Will losing money get you to exercise?
I recently found a link on Yoni Freedhoff’s blog to a new fitness centre in Boston titled Gym-Pact. What is it? Simply, when you sign up you pledge a certain level of attendance. For every day you miss you get charged $10. I would assume this is to motivate people to go to the gym.
Freedhoff loves the idea. I on the otherhand am not so sure. The positives – the concept may get people out to the gym and get them to stick to their exercise regime. And I guess it doesn’t matter how you motivate people to exercise as long as you get them to do it…or does it?
I believe the reason(s) or motivation(s) for exercise are very important and predictive of long-term success. For example, if you are motivated to lose weight for a special event I would hasten a bet that following the event you will pack the pounds back on. Being motivated to exercise by money loss is, in my opinion, not good. Money loss is a form of negative punishment which is “the removal of a stimulus, such as taking food away from a hungry rat or money away from a person, decreases the likelihood that the response will occur again“.
If you are motivated to exercise to avoid money loss, the point of exercise is lost. This form of motivation does not instill health behaviour change that will last for the long-term. It stimulates a fear response that will work only for the short-term. Yes of course, this program will work for many. However, my fear is that it will backfire. My fear is that many participants will get so ticked off (due to extreme money loss) and quit, and will have a negative connotation of gyms and potentially, exercise. And exercise, if it is to be maintainable and long-term can never be viewed as negative.