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Posted 5.21.09

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight or stick to an exercise plan but failed, don’t fret.  You’re definitely not alone.  Each year, nearly 42 million Americans spend over $17 billion on health-club memberships with an additional $4 billion or more spent on home-exercise equipment.  Unfortunately, most of this effort is for naught. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), fitness equipment is left unused in roughly 20 percent of households and the turnover rate at gyms is between 30 to 40 percent.   But what if your company paid you to get fit?  Would your motivation turn into follow-through?

This past summer Justin Sydnor, along with Heather Royer (formerly of Weatherhead and now at UC Santa Barbara) and Mark Stehr of Drexel were awarded a $260,000 National Science Foundation grant for research into corporate wellness initiatives.  The team conducted a small pilot program at a Cleveland company last fall, which showed a strong response by workers to financial incentives for using the company gym. The researchers found suggestive evidence that getting employees to exercise for a month had lasting effects on their exercise behavior.

The full field experiment is expected to roll out this fall and run for one year.  Sydnor is working with a Fortune 500 Company Headquartered in Cleveland and is using a randomized field experiment to investigate the effectiveness of financial incentives for encouraging exercise among workers.  Online commitment contracts through the website https://www.stickk.com are being used to help track progress.  

If you want to try it out for yourself, visit https://www.stickk.com.  The site was founded by academics who have shown that offering people the ability to commit cash to things like quitting smoking can be effective at helping them reach their goals.  It’s free to join.  Simply create a profile, pick a goal completion date, and get started.  Recruit friends and co-workers to support your cause or invest in yourself.  If you follow-through, you’ll receive a check at the end and be satisfied that you met your goal.  If you don’t, the money will be donated to your favorite charity.  It’s a win-win situation.

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