Fitness Fun

Would You Join a Gym With a Motivational Fee?

02C09592We don’t always make the exercise choices that are in our best interest. Why? Ask a psychologist or behavioral economist, and they’ll tell you the answer is simple: people are not rational.

In addition to a desire to be healthy and strong, we’re driven by many other factors: our subconscious, our emotions, seductive advertising, a nagging need to know who’s winning on The Voice, X Factor and American Idol…

With so many influences to drive us away from our workout plans, every “nudge” in the right direction helps.

Gym motivational fees to the rescue?

Recognizing that people hate punishment (especially of the losing-money variety), a few Harvard students decided to test-drive a concept where exercisers pay a fee to their gym if they skip a workout.

They tested the concept at Bally Total Fitness and Planet Fitness in Boston. Apparently, people loved it and found that it helped them stick to their guns, so the students launched a company based on the concept and developed an iPhone app.

Now people are using the program for any gym, as well as outdoor workouts. Users choose their desired workout schedule and their fee—at least $5-10 for each missed workout.
Reward vs. punishment

On the flipside, people who stick to their workout pact get a reward. According to the website, it’s around 50 cents, and it’s paid for out of the slacker money pool. Of course, while that’s a nice incentive, we know the real motivator is the penalty. Thanks to the phenomenon of loss aversion, “people are more likely to work to avoid a loss than they are to earn a gain,” Emily Guy Birken says on MoneyNing.

Not to mention, in this case, the value of the penalty is a lot higher than the value of the reward.

According to the company’s website, people who use the GymPact app show up for 86% of the workouts they commit to. That’s not a bad success rate.

Some gyms have adopted similar motivational fee policies. Others offer a discount on gym membership if you swipe in at least eight times per month, for example. And some offer a credit for those who renew their memberships beyond spring (as incentive to stick with your New Year’s Resolutions).

You’d think the money we spend on the gym membership in the first place would be enough to stay committed. And I think most of us believe that when we sign up—only to find it isn’t enough. I guess once the money’s spent, it’s easy to get over it. Besides, if you pay the same per month regardless of how often you go, you’re getting your money’s worth whether you go daily or just a few times per month.

So what do you think about motivational fees and credits?

Would a monetary reward be enough to kill your exercise excuses? Or would it take a $10 fee to get you to show up 100% of the time?

And if you have a little money to spend, rather than waste it on gym penalties, maybe the best incentive of all is having a brain trainer to keep you in line! 😉

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Chelsea Ratcliff

Chelsea Ratcliff

Writer and expert


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