Plyo automatically checks users in when they enter campus recreation facilities like the RPAC so they can start earning points toward freebies at local retailers. Credit: Beka Cagle | Lantern Reporter

A few hours in the gym can earn students a gift card or free meal, thanks to a new fitness app.

The app, called Plyo, rewards university students with discounts and gift cards for businesses such as Amazon, Chick-fil-A and Chipotle for exercising at campus recreation facilities. The app has been rolled out at nine universities, including Ohio State.

Plyo co-founders Peter Schultze and Justin Buhl, University of Minnesota alumni, said they have always had a passion for health and fitness. The pair said they created Plyo in hopes of incentivizing students to prioritize exercise despite potentially busy schedules.

“During college, we saw a serious problem in the lifestyle habits that our friends were forming,” Schultze said. “It’s so important, especially at such a crucial part of our lives, you know, when we’re kind of forming the habits that stick with us the rest of our lives.”

Plyo users automatically rack up points on the app when they enter the virtual perimeters put around the seven recreation facilities on Ohio State’s campus, such as the RPAC and the North Recreation Center.

Students earn 50 points per hour spent at a campus recreation facility, or double that if they are joined by a friend using the app, with a limit of three hours per day. Those points can then be redeemed for discounts, gift cards and freebies at participating local restaurants and retailers.

Smaller rewards, such as free fries at Chick-fil-A, can be redeemed for 100 points, while other rewards, such as buy-one, get-one-free entrees at restaurants such as Blaze Pizza and Moe’s Southwest Grill, can be redeemed for 500 points. Users can also choose to use their points to enter raffles for gift cards from businesses such as Amazon, Starbucks and Chipotle.

Schultze said it was important to create a system with small barriers so users would feel encouraged to keep working toward new rewards.

Plyo currently offers rewards at eight local and 15 online retailers. However, new restaurants and businesses are added to the app based on user requests, Schultze said.

Grant Miller, a fifth-year in electrical engineering and employee at the RPAC, said he has heard criticism about the app. He said some have argued the app rewards exercise with fast food.

“I definitely don’t think that [Plyo] would make anyone off-campus come here to workout just for the points, but I think it might be making people already on campus go to the gym more often,” Miller said.

Schultze said the app does not store any user location data.

“We are very, very conscious about data privacy,” Schultze said. “It’s very important to us.”

For now, Plyo is only available for students at nine select universities. However, Schultze said he has plans to bring the app to every campus in the nation as well as national gym chains.

“We’re definitely focused on universities for now, but there’s no reason we can’t encourage active lifestyles outside of campus down the road,” Schultze said.

Plyo launched at Ohio State on Aug. 19 and currently has nearly 14,000 users, with just over 2,000 of those being Ohio State students, Schultze said. This semester is Plyo’s first time launching in universities outside of Minnesota.