STEPN and Wellbeing Impact!

As we continue to build and grow STEPN, we like to reflect on our roots every now and then.

One of our biggest motivators when we first started this project was to add more good to the world. As we considered how we could create something that would benefit our friends, family, and neighbours — and spread those benefits across the globe — we kept our north star in mind. We want to make the world a healthier place while bridging the gap between web2 and web3.

This north star led us to build a move-and-earn app. More than ever, millions of people across the world struggle to take care of their well-being. We know it’s not always easy — so we’re doing our best to lend a helping hand.

Getting outdoors

The modern human spends an inordinate amount of time indoors — over 90% of our time, whether that’s cooking, eating, doing work, or spending time with family. Quarantine and government-imposed lockdowns only cemented this phenomenon.

This is having a significant impact on our health. In a campaign to spread awareness, Velux dubbed us the “Indoor Generation” and worked with NGOs, politicians, industry stakeholders, and consumers across 41 countries to investigate how staying indoors affects our health and well-being.

Scientists found that living in damp and mouldy homes increases the risk of asthma by 40%. Things like deteriorating building materials and furnishing, old or faulty HVAC systems and even products like air fresheners can release pollutants continuously. In the short-term, this can cause eye, nose and throat irritation and in the long term can lead to respiratory diseases, heart disease, or even cancer.

In addition, the researchers discovered, daylight is a necessity, not a luxury. Vitamin D deficiencies are linked to tiredness, fatigue, and increased vulnerability to disease, not to mention mental health problems. Artificial light can also disrupt our body’s clock, leading to concentration issues, sleeping problems, high blood pressure, and more.

Finally, living in urban areas and staying indoors, away from nature, is a big problem. We’re evolutionarily wired to be around nature. Many studies have linked green spaces (parks and other areas with trees and grass) to positive mental health. And people who spent at least two hours in nature per week were more likely to report higher levels of health and well-being.

Indeed, staying inside has a huge amount of negative impacts on our health. That’s why we’ve designed STEPN, not just for exercise, but for exercise outdoors. By using GPS to track outdoor movement, we help nudge people to get out of their houses and get moving — walking, running, or jogging outside.

Even beyond getting fitter and in better shape, we want to encourage people to go outside and enjoy the countless mental and physical benefits of doing that — breathing fresher and cleaner air, soaking in some Vitamin D and daylight, and improving their mental health by being around more nature.

Supporting socialization

Loneliness is also becoming a shadow epidemic across the world, and it’s affecting people of all ages.

  • According to a Pew Research Survey, over a quarter of people over 60 live alone and more than 43% said they felt lonely even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • At the same time, young adults were some of the hardest hit during the pandemic, with 61% of people aged 18 to 25 reporting high levels of loneliness.

Again, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated our isolation. With social distancing and stringent quarantines, everyone experienced some sense of isolation from the world. This is a serious issue, especially because social isolation has far-reaching and major consequences on health and well-being.

Mentally, loneliness leaves you at higher risk for cognitive decline, dementia, and depression. And physically, scientists have found that loneliness increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. In fact, the effects of loneliness on one’s mortality is so significant that it is on par with mortality-related risk factors of obesity, or even smoking a staggering 15 cigarettes a day.

While it may seem shocking, these findings all boil down to our biological roots — we are, by nature, hardwired to need social interactions. Since prehistoric times, our survival has depended on cooperating with others. We have mirror neurons that help us match others’ emotions and, more than any other animal, our bodies tend to work better when we’re not alone. We actually produce more cortisol, the stress hormone, when we feel lonelier.

Thus, STEPN is dedicated to creating a community of walkers, joggers, and runners to help combat the loneliness epidemic. In fact, the web3 community as a whole has been an incredible antidote to loneliness, creating a new wave of digital watering holes — Discord, Twitter, Medium, and more — where like-minded people can gather and discuss their interests and ideas.

Building on this, STEPN’s explosive growth has fostered a strong network of people who share their fitness transformations, cheer each other on, and celebrate each other’s wins. Perhaps most powerfully, STEPN is turning running/walking/jogging (which are inherently solo activities) into a group activity. At any given point, users can know that tens of thousands of other STEPN-ers are running along with them — not in the metaverse, but in reality.

(We still don’t know who’s running with a tablet!)

Mental health

Finally, mental health and illnesses are becoming a crisis too. Nearly one in five US adults live with mental illness — or about 53 million people. From anxiety to depression, mental illness costs the global economy a staggering $1 trillion every single year.

The worst part is that the rates are rising. Between 2005 and 2017, rates of depression increased a whopping 52% among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old. And again, COVID-19 has had a massive impact on our mental well-being as well, with the WHO reporting that it caused a 25% spike in anxiety and depression.

Beyond the direct impact of mental health on our well-being — which is inarguably massive — this is also creating secondary consequences such as higher rates of substance abuse, addiction, and poor physical health. Individuals suffering from depression often have impacted social and cognitive function, decreased energy levels, and are at higher risk for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more.

For many people, professional help is required and STEPN doesn’t claim to be the answer to solving mental illnesses. But daily exercise — such as taking a walk and going outside — has been proven to be a powerful and useful tool in fighting depression. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that aerobic activity at moderate levels (a brisk walk) for just 2.5 hours a week, or around half an hour a day, may substantially lower the risk of depression.

And don’t just take it from them — we’ve seen testimonials from people like Ben, who said he hit rock bottom just a month ago as a result of his mental illness, resulting in an inability to hold down jobs and struggling with dark moods. But, he says, STEPN helped him break the cycle:

Closing Thoughts

As COVID helped us become more aware of our health, more and more people are emphasizing the importance of holistic well-being. That involves more than just physical fitness — it includes your mental well-being, your environment, and your relationships.

We know we can’t solve everything, but we’re doing our best to be an extra nudge — to provide an extra incentive for people to nurture and take care of themselves. We are dedicated to encouraging more people to move outdoors, socialize with others, and improve their mental health.

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