In an ideal world, most people would be physically fit because they couldn’t bear to be out of shape. No external motivation—like compliments or being able to fit into clothes from 10 years ago—would be required. But in this imperfect world, people need incentives, and no incentive is more powerful than cash.
That’s the idea behind GymPact, an app that pays people for completing workouts, and penalizes them when they fail to meet their commitments. Now that GymPact is integrated with popular mobile fitness app RunKeeper, it’s even more accessible.
Here’s how GymPact works: The service asks users to create a "pact"—an agreement on how many times you think you’ll be able to work out and how much you’re willing to pay if you don’t follow through (the minimum is one day a week and a $5 penalty per missed workout). If you keep your pact, you get cash from the communal pool of all the people who were more slovenly than you. And if you decide one day that you’ve set too high of a goal, GymPact will let you revise your pact weekly. The amount of money earned depends on how big the pool is (i.e. how many users missed their workouts that week).
The app has over 70% of gyms (40,000 of them) in its database, and it can use your phone’s GPS to track when you go there. With RunKeeper, which tracks users’ runs, only certain activities within RunKeeper count: Runs, walks, and bike rides have to be at least half a mile each time, with a minimum of 30 minutes of activity and a pace of at least two miles per hour. Crawling, in other words, probably won’t score you any cash.
"We know that real money is something very motivating to many people, so we’re interested to see what happens when there is real money on the line around sticking to your fitness goals," writes RunKeeper on its blog.
In a sense, GymPact isn’t all that different from insurance companies who agree to pay for gym memberships, with the caveat that users have to go the gym a certain amount of times per month. But the RunKeeper partnership takes things a step further: Now people can be compensated for exercising outside of the confines of a sweaty, crowded gym. With the specter of disappearing cash looming in the background, they might just do it.