It’s February now, which means that you’ve thoroughly forgotten your New Year’s resolutions. Long gone. We understand—it happens every year. The best-laid personal improvement plans often go awry under pressure from back-to-school blues, winter snowstorms, income taxes, and—to the chagrin of the neglected all-inclusive gym membership in your wallet—chocolate. Sweet, sweet chocolate.
Of course, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight, to tone up those thighs, to run longer and faster, to lift more weight more times. This is only natural: America is collectively letting out more slack on its belt each year, only to fill the gap with Double Downs and Trenta caramel Frappucinos. America needs exercise resolutions, but maybe the exerciser-membership dynamic could use some reform. Or, as Good’s Cord Jefferson puts it, “what if our workout facilities started hitting us where it really counts; not in our guts, but in our pocketbooks?”
Jefferson isn’t just postulating, he’s describing the incentive structure of Gym-Pact, a Boston-based enforced fitness program. The idea is simple: Sign up for Gym-Pact and get discounts on memberships to local gyms, yoga studios, and dance centers. But there’s a hitch. When you sign up, you commit to a workout schedule—and if you don’t follow through with your fitness regimen, you’re charged a $10 per day “motivational fee.”
The developers of Gym-Pact were inspired by the pillar of behavioral economic theory that states people are more incentivized by concrete consequences than uncertain benefits. “[B]ecause many gym fees are paid for up front,” Jefferson explains, “people tend to give up on working out fairly easily, as they consider the cost sunk regardless of whether they go. But by instituting an immediate daily cost, the motivation behind the penalty drastically increases.”
Image by deanetr, licensed under Creative Commons.