New research suggests financial incentives may help you meet your fitness goals
Getting fit doesn’t need to be complicated and could even earn you money. Here’s how to cash in on your workout.
By Jessica Wynne Lockhart
“You couldn't pay me to go to the gym.”
Or could we?
Previously, it was believed that financially rewarding people for exercising might work at first, but wouldn't result in long-term behaviour changes. This mentality made sense: goals are usually easier to hit when they're based on inherent motivators such as exercising simply because you enjoy it.
If you're ready to change your lifestyle and hit your fitness goals, here are a few simple steps you can take to create your own finance-based incentive program.
Set realistic fitness goals
“Realistic” is the key word here. If you're aiming to transition from a relatively sedentary lifestyle to doing triathlons, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Yes, 10,000 steps a day is good, but a simpler and more attainable goal may be to aim for 500 additional steps per day. So, if you currently walk an average of 2,000 steps a day, try bumping it up to 2,500 as a starting point.
Those next 7,500 steps? They'll come in due time.
Reward yourself right away
Mitchell writes that one reason incentive-based rewards programs often fail is because rewards are delayed. This may be part of the reason why generic, long-term goals like “lose weight” or “run 10 kilometres without stopping” aren't strong enough motivators to get you off the couch.
This reasoning is also why simply knowing risks isn't enough to establish healthy long-term habits. Lowering your blood pressure or improving your lung capacity are admirable and important goals, but the results are impossible to see.
So, rather than working towards a long-term goal, such as training for a half-marathon, make your payouts more immediate. Rewards don't have to be big and your system for accruing them doesn't have to be complex. In Mitchell's study, the average rewards were as low as mere dollars per day. You may consider starting your fitness goals by putting $1 into a jar each day you hit your target for steps or practice your headstands.
Download an app
A change jar is the lowest tech way to set up a rewards system. But it's not the only route to success. Rewards-based fitness apps have made it easy to set and keep goals, with the added bonus of removing physical dollars and cents from the equation. Most of these apps take only a few minutes to join.
At the moment, a perfect example of a successful platform that pairs physical workouts with financial payouts is SweatcoinOpens a new window in your browser.. The app pays users Sweatcoins (a type of cryptocurrency) any time they walk or run outdoors. The cryptocurrency can then be redeemed for everything from yoga classes to wireless earphones.
Money isn't the only motivator you can use to reach your fitness goals. Sharing your targets with friends and family or joining a fitness-centric community can also help keep you accountable.
According to research, committing to another person such as a workout buddy can increase your likelihood of fitness successOpens a new window in your browser.. So, think about joining an online fitness group, sharing your plans on social media or even asking friends or colleagues if they'd be willing to financially sponsor you to achieve your wellness goals. These are all simple ways to stay on track that require minimal time investment, leaving you with more time to focus on what matters most: getting active.
Ultimately, remember that fitness isn't about all or nothing and it doesn't need to be complicated. Instead, it's about taking the small, daily steps, both figuratively and literally, toward better health and wellness.