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Incentives to Exercise

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Author Info

  • Charness, Gary B
  • Gneezy, Uri

Abstract

Can incentives be effective when trying to encourage the development of good habits? We investigate the effect of paying people a non-trivial amount of money to attend an exercise facility a number of times during a one-month period. In two separate studies, we find that doing so leads to a large and significant increase in the average post-intervention attendance level relative to the control group. This result is entirely driven by the impact on people who did not previously attend the gym on a regular basis, as the average attendance rates for people who had already been using the gym regularly are either unchanged or diminished. In our second study, we also obtain biometric evidence that this intervention improves important health indicators such as weight, waist size, and pulse rate. Thus, even though personal incentives to exercise are already in place, it appears that providing financial incentive to attend the gym regularly for a month serves as a catalyst to get some people past the threshold of actually getting started with an exercise regimen. We argue that there is scope for financial intervention in habit formation, particularly in the area of health.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara in its series University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series with number qt3tc3j5x7.

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Date of creation: 22 Aug 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt3tc3j5x7

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Related research

Keywords: Exercise; Field experiment; Habit formation; Incentives;

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  1. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2004. "Addiction and Cue-Triggered Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1558-1590, December.
  2. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  3. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
  4. Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst, 2002. "Psychological Foundations of Incentives," CEPR Discussion Papers 3185, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages S164-S187, February.
  6. Becker, Gary S, 1992. "Habits, Addictions, and Traditions," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 327-45.
  7. Benabou, R. & Tirole, J., 2001. "Willpower and Personal Rules," Papers 216, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  8. Frey, Bruno S & Jegen, Reto, 2001. " Motivation Crowding Theory," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 589-611, December.
  9. Paul Heidhues & Botond Köszegi, 2004. "The Impact of Consumer Loss Aversion on Pricing," CIG Working Papers SP II 2004-17, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), Research Unit: Competition and Innovation (CIG).
  10. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2006. "Paying Not to Go to the Gym," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 694-719, June.
  11. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo, 2000. "A Fine is a Price," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
  12. Dan Ariely & George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec, 2003. ""Coherent Arbitrariness": Stable Demand Curves Without Stable Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 73-105, February.
  13. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 1996. "Doing It Now or Later," Discussion Papers 1172, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  14. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1986. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 41, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  15. Botond Kőszegi & Paul Heidhues, 2008. "Competition and Price Variation When Consumers Are Loss Averse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1245-68, September.
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