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Apple Watch can earn you money from just walking

UnitedHealthcare is integrating the Apple Watch into its wellness incentive program, which lets members earn money if they meet daily walking goals.


The Apple Watch is joining UnitedHealthcare's digital wellness program.  

James Martin/CNET

Need an incentive to exercise? Maybe the chance to land an Apple Watch could help.

That's what UnitedHealthcare is hoping, anyway. The health insurance company is integrating the Apple Watch into its UnitedHealthcare Motion digital wellness program, which gives people access to activity trackers that then allow them to earn up to $1,000 a year if they meet daily walking goals. The company announced the addition of the Apple Watch on Wednesday at the HIMSS health information and technology conference in Las Vegas.

After paying tax and shipping, anyone enrolled in UnitedHealthcare Motion can get an Apple Watch Series 3 and have the option to apply earnings from the program toward buying the device. After that, their earnings are deposited into their health savings account or health reimbursement account to help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses.

The program's walking goals are centered around frequency (walking 500 steps within seven minutes six times per day, at least an hour apart), intensity (3,000 steps within 30 minutes) and tenacity (10,000 total steps each day). If participants meet these daily goals, they can own the watch in six months. 

Wearable devices like the Apple Watch are maturing into health monitors that can detect diabetes, identify irregular heart rhythms and spot hypertension and sleep apnea. That increased functionality is boosting consumer interest; Forrester predicts smartwatches will increase from 21 percent of all wearables sold in 2016 to 51 percent in 2022, making them the most popular wearable device. The overall US wearables market will grow from $4.8 billion in 2016 to $9 billion in 2022, the firm predicts, a compound annual growth rate of 9 percent from 2017 to 2022.

"UnitedHealthcare Motion is part of our consumer-focused strategy that is driving toward a simple, integrated, mobile-centric ecosystem that delivers value to consumers," Steve Nelson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare, said in a statement. 

The program's walking targets are set in the UnitedHealthcare Motion app, which is integrated with Apple's HealthKit to use data from the Apple Watch to track daily goals. 

Some UnitedHealthcare Motion participants will be able to get their hands on an Apple Watch beginning in July. Full availability starts later this year. 

Apple declined to comment.

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