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How Money Can Get You to Exercise


When you’re not feeling motivated to drag yourself to the gym or out for a run, a brisk walk or a bike ride, the thought, They’d have to pay me! might cross your mind.

But would that really work?

In a recent study, employees enrolled in a fitness program were given different financial incentives to achieve a daily walking target of 7,000 steps. The rewards: Getting a small cash bonus…avoiding a cash fine of the same amount…being entered into a lottery to win big…or no financial incentive at all.

The winner: Avoiding the fine.

Why is avoiding financial pain more motivating than getting financial pleasure? It’s called “loss aversion,” and it’s well-known to behavioral economists—people strongly prefer avoiding a loss over acquiring a gain. We like to win, but we really, really don’t like to lose.

Want to “cash in” on these findings? It turns out there is a free app available on both iTunes and Google Play that does just that. With Pact Health, you commit to a health goal and contribute a small amount each week—just a dollar or a few dollars. If you achieve your goal you claim the money. If not, you lose it…and the proceeds go to someone else. Yes, it’s on the honor system.

In other words, to avoid the financial ouch…get off the couch!

Source: Study titled “Framing Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Overweight and Obese Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial” by researchers at Perelman School of Medicine, Wharton School and Leonard Davis Institute, all of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and Columbia University Medical Center, New York City, published in Annals of Internal Medicine. Date: March 15, 2016 Publication: Bottom Line Health
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