You Literally Can’t Pay Us to Go to the Gym, According to New Study

iStock
iStock

A new study finds that financial incentives are not enough to motivate people to exercise, even when those people really want to develop good habits. The findings were reported in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that just 1 in 5 American adults meets recommended physical activity levels. Many of us want to do better. That’s why we buy elliptical machines, sign up for yoga classes, and join the gym. Unfortunately, more often than we’d like, these investments go to waste.

Previous studies of exercise motivation have found that financial incentives have had mixed results. But these studies focused on the general population, so it’s possible that many of the participants didn’t actually care about upping their exercise in the first place.

To find out if paying people to hit the gym pays off, researchers recruited 836 new gym members: that is, people who already had a financial stake in working out more frequently. The experts divided the participants into four groups. The first group, the control group, was paid $30 no matter what they did. The other groups were told that they’d be rewarded for attending the gym just 1.5 times per week during their first six weeks of membership. The rewards were either a $30 or $60 Amazon gift card or a $30 item of the participant’s choosing.

The researchers tracked how many times each participant swiped in at the gym. To ensure that people weren’t just showing up, swiping in, then leaving, they enacted a 10-minute minimum halfway through the study. The new policy didn’t make much difference; people still showed up with the same frequency.

Or, more accurately, they didn’t show up.

Before the study began, participants said they planned to visit the gym an average of three times each week. Reality looked a bit different. People in the control group started out fine, going 1.5 times per week, but by the end of the study they were down to once a week. The folks in the incentive groups didn’t fare much better. They averaged 1.73 weekly visits during their second week, but tapered to a single weekly workout by the end of the study period. After the six weeks ended, all four groups’ attendance declined even further.

Co-author Mariana Carrera is an economist at Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management. She says adding money to the participants’ initial enthusiasm was still not enough.

"They wanted to exercise regularly, and yet their behavior did not match their intent, even with a reward," she said in a statement. "People thought earning the incentive would be easy but were way overoptimistic about how often they'd go."

Let’s not lose faith just yet. Gift cards may not be the key to a fitter life, but there are other ways we can motivate ourselves.

First, pause and reflect, and try to figure out what’s holding you back. Are you tired? Is your gym too far from your workplace? Do you just kind of hate your yoga instructor? The obstacles may be easily overcome once you know what they are.

Second, get someone else, a friend or a coworker, to hold you accountable to your exercise plan. Shame is a powerful deterrent.

Finally, try lowering your standards. Five minutes of exercise is better than zero; start there. And many of us are far more active than we realize. Carrying groceries, chasing your kids, and walking to the coffee shop may not require cute leggings or bright sneakers, but they're still exercise.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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More Than 38,000 Pounds of Ground Beef Has Been Recalled

Beef-ware.
Beef-ware.
Angele J, Pexels

Your lettuce-based summer salads are safe for the moment, but there are other products you should be careful about using these days: Certain brands of hand sanitizer, for example, have been recalled for containing methanol. And as Real Simple reports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) recently recalled 38,406 pounds of ground beef.

When JBS Food Canada ULC shipped the beef over the border from its plant in Alberta, Canada, it somehow skirted the import reinspection process, so FSIS never verified that it met U.S. food safety standards. In other words, we don’t know if there’s anything wrong with it—and no reports of illness have been tied to it so far—but eating unapproved beef is simply not worth the risk.

The beef entered the country on July 13 as raw, frozen, boneless head meat products, and Balter Meat Company processed it into 80-pound boxes of ground beef. It was sent to holding locations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina before heading to retailers that may not be specific to those four states. According to a press release, FSIS will post the list of retailers on its website after it confirms them.

In the meantime, it’s up to consumers to toss any ground beef with labels that match those here [PDF]. Keep an eye out for lot codes 2020A and 2030A, establishment number 11126, and use-or-freeze-by dates August 9 and August 10.

[h/t Real Simple]