Exercise as a Commodity: Paying For Fitness

flickr photo credit to Catherine's Landing
If exercise is a commodity, how much will you pay for it?  
Apparently some people are willing to invest quite a tidy sum of money.  
This week I read an intriguing article in the Boston Globe about a new start-up called Gym-Pact.  Gym-Pact is an exercise accountability program which requires its members to shell out a $25 penalty fee every time they skip a work-out.  
Gym-Pact originated from Harvard College graduate Yifan Zhang, who stumbled upon the idea during a behavioral economics class.  Zhang was convinced that people are more motivated by immediate consequences than by future possibilities.  Together with classmate Geoff Oberhofer, Zhang created Gym-Pact and started negotiations between gyms and participating members. 
Click here to read complete coverage from The Boston Globe. 
flickr photo sourced from bangkokrecorder
Compelling article!  I have never framed exercise as an economic commodity, but isn't this is what Gym-Pact implies?  On one hand, exercise has become extremely valuable due to its health benefits.  An exercise investment can only grow profitably as obesity and its co-morbidities continue to increase.  However exercise is costly; in the midst of our busy lives, we must purposefully set aside time and resources to get moving.

Kenneth J. Carpenter, PhD noted the historical shift from physical activity to inactivity in his article "A Short History of Nutrition Science" written in 2003.  Carpenter notes, "[In the 1980s] the problem of obesity was still growing, and nutritional science had not been able to come up with an easily adopted solution for people with a sedentary lifestyle.  As technology advanced, the human machine remained the same.  [Back then] a few people were [starting to reverse] the traditional work-rest cycle, i.e. doing their work (and associated travel) sitting down, and spending their breaks on a treadmill."  Now in the 21st century, it seems the work-rest cycle is completed reversed!

What do you think of a program such as Gym-Pact?
What are your thoughts on exercise as a commodity?
Thanks for reading,

** Carpenter, KJ.  A Short History of Nutrition Science: Part 4 (1945-1985).  Journal of Nutrition.  (2003) 133: 3331-3342.


Mollie said...

That's an interesting idea, and I bet it works really well. The benefits of exercise can often be intangible (like your pants don't fit better IMMEDIATELY after a workout), so the consequences of having to pay if you skip would definitely motivate a lot of people to work out!

I'd do it if there was a $$ award for working out - like if I didn't skip for a month or something...but I guess the benefit of that is being fitter.

Mary M. said...

When I was paying for gym membership and tempted to skip a workout, I would think, "If I don't go this time I am wasting X amount of $." Mindfully unmoved by the intellectual health benefits of exercise, many times it was the practical wasting of money that compelled me onto the treadmill. =O)

Personally, I think the voluntary Gym-pact is a great idea! What a way to capitalize on reinforcing good behavior.

Thanks for sharing the article Rachel!

Rachel said...

Great, thanks for your thoughts Mary and Mollie! Let's wait and see if Gym-Pact's program expands..maybe we can try it someday : )

alivaux said...

I agree with Mary. And, being an MPH student of Physical Activity now, it really bothers/baffles me when people say, "I with there was one thing that could [insert generic complaint like lose weight, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, improve mood, etc.]" Hello people! There is! It's called physical activity. So get moving! :) Thanks Rachel! atvb.

Kasey said...

Interesting idea! I agree that some people are motivated by immediate consequences versus longterm health goals.

Emily said...

Gym-Pact sounds like a really interesting idea. I never envisioned exercise as a commodity, but I guess there is a market for everything, and if it motivates people to get moving, it might be a good thing?!

Bryan Lian said...

Great name and idea, thanks for sharing the article. This is something worth getting excited over for sure.

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Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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