When it comes to getting people to stick to their exercise goals, nothing beats hitting them in the pocket. And it seems to work the other way round – rewarding the committed – as well.

GymPact Rekindles Workout Enthusiasm by Penalising the Slackers

While few would deny that taking physical exercise is good for your health, that isn’t always enough of a motivator for everyone to push themselves to attain their set goals. Yifan Zhang and Geoff Oberhofer, two research students at Harvard University, have come up with a remedy for the under-motivated, in the form of an app called GymPact, which they have developed. GymPact provides a mechanism that enables people to earn cash by going to their gym. GymPact is already available in 80 countries, including several in Europe, but it is of course not the first app to encourage users to earn rewards for working out. GymPact’s major advantage is that the cash rewards are basically financed by people who do not stick to their exercise ‘pact’. You have to pay up for being lazy.

Rewards and penalties

Once you’ve downloaded the mobile app, you need to choose the number of days a week you plan to exercise, plus the cash amount you’re prepared to pay if you don’t turn up at the gym for your sessions. To subscribe to the platform, you have to commit to doing a minimum of 30 minutes exercise per week. When you get to the gym, you check in using the GPS function on your mobile phone to prove that you’re actually there. If you adhere to your ‘pact’ you earn a share of the cash which has accumulated on the platform. But if you miss a session or two, you’ll have to pay a penalty – a minimum of five dollars – to the site. The money taken in from the ‘slackers’ is thus redistributed to those who live up to their exercise commitments.

A ‘runaway’ success…

GymPact tallies up the accounts at the end of every week and pays its ‘model pupils’ by bank transfer. The app certainly seems to have attracted adherents: it took only two weeks to bring in 20,000 subscribers. Moreover, the basic principle seems to be working well too, stresses Yifan
Zhang, since “users on average stay true to 92% of their workout commitments.” Ms Zhang believes that “what motivates users is not so much earning money” – around 50 cents a session – but mainly the fact that “they hate losing money.” The GymPact team are planning to expand the app to additional platforms and they hope to add prize sponsors and corporate partners so as to provide greater motivation to the really committed exercisers.