A new iPhone app called GymPact promises to "Incentivize Your Excercise" by making you pay up if you don't keep your gym committment. If you say you'll go to the gym five days a week, but only make it on two days, you'll fork over a minimum $15 penalty for the week. And if you DO go all five days? You get to share the spoils -- the pool of money forfeited by all those that fell short.
The idea is really simple; you decide how many days you want to go to the gym during a give week, then decide on the stakes -- how much you're willing to pay if you fail to work out. The app uses GPS to tell when you're at the gym (if your gym isn't in their database, you can add it and GymPact will verify that it really is a gym, and not your living room), and you have to stay there for at least 30 minutes for it to count. Money forfeited by those who don't meet their goals is then shared at the end of the week by those who did meet their committment.
The idea was hatched by co-founder (and yoga enthusiast) Yifan Zhang in a class at Harvard on behavioral dynamics. There's a great article at Slate by Matthew Yglesias about the concept, plus commentary on whether it works as a company business model.
Tying a personal fitness goal to financial gain or loss is one that I've thought about a lot (I used to ponder theoretically how much I'd pay to lose one pound, assuming that loss would be guaranteed. $50? $100?). Of course, people sink big bucks into weight loss programs and diet concoctions every year in the hopes of losing weight and getting fitter, but somehow, it isn't quite the same as actually losing a defined amount of money when you don't show up to the gym on a given day. And at a minimum loss of $5 per visit (you can increase that amount, but not go lower), that could be a significant dent.
Our technology director, Tom Deryckere, just pointed me towards a similar idea, website 21Habit.com, which lets you select and track any 21-day goal. You pay $21 up front, and for each day you meet your goal, you get $1 back. But you can't up the ante by increasing your financial stakes.
Who's up for giving it a try?
I'm fascinated by this idea, but since it's only an iPhone app right now, I'm out of luck. (I have a Droid Incredible.) I'm trying to cajole some ConsumerSearch staffers into trying the app and letting us know how well it worked (and how much money they made or lost as a result). Are any of our readers willing to give it a try and share their results? We'll interview you for a follow-up post. If you're game, please drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.