We acknowledge helpful comments from Yan Chen, Martin Dufwenberg, Guillaume Fréchette, Jacob Goeree, Ulrike Malmendier, Uri Simonsohn, and Priscilla Williams, as well as seminar audiences at the Stanford Institute of Theoretical Economics, the Santa Barbara Conference on Communication and Incentives, the ESA meeting in Tucson, the ESA meeting in Lyon, CIDE in Mexico City, and Harvard University. Special thanks go to a co-editor and three anonymous referees, who suggested the second study with the biological measures reported in the paper. Charness and Gneezy each acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation.
Incentives to Exercise
Version of Record online: 21 MAY 2009
© 2009 The Econometric Society
Volume 77, Issue 3, pages 909–931, May 2009
How to Cite
Charness, G. and Gneezy, U. (2009), Incentives to Exercise. Econometrica, 77: 909–931. doi: 10.3982/ECTA7416
- Issue online: 21 MAY 2009
- Version of Record online: 21 MAY 2009
- Manuscript received September, 2007; final revision received December, 2008.
- field experiment;
- habit formation;
Can incentives be effective in encouraging the development of good habits? We investigate the post-intervention effects of paying people to attend a gym a number of times during one month. In two studies we find marked attendance increases after the intervention relative to attendance changes for the respective control groups. This is entirely driven by people who did not previously attend the gym on a regular basis. In our second study, we find improvements on health indicators such as weight, waist size, and pulse rate, suggesting the intervention led to a net increase in total physical activity rather than to a substitution away from nonincentivized ones. We argue that there is scope for financial intervention in habit formation, particularly in the area of health.