Gym Scales Member Fees on Keeping Fitness Committments

Gym-Pact is a company founded by Yifan Zhang and Geoff Oberhofer that arranges for group membership rates at fitness clubs in Boston. Customers pay higher rates the more often that they skip workouts, thus encouraging them to keep in shape:

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.

Zhang and Oberhofer translated that principle to workout motivation. If missing a workout cost people money, they’d be more motivated to stick with it, they thought.

“If you have a toothache, you go to the dentist. If there’s a cavity, you know it needs to get filled in, but if it doesn’t hurt right now, you may not bother,’’ Mullainathan said. “In traditional gym memberships, not going is not very costly. In this one, you actually might feel the pain of not going immediately.’’

Link via Marginal Revolution | Photo: Essdras M. Suarez/Boston Globe

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It's neither good nor bad, just another option out that that may jumpstart a certain group of people towards a more healthy lifestyle. Buying a relatively expensive new product has always given me a fitness boost. Like buying a new bike, or hiking boots, or climbing shoes whatever, I'm always determined to get my money's worth so I generally pick up the frequency of my activities.
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I saw a documentary recently on Chinese apothecaries, which historically had a more logical health plan, while you are healthy you regularly pay the apothecary, and when you are sick you aren't paying until your health is regained.

I think a fitness center could have have more motivation in assisting with their customer's fitness program if the customer would get refunded their fees because they were not at the gym as regular as their membership outlined.

Charging clients extra because clients don't attend just encourages the gym to be as lazy as the clients.
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It's worth pointing out that if you pay a fixed monthly gym membership fee, you already are paying more per workout whenever you skip going; e.g., if you pay 1000 per month and go to the gym 10 times, then each visit is worth 100. But if you go only 4 times, each visit is worth 250.
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