Why Discovery Vitality cut support for some fitness apps and trackers

Discovery Vitality recently announced changes to the way members earn fitness points, including dropping support for certain fitness tracking services.

Discovery will drop support for RunKeeper, Strava, MapMyFitness, adidas miCoach, Moves, and Timex from 2 April, Htxt reported.

These services do not distinguish between third-party or self-reported data, or “utilise an unreliable integration”, said Discovery.

As a result, fitness trackers from TomTom and Suunto can no longer be linked to members’ accounts through MapMyFitness, but Discovery said it is working to integrate them with its system.

TomTom or Suunto device users can still earn points for now, though.

Other devices linked through MapMyFitness must be re-linked through the Discovery website or mobile app, said Discovery.

It also increased heart rate requirements and adjusted activity goals, but Discovery said it would decrease members’ goals to give them a chance to adjust to the new rules.

Reliable and verifiable data

Discovery Vitality CEO Shrey Viranna said the changes are necessary to ensure data it receives from Vitality members is verifiable.

Viranna said it is important that people who are exercising do not feel they are being treated the same as those who are submitting erroneous results.

Another issue was reliability. Strava’s link to Vitality has been down for weeks at a time, and the poor user experience is often attributed to Discovery.

Viranna said Discovery is working with Strava to ensure the verifiability and reliability of the data and hopes to bring it back on.

Clinically-relevant fitness outcomes

Another aspect considered was ensuring Vitality fitness points were earned through clinically-relevant fitness outcomes, said Viranna.

This is the reason it is not accepting heart rate data from Fitbit devices. Fitbit sends data in heart rate zones, rather than average heart rate.

Discovery is working with Fitbit to get heart rate data that is more compatible with Vitality.

For members who don’t want to wait for the fix, it has offered to exchange their Fitbit for a chest strap that measures heart rate.

Encouraging healthier living

Discovery said its decision to change its heart rate tables and the way activity goals work was motivated by research and data gathered from members.

“Clinical research will tell you to exercise at least 150 minutes a week at a moderate heart rate, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise,” said Viranna.

“We want to encourage our members to be as active as they can and build up their exercise over time.”

Viranna said some members were hitting their weekly activity goals from a single session of strenuous exercise, which is out of line with what research shows.

“People feel like we’re giving them less points, but we’re saying exercise more frequently.”

“You can’t ever look at heart rate in isolation. You have to look at frequency and duration of activity too.”

Discovery also adjusted the fitness points table to add workouts worth 1,500 and 3,000 points, but Viranna said these were aimed at high-performance athletes.

They are not endorsing or encouraging people to train to that level, Viranna said. The new tiers were designed to be achieved in a race.

“Moderate heart rate activity, 3-5 times a week is what an Average Joe should do,” he said.

Viranna said they have seen an increase in activity among members who register for Vitality’s activity goals, with activity among inactive people up 40%, while activity among obese people increased by around 30%.

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Why Discovery Vitality cut support for some fitness apps and trackers