Exercise Incentives

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As we’ve noted here at Diabetes Flashpoints before, finding the time and motivation to exercise is often difficult — yet the benefits of exercise in the areas of cardiovascular health, weight loss, and blood glucose control make it important for most people with diabetes. For those of us who struggle to exercise regularly, finding the right incentive can make the task somewhat easier.

Two recent online articles highlight very different approaches toward motivating oneself to exercise. The first, found at, describes how outdoor exercise can be a pleasant alternative to working out at a gym. As the article notes, gyms can be crowded and noisy, and many people who work indoors in offices crave the fresh air and feeling of space that a gym cannot offer. The article suggests biking, jogging, and outdoor circuit training (offered in some public parks) as alternatives to gym-based activities and notes that a complete workout to improve balance, strength, and endurance can be accomplished outdoors. In addition, according to one person interviewed, “there’s an emotional component to exercising outside … you can purge physically and mentally.”

If getting outside doesn’t sound like motivation enough to exercise, how about the prospect of paying a fine if you don’t? That’s the concept behind GymPact, an iPhone app that was recently profiled in a Reuters article. The program lets users set a fine ranging from $5 to $50 for every gym workout that they skip. After a 30% cut for the company, the money paid in is then redistributed to users for every workout they successfully complete. A user must “check in” at a gym venue for at least 30 minutes for a workout to count. According to the CEO of GymPact, most people are much more motivated to avoid losses than to maximize gains; therefore, a fine for missing a workout is more effective than a reward for completing one. The overall workout completion rate of GymPact members, says the company, is approximately 90%.

What do you think — are you more likely to be motivated by a visceral, immediate reward like enjoying the outdoors, or a punishment like paying a fine? If the two could be combined — charging a fine for missing an outdoor workout — would that be optimal? Are the challenges of outdoor exercising — such as weather and traffic — great enough to make a gym more appealing? Leave a comment below!

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