New gym members are overconfident about their dedication to fitness, and not even free money or a gift can get them working out.
Researchers offered 836 new gym members at a private gym a range of incentives — some received $30 as a one-off gift with no strings attached, while others received $30, $60 or an item worth $30, if they visited the gym nine times in the first six weeks of their membership. However, even these generous incentives didn’t do much for the new gym members’ visits during those six weeks, and had no effect on visits thereafter, the researchers noted in their report distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Why? Because people stubbornly believe they will go to the gym and don’t need the extra motivation. And many do need help: More than 54 million Americans (18.5 percent of the U.S. population) are health club members, 42 percent of which were members of a studio.
In order to accomplish going to the gym consistently, people need to acknowledge how difficult it will be to get started and adjust their schedules accordingly. It could be getting out of bed an hour earlier, or going straight to the gym after work instead of after-office drinks. “People have a problem with those plans,” said one of the study’s authors, Justin Sydnor, an associate professor in the department of risk and insurance at the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “A little bit of additional money and a specific target doesn’t overcome that problem.”
Exercising and losing weight are two of the most well-known aspirations people have, especially for a new year or the summer, but those good intentions aren’t enough. More than a third of Americans abandoned their new workout resolutions by the end of January and, by the summer, less than half of people who signed up for the gym are still going. Americans sign up for the gym and don’t actually go, even though memberships cost them an average of $58…