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Habit formation and activity persistence: Evidence from gym equipment

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  • Harris, Matthew C.
  • Kessler, Lawrence M.

Abstract

This paper identifies the effect of habit formation on persistence of an important health-related behavior, namely usage of stationary exercise equipment. Exploiting user-activity data from a leading manufacturer and using rainfall as an instrument for initial exercise behavior, we find that frequent early activity leads to more persistent exercise in the subsequent periods, which is consistent with habit formation. Specifically, individuals who exercise one more time per week over a four-week initial period are more than three times as likely to exercise in each of the next eight weeks without missing a week. However, survival probabilities are quite low, consistent with recent experimental work. The primary implication is that for interventions to lead to persistent behavioral change, they must require more frequent activity or longer intervention periods than recent incentive-based field experiments.

Suggested Citation

  • Harris, Matthew C. & Kessler, Lawrence M., 2019. "Habit formation and activity persistence: Evidence from gym equipment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 688-708.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:166:y:2019:i:c:p:688-708
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.08.010
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    State dependence; Habit; Health behaviors; Survival analysis;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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