HomeArticlesMatt Weik

You Couldn’t Pay Me to Exercise – Seriously?

by Matt Weik

It’s obvious that the United States is in crisis mode when it comes to battling the bulge. With spare donuts and kegs around our midsections, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. It’s not difficult to start an exercise program, yet a large percentage of the people who start exercising never continue and commit to the process. People like you and I don’t truly need an incentive to exercise other than the fact we look and feel better by doing so. Yet, when people are incentivized to exercise with the promise of getting paid to do so, they still aren’t willing to stick to a program and hit the gym. This fact actually blows my mind. It’s hard to believe that anyone would give up something that pays them AND gives them health benefits as well.

Lacking commitment

The Center for Disease Control has come out and said that only around 21% of American’s are getting the recommended amount of exercise each week—congratulations, you and I are part of that statistic. When you talk to people, everyone talks about how they need to exercise more or they need to go to the gym. Yet, everyone seems to have an excuse why they aren’t following through. Most of the excuses are because they simply lack commitment and aren’t making their health and fitness a priority.

Listen, all we need is 30 minutes of exercise a minimum of five days a week. That’s nothing! It kills me that people talk about how busy they are and they don’t have time to exercise. I work 14-16 hours days and I find time to exercise every single day—no excuse.

Let’s think about how a normal day goes for most American’s. I want everyone to see the numbers and facts. Work is normally 9-5—there’s eight hours of your day (30-60 minutes of that is at lunch where you could exercise if you so choose to). I’ll be gracious and say you drive an hour to work every day—that’s two hours of travel time putting us at 10 total hours. You have breakfast and dinner in there, so assume the time it took you to eat both meals equaled an hour—now we are at 11 total hours. You need to get seven hours of sleep each night to properly rest and recover—the math puts us at 18 total hours. Subtract that from the 24 hours we all have in the day and you’re left with six hours of nothing planned. What could our population be doing with an extra six hours in their day? And that’s factoring two hours of commuting each day which is on the high-end of the spectrum. My fellow American’s, you’re f*ckin lazy! Yea, the f-bomb came out. That’s how frustrated I am. What’s more important to you? The Game of Thrones or your health? Maybe you have your priorities confused? Maybe you don’t care that your family might be forced to bury you before you’re even old enough to retire?

Enough with all the excuses! You’re lazy! You lack commitment! You lack discipline! You’re not big boned. You’re not too busy. You don’t live too far from a gym. Heck, you can exercise in the privacy of your own home without any equipment needed. I don’t ever want to hear someone give me an excuse why they can’t exercise unless they are physically or mentally handicapped, and even then, we have people in our population exercising.

Shut up and take my money!

In a study, researchers gathered a group of participants and gave them the opportunity to collect money or prizes if they were willing to go to the gym nine times over the course of the study, which averaged out to be 1.5 times per week. Mind you, these were new gym members, and not individuals who were currently active in an exercise program. If they were able to adhere to the program put in place by the researchers of going to the gym, they would be offered one of the following rewards—a $30 Amazon gift card; a prize item, such as a blender, of equivalent value; or a $60 Amazon gift card.

At completion of the first week, it was noted that 14% of the participants had already given up. That’s sad. When talking about participants dropping out after one week, the researchers stated, “They wanted to exercise regularly, and yet their behavior did not match their intent, even with a reward. People thought earning the incentive would be easy but were way overoptimistic about how often they’d go.” By the end of the six-week study, the remaining participants were averaging one trip to the gym each week (yet they originally told researchers they wanted to go three times each week and clearly fell short).

When compared to a group given no reward at all, the incentivized group only ended up going to the gym 0.14 more times. And the group of participants offered the $60 Amazon gift card didn’t go any more times when compared to the group only offered the $30 Amazon gift card. What about the group who could pick a prize equivalent to the gift cards? Nope, they fell off the wagon as well and showed no improvement over the gift card groups.

One researcher said, “Focusing on people when they’re ready to make a change may be misguided. Maybe the internal motivation that gets a person to start a gym membership is unrelated to what drives them to earn financial incentives. What’s clear was there was no complementarity in lumping these two motivations together.”

So, what’s it going to take?

Clearly people aren’t even interested in monetary earnings or prizes to get them into the gym. It’s truly astounding that we see this through research. I guess since you and I are so used to getting in our workouts, it’s “normal” in a sense that we engage in daily exercise. People aren’t willing to give it a chance and commit in order to start seeing results. Everyone wants the quick fix and magic pill they can take to get in shape and be healthy. Unfortunately, by the time these people are willing to engage in an exercise plan and adhere to it, it’s too late. Often times, they are exercising after being diagnosed with something, causing them to look at their life differently. Death tends to scare most people. Maybe it can scare the population into exercising? Because obviously money isn’t getting anyone through the doors of gyms.


1.) Case Western Reserve University. “Exercise incentives do little to spur gym-going.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 July 2017.

2.) Mariana Carrera, Heather Royer, Mark Stehr, Justin Sydnor. “Can Financial Incentives Help People Trying to Establish New Habits? Experimental Evidence with New Gym Members.” National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, 2017.

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