McDonald’s Is Giving Out Fitness Trackers with Its Happy Meals

A Tufts public health expert says it's actually not a bad idea.

McDonald's Step-it

Screenshot via YouTube

UPDATED, August 18, 9 a.m.: Well, that didn’t last long. McDonald’s has reportedly removed Step-its from its Happy Meals, amid complaints of skin irritation caused by the gadgets.

“We have taken this swift and voluntary step after receiving limited reports of potential skin irritations that may be associated from wearing the band,” McDonald’s told Business Insider in a statement. “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and we are fully investigating this issue.”

You were so close, Mickey D’s.

Original story:

For a limited time, McDonald’s will serve up burgers and fries with a side of cognitive dissonance.

Taking the public’s growing interest in health and wellness to heart, the fast food behemoth has announced that, for a few weeks, it’s handing out fitness trackers with every Happy Meal purchased in the United States and Canada. Yes, this is for real.

The wearables, called Step-its, are certainly nothing that will rival your Fitbit. They’re simple plastic pedometers in an array of kid-friendly colors, and Mashable reports that they “[don’t] log your steps accurately,” and instead “approximate steps based on simple movement.” Still, reps from McDonald’s say the devices are a good way to get children (and McNugget-loving adults) moving.

“Physical activity is important to everyone of all ages. We very much support children’s well-being,” Michelle McIlmoyle, McDonald’s Canada senior marketing manager, said in a press release. “Step-it is in line with McDonald’s general philosophy for Happy Meal toys, which is to make toys that encourage either physical or imagination-based play.”

The Golden Arches isn’t alone in that feeling—a living, breathing public health expert thinks McDonald’s is doing a good thing, too. There’s a sentence you won’t read very often.

“I love it that Happy Meals will include a Step-it because it promotes physical activity,” says Lisa Gualtieri, an assistant professor of public health at Tufts University School of Medicine who has a special interest in fitness trackers. “It gives children a greater awareness of their step count. From a public health perspective, increasing awareness of and providing education about physical activity is beneficial.”

Step-its shouldn’t cast McDonald’s food under a health halo, of course, but Gualtieri says the trackers likely won’t draw many new customers through the door, and instead may add a silver lining to the meals of people who chose to eat at McDonald’s independently.

“I would be surprised if lots of people eat there just for the Step-it, but I might be wrong,” she says. “What I think is more likely is that people eating there will get one and some will try it out.”

Has hell frozen over, or is our McFlurry just extra cold?