Gym regulars might grumble when classes and locker rooms fill with resolute new members each January, but the crowds rarely last long. I’m sure many gyms’ revenue models depend on members who pay monthly fees but use the facilities infrequently, if at all. These people (and I’ve been one in the past) are essentially throwing money away by not going to the gym, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to get them out of bed and into spinning class at 6am. The rewards of better fitness are much more distant than the allure of another half hour of sleep.
The Boston Globe’s Susan Johnston reports on a Boston business that’s trying a different approach:
Gym-Pact offers what Zhang calls motivational fees — customers agree to pay more if they miss their scheduled workouts, literally buying into a financial penalty if they don’t stick to their fitness plans. The concept arose from Zhang’s behavioral economics class at Harvard, where professor Sendhil Mullainathan taught that people are more motivated by immediate consequences than by future possibilities.
… 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.
These days, what gets me out of bed and into the pool is the knowledge that if I don’t, I’ll feel worse all week. For those who join a gym but don’t manage to get there, would a Gym-Pact-type system be enough of an extra push?