Is it in the nature of athletes’ to cheat?

Discovery Vitality drops Strava, Runkeeper and Mapmyfitness from active rewards because of cheating!

We vilify Lance Armstrong and all the mechanical and chemical dopers in cycling for  cheating  but Discovery Vitality members seem to be no better, cheating to get vitality rewards!

Is it in the nature of the athlete to cheat? Or is it that we are creative and ensuring we get what we want? Does the end justify the means? Is there a difference between a pro cyclist and your average Jack or Jill doing what it takes to get a reward? Are we all dark at heart or is it a game and we are in it to beat the system, in it to push the envelope, because as athletes we often live on the edge, the thrill, the rush, ADRENALINE?

This weeks’ newsletter from Discover made me once again reflect on the question of cheating in sport;  cycling, mountain biking, athletics, FIFA and the IAF. What administrators and athletes did to win and then I ask you….

What will you do to get a free smoothie weekly?

It’s a sad truth, but when a company creates a rewards program for consumers, there will always be individuals who try to game the system.

This is a reality that Discovery seems to be addressing in regards to how it allocates Vitality points.

Vitality Points are awarded to members for completing certain activities and reaching a number of set goals. Some members, however, seem to have found ingenious ways to fool the activity tracking with devices like FitBit so that they still get awarded the points and maintain their goals –  with minimal effort.

This becomes a bit of a problem in the case of Discovery Apple Watch promotion. As it stands, the more you worked out and achieved your goals, the less you pay per month for the Watch.

Effective from 2 April, Discovery will delist Adidas miCoach, Moves, RunKeeper, Strava, MapMyFitness and Timex as recognised apps or devices, and members will no longer receive points if they track their activity with them.

“Our new device strategy is part of our continuous efforts to update the Vitality programme in line with the latest health research as well as wearable technology advancements, by focusing on tracking clinically relevant, verified exercise data,” Discovery said in a newsletter.

If you make use of an Adidas MiCoach, Moves, RunKeeper, Strava, MapMyFitness and Timex, you might want to invest in another tracking device.

“The fitness devices and apps Adidas miCoach, Moves, RunKeeper, Strava, MapMyFitness and Timex either do not distinguish between third party data or self-reported data, or utilize an unreliable integration. These apps compromise the accuracy and verifiability of the fitness data we receive, so we will no longer allocate Vitality fitness points for using these apps from 2 April 2016,” it said.

If you make use of a Fitbit, Garmin, Jawbone or Polar device linked through MapMyFitness, you are somewhat in the clear, but need to make a small adjustment.

“We ask that you please re-link your device directly to Vitality through the Discovery website or mobile app before these changes come into effect on 2 April 2016.”

To be in the clear in terms of devices, Discovery explained that “you can earn Vitality points for steps and speed through Apple Watch, Samsung Gear Watch, Polar, Garmin, Jawbone, Fitbit, Fitbug, Withings and Misfit devices which will enable you to earn points based on your steps or speed tracked each day.”

Not only that, but the company has overhauled its entire points allocation system.

“As a scientific-based wellness programme that aims to improve our members’ health, we are continuously reviewing ways to enhance health outcomes. As a result, we’re updating our points structure to ensure that we are awarding points consistent with clinically relevant and verifiable physical activity data,” it said.

The company has also released a new heart rate sliding table, in which it tabled your heart rate relevant to your age to work out how many Vitality Fitness points you will earn based on your workout.

Members will also be rewarded less points (or none) if their heart rate is too low. As an example, if you are 20 years old and your heart rate is 139 or below during an activity, you’ll be awarded no points.

As an example, previously cyclists would have earned around 1 500 points for cycling something like the annual Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge. According to the updated allocations, the points for cycling 50 – 99km has now been dropped to 600 points.

Members will also notice that the maximum amount of potential points for hitting a ‘steps per day’ target (in this case, it’s only for exceeding 10 000 steps) has been reduced to 100.

Essentially what needs to happen now, is that members need to have a look at the points allocation table above to see how many points they could possibly earn. From there, they need to open the heart rate scale and track what percentage of the full amount of activity you’ll receive.

Gaming Vitality’s system is now probably more effort than maintaining a decent fitness regimen.


(adapted from