A lot of people make losing weight one of their New Year’s resolutions, but it’s a tough resolution to keep. There’s a new app called GymPact that can help motivate people to stay the course.
Every year, after popping champagne, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions to do or stop doing various things. They promise to pay off the mortgage or credit cards, take their spouse out for more date nights and lose weight. Losing weight, according to Time Magazine, is one of the most common resolutions, and it’s also one of the most frequently broken. A lot of people buy gym memberships only to stop attending by the end of January. Estimates vary about how many people purchase gym memberships only to stop using them; Time says 60 percent and the LiveStrong foundation quotes 80 percent from Medical News Today. It appears motivation could be a problem. Luckily, there is, as the cliché goes, an app for that.
A new app called GymPact is aimed directly at people who want to stay motivated in going to the gym and exercising, according to Engadget. Users who download the app make an agreement with the app to visit the gym a certain number of times per week. They then have to agree to a fine for missing their quota. Users set the gym’s location and “check in” via GPS and stay for half an hour in order to get credited with a visit. The minimum fine is $5, billed to the user’s credit card, which goes into a community fund. Those users who honored commitments get a share of the pot.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the app uses a principle of behavioral economics called hyperbolic discounting, which says costs and benefits that are farther away are given lower priority. Because the benefits of exercise are not immediate, people have less immediate incentive to keep it up. GymPact uses the best, most immediately useful incentive: cash.
The founders of the app, according to the company’s website, came up with the idea as students at Harvard after taking a behavioral economics class. Testing done in the Boston area yielded a success rate of about 90 percent during a six-month trial, so they might be on to something. The app is only available for iPhone users at the moment, but an HTML5-compatible mobile web browser app is projected for release in March, which should work for Blackberry, Android and Windows Mobile users.
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