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Gym or No Gym

January 28, 2011

Ah, do you remember how you made that New Year’s resolution vowing to get into better shape and be healthy? During the haste and excitement of making this vow, you made an honest pledge to join a gym and work out religiously in order to accomplish your healthy resolution. In the initial stages, you went to the gym and did your workout routine, but something happened along the way. You realized it was becoming a hassle to go to the gym, so you stopped going altogether.

Now imagine if you faced a monetary penalty for not going. Yikes! If you had to pay money for not going to the gym, would that change your behavior and provide you with enough of an incentive to go?

Two economists are testing out that theory with some willing participants:

Gym-Pact negotiated a group rate with Planet Fitness, then paid the membership fees for participants, who in return for a free membership agreed to work out at least four times per week. If they fail to follow the schedule in any one week, the participants pay $25. If they leave the program for any reason other than injury or illness, they will pay $75. For now the fees will be used to pay for the gym memberships and to build a financial aid fund.

The results aren’t in yet, so it’s difficult to gauge whether this program will work in encouraging people to go to the gym more often.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that people always respond to monetary incentives. We are all human, after all, so we make our decisions on other factors, too. For the people who do not really want to go to the gym, they will pay the $75 penalty fee to quit going to the gym because they lack the motivation–for whatever reason–to go consistently after the initial excitement wanes.

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