Monday, January 16, 2012

Getting Paid to be Healthy?!

A friend sent me a link this morning to webpage titled GymPact. The concept is interesting, the user selects the number of days they want to go to the gym that week. Every time he/she checks into the gym via their iPhone, he/she is rewarded with cash. If they don't make it to the gym on the anticipated days the user is charged. View the video below for a better explanation.

I am sitting on the fence with this one. I am actually pretty torn. The creators say that their pilot was successful and they had amazing results. Which I totally believe. I think this will bring people to the gym and get more people working out.

The problem lies in what happens afterwards. Research conducted beginning in the 1970's looking at placing rewards on actions that are usually completed out of enjoyment had troubling results. Children were asked to paint pictures and then they were rewarded with gold stars or candy. The immediate result was children would paint a lot of pictures and the more pictures the child would complete the poorer the quality of their work. Once the rewards were discontinued the children reported less enjoyment in painting and actually painted less compared to before the study.

Bringing the conversation specifically back to GymPact, what the creators are doing is changing the type of motivation that goes into going to the gym. When we go to the gym for our own personal gratification (becoming healthy, enjoying working out, social gathering for fitness classes) we are experiencing intrinsic motivation. We do it for internal satisfaction. When you go to the gym purely not to lose money or to make money it becomes externally motivating, completing the task for incentives. Successful behavior modification is regulated by plans, goals, an understanding of our actions, and expectations; which is seen with intrinsic motivation (not extrinsic).

My theory is that people who use GymPact will go to the gym more but will enjoy it less. The quality of their workouts won't be as high as those who go through their own "pure" motivation. And the GymPact users will use the gym less after they conclude their time with GymPact.

What do you think?
Is this a positive or negative addition to the healthy living community?


  1. I'm a huge advocate of the rest day, so I think that this type of thing might encourage people to ignore their own personal signs of fatigue.

    But accountability is a huge motivator for some. I hate working out in a gym so I think its really wrong for me, but someone might really love it and see results they've been seeking.

  2. I agree with everything you say. I think people need to held accountable for being healthy. I just don't think directly paying them is the best way to do it. Maybe gyms can directly provide incentives or consequences that isn't tied to user cash flow. Like extra days of membership or a virtual in house game where people win and lose points that can be seen by others. Money can have such negative outcomes when it comes to pushing someone to have positive long term goals. And that is what they are ultimately changing.