Get Paid to Lose Weight

13 Apr

In the last several decades, there has been little to no innovation in the fitness club model: you pay a monthly fee in order to gain access to the club. Sure, over the years the clubs have invested in modern equipment and added ridiculous fitness classes, but there remains a large group of people (pun intended) who are so busy/lazy/apathetic that they pay their monthly membership and never actually go to the gym. What a waste. It’s actually brilliant for a fitness clubs, because there is no better customer than one who pays for a good but never comes to pick it up.

What if there was a way to better align everyone’s incentives? Gyms want people to pay high monthly fees. Athletic and image-conscious folk alike want to shred weights and tae-bo all day, and fat people want to get less fat; both groups are willing to spend money to achieve their goals, but would prefer to spend as little as possible. Ok so the “as-is” model means that you pay to access fitness, and then it’s up to your personal drive, determination, and time management to get in shape. That can be tough for a lot of people.

Would you workout more often if you were paid with each workout? Yes. Obviously. I have a fairly radical proposition for a fitness club program: get paid to lose weight. The premise is that you pay an outrageously high monthly fee- say (say, $300), and with each workout, you are paid back a small amount ($5-10….let’s play around with the numbers a bit). Essentially, you are incentivized to workout as much as possible in order to lower your monthly fitness expenses. Money has, and always will be, a more powerful motivator than Billy Blanks or that bumping playlist you just downloaded.

“Well what about the fitness clubs?” you ask. Are you outraged that they are now charging you three times as much for your monthly membership? I would be, but maybe I would be less outraged if I knew that they donated half of the premium from my “Get Paid to Lose Weight” program to a nonprofit dedicated to youth health and nutrition. I’m inspired by the TOM’s shoes buy-one-give-one model, where customers pay a premium for a product in order to do good in the world, and could imagine how a person who missed his fitness goals- and therefore paid an extra $___ that month- would be more comfortable slacking off knowing that he was supporting a valid cause. Definitely a stretch, I admit, but that is just one of the many possible iterations of this new model.

The goal here is to address the behavioral issue inherent in the current gym model. Once a gym member has paid for that month, it doesn’t matter how many times he works out, because it is equally expensive to workout one time or 20 times that month. If we incentivize people to workout- and money is a helluva motivator- everyone wins.

Readers- I want to hear from you. What do you pay for a gym membership now? How does that translate to cost per each workout? Finally, how much would you have to be paid to go run for 30 minutes right now?


2 Responses to “Get Paid to Lose Weight”

  1. Sarah April 19, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    I agree with the argument that the fitness club model is outdated (but businesses do rely on those pay-but-don’t-use customers). Just as the healthcare providing industry is shifting to “pay for results” or “accountable care” so can gyms move to a results-based program. The requirement in both settings is still personal responsibility.

    I would be incentivized with a reduced monthly gym fee, but not willing to fork over $150 to charity – I need that money for running shoes, carbon fiber bikes, and expensive healthy foods.

    • ifyoustartmeup April 21, 2011 at 1:54 am #

      “Pay for results”- that’s definitely the key message here. I don’t think the gym has any onus to move to a results-based model necessarily, but I do think that consumers would be personally motivated if they were driven by money rather than their own determination to stick to a routine.

      The charity thing could be cut, I agree, but I think it is a great marketing tool for gyms (who all too often get slammed for purposefully overselling memberships knowing that most people will never workout a day in their life). I find the current state of health, nutrition and fitness in this country is a disaster, so don’t be surprised to see posts on the blog designed around solutions to these problems!


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