling will lower pollution rates. While governments increase taxes on polluting vehicles, and incentivize the adoption of electric cars, there is a supporting solution: to incentivize physical activity. This is already achieved via subsidised bicycling solutions.

Mental health

Outlined above, the far ranging impacts of improving mental health deserve recognition. Not only has this been objectively verified by research, it touches upon a less immediately quantifiable point that is worth considering. If physical activity makes people feel good, makes people feel better, then it has value.

Beyond insurance discounts, and productivity increases, the more abstract benefits must be appreciated to comprehend the full value of movement.

Capturing the value of externalities

SWEAT is a tokenization of movement. Through it, movement can be tracked, verified, and its value redeemed. It offers an opportunity to capture the value of positive externalities.

For example, through the Sweat DAO, an individual could engage a health insurer for a discount on their insurance premium.

Beyond health

There is an entire economy based on movement. What are Nike and Adidas, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Apple Watches and FitBits, marathons and gym memberships, Wimbledon and the Olympics all about?

Achievement. Excellence. Contribution. Unity. Friendship. Patriotism.

It all relates to humanity’s love of movement.

In this world of movement, there is an economy relating to brands, investors, and institutions. Sweatcoin has already entered this economy by engaging many fitness brands, who operate as vendors in the marketplace.

  • Fitness apparel and equipment (Reebok, Adidas, Pursue Fitness)
  • Health food and nutrition (The Protein Works, MyProtein, Raze)
  • Fitness Apps (Daily Burn, Auro, FitOn)
  • Health Product Subscriptions (Dollar Shave Club, Lumin, Noom, Smile Direct Club)

To these brands, knowing who is active — and accessing them — is a huge part of their requirements. An app that measures steps offers them a network of engaged, physically active customers.

$70m worth of goods and services has been exchanged for sweatcoins in Sweatcoin’s marketplace in Q1 2022. Why? While there are many contributing factors, it is primarily because the vendor saves on the cost of customer acquisition and, perhaps, most importantly, they create a strong brand that does not demand physical activity, but rewards it.

Quantifying the unquantifiable

We hope the above goes some way to explaining the economic value of movement. The examples given are not meant to be extensive, but simply to illustrate the many ways movement has value.

The above, however, is only a small part of the picture. There is a value to movement beyond what we can quantify with economics.

If nothing else, movement can simply help to put a smile of people’s faces.


Further reading

If you have any interesting research, please get in touch.

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