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Incentives to Exercise

Gary Charness

University of California, Santa Barbara - Department of Economics

Uri Gneezy

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

December 18, 2008

Can incentives be effective when trying to encourage the development of good habits? We investigate the effect of paying people a non-trivial amount of money to attend an exercise facility over a period of time. We find that doing so leads to an attendance level that is twice as high as the level when people have not been paid, even well after the end of the intervention. This result is driven primarily by the impact on non-users (people who did not previously attend the gym), as regular users are essentially unaffected. We observe no difference across gender. Even though personal incentives to exercise are already in place, it appears that the financial incentive serves as a catalyst to get some people past the threshold of actually getting started with an exercise regimen. We argue that there is scope for financial intervention in habit formation, particularly in the area of health.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: Intrinsic incentives, extrinsic incentives, habits, exercise, crowding-out, motivation, health

JEL Classification: A13, B49, C99, I10

working papers series

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Date posted: June 1, 2006 ; Last revised: March 8, 2009

Suggested Citation

Charness, Gary and Gneezy, Uri, Incentives to Exercise (December 18, 2008). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=905026 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.905026

Contact Information

Gary Charness (Contact Author)
University of California, Santa Barbara - Department of Economics ( email )
2127 North Hall
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States
805-893-2412 (Phone)
805-893-8830 (Fax)
Uri Gneezy
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )
5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-8198 (Phone)
773-702-0458 (Fax)
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