Incentives to Work Out: Evidence from Field Experiments
34 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2023
Date Written: December 30, 2022
With rapidly increasing healthcare costs, both governments and firms are paying more attention to cultivating healthy lifestyles among consumers to reduce medical and financial burdens. However, consumers often struggle to fulfill their commitments to health-related goals, such as consistently going to the gym. This research examines the effects of financial and non-financial incentives on consumers’ gym-going behaviors. We conduct a randomized field experiment at the campus recreation center at one of the largest U.S. public universities. Specifically, we provide a set of financial and non-financial incentives to the members of the center and track their progress during and after the incentive period. Our results show that those offered a financial incentive (FI) or a combination of financial and non-financial incentives (non-FI) complete their target number of workouts by 80% more relative to those with no incentives. The effects of FIs show little persistence once the incentive period ends but appear more persistent when combined with non-FIs. The effects are heterogeneous across individuals based on weight loss goals and past membership status. Participants who are trying to lose weight respond better to combined incentives, while those who are not trying to lose weight respond well to the FIs alone. The incentives are also more effective for existing members rather than new members. Our research has implications for firms, health and fitness practitioners, policymakers, and researchers for designing effective incentive programs and improving overall consumer health and wellbeing.
Funding Declaration: This research is supported by grants from the Gies College of Business and the Center for Social & Behavioral Science at the University of Illinois.
Conflict of Interests: I did not have any competing interest in this research or with the institution partnering for research.
Ethics Approval: I also completed an IRB before the research so there should not be any ethical concerns. The IRB #21980 was obtained at the University of Illinois.
Keywords: Monetary incentives, peer effects, social comparison, health and wellness, field experiment
JEL Classification: M1, M31, M39, I12, I18, I10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation