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We like to see you in the gym—A field experiment on financial incentives for short and long term gym attendance


  • Rohde, Kirsten I.M.
  • Verbeke, Willem


This paper presents a field experiment to analyze whether financial incentives, conditional on attending the gym, can increase gym attendance of members of an off-campus gym both in the short run (two quarters of a year) and in the long run (the next two quarters of the year). The incentivized subjects received a rebate of approximately 10% of the average membership fee conditional on attending the gym at least once per week in 11 of the 13 weeks of the first quarter of 2010. In the second quarter of 2010 the incentive was repeated, allowing subjects a second chance to earn a rebate. In both quarters they received a rebate of €25 instead of €15 conditional on attending the gym at least twice a week in 11 of the 13 weeks. Gym attendance was recorded both during the intervention period, and during the two quarters after. We compared the conditional incentive to attend the gym with an unconditional incentive where subjects would receive the 10% rebate per quarter merely for staying a member of the gym. The conditional incentive to attend the gym had a positive, yet non-persistent, impact on gym attendance. We conclude that gym attendance can be improved through incentives, but that smarter (non-)financial incentives and nudges need to be explored as well to obtain more persistent improvements in gym attendance.

Suggested Citation

  • Rohde, Kirsten I.M. & Verbeke, Willem, 2017. "We like to see you in the gym—A field experiment on financial incentives for short and long term gym attendance," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 388-407.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:134:y:2017:i:c:p:388-407
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2016.12.012

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Heather Royer & Mark Stehr & Justin Sydnor, 2015. "Incentives, Commitments, and Habit Formation in Exercise: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Workers at a Fortune-500 Company," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 51-84, July.
    2. Dan Acland & Matthew R. Levy, 2015. "Naiveté, Projection Bias, and Habit Formation in Gym Attendance," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(1), pages 146-160, January.
    3. Acland, Dan & Levy, Matthew R., 2015. "Naiveté, projection bias, and habit formation in gym attendance," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 66147, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Gary Charness & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Incentives to Exercise," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(3), pages 909-931, May.
    5. Philip Babcock & Kelly Bedard & Gary Charness & John Hartman & Heather Royer, 2015. "Letting Down The Team? Social Effects Of Team Incentives," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(5), pages 841-870, October.
    6. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1993:83:9:1231-1238_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. 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.
    8. Garon, Jean-Denis & Masse, Alix & Michaud, Pierre-Carl, 2015. "Health club attendance, expectations and self-control," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 364-374.
    9. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mariana Carrera & Heather Royer & Mark Stehr & Justin Sydnor, 2017. "Can Financial Incentives Help People Trying to Establish New Habits? Experimental Evidence with New Gym Members," NBER Working Papers 23567, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. repec:eee:jhecon:v:58:y:2018:i:c:p:202-214 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Carrera, Mariana & Royer, Heather & Stehr, Mark & Syndor, Justin, 2017. "Can Financial Incentives Help People Trying to Establish New Habits? Experimental Evidence with New Gym Members," IZA Discussion Papers 10874, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).


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