How to Motivate Yourself to Go to the Gym

Many people set a New Year’s goal to exercise more. Like many other New Year’s goals, people start off gung-ho by hitting the gym several times a week, but within a month or two are barely making it to the gym once a week.

So what are some things you can do to keep that motivation level high throughout the year?

Three years ago, the New York Times looked at this issue by seeing if the world of behavioral economics could offer any advice.

Heather Royer, an economist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, thinks she has hit on a way. In partnership with a Fortune 500 company, she and her research partners ran an experiment that combined two interventions: One to get people to start going to the gym, and another to keep them there. For four weeks, the company paid its employees to work out, $10 per visit up to three times a week. After those four weeks, there were no more payments, but some workers were offered a “commitment contract”: They could set aside their own money that would be released to them only if they worked out over the next two months; otherwise, it would be given away to charity.

The results of the experiment showed that three years after the study, the workers who had been offered such contracts remained 20 percent more likely to work out than those who had not been offered any incentives. That seems like a significant improvement in getting people to go to the gym.

What if your firm doesn’t offer such incentives?

Sorry, that’s no excuse to not work out.

A service like Stickk allows individuals to set up their own commitment contract: Promise to go to the gym, and set aside money that will be given to charity if you don’t. For extra incentive, you can even use an anti-charity: If you don’t work out, your money will be given to a cause you hate.

That anti-charity option seems like it would be quite effective.

If I knew that skipping a workout meant that I would be donating money to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Rifle Association,  or President Trump’s re-election campaign, then I would be doing everything in my power to make sure I got my workout in.

In other words, I would literally be running against President Trump…

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