A Healthy Social Life Might Be The Real Prize Gym Rats Are Chasing

In a testament to America’s notorious dislike for exercise, a recent study found that even a cash prize cannot turn people into regular gym-goers.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison enlisted 836 new members of a private gym, the majority of whom said they joined the gym with the intent to exercise three times a week. This was a bold plan for some, since 43% of the participants reported to have exercised an average of one day or less per weak last year.

Comparing The Effects Of Different Prizes

Participants were split into three “incentive” groups and one control group.

Each of the three incentive groups was offered a different reward in exchange for going to the gym nine times in six weeks. One group was offered $30, another was offered $60, and the third was offered a gift worth approximately $30.

“The hope would have been that by targeting this, you could especially capture some of the people who early on fall off and get them to keep going for longer,” said Justin Sydnor, study author and risk-management and insurance professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

But most of the participants who planned on going three times a week ended up going twice in the first week. By the end of the second month, these participants were spending just one day of the week at the gym.

“These incentive programs did increase slightly how often people went, but only by about one visit, and then it really has no lasting impact,” Professor Sydnor told the Washington Post.

Not The Results They Had In Mind…

At first glance, this outcome doesn’t seem too shocking considering $60 isn’t exactly a lot of money these days.

But the researchers are confident that increasing the cash prize would yield fairly similar results because the participants who were offered $30 went to the gym about the same amount of times as those who were offered $60.

So, if money doesn’t work, what will?

Further research has suggested that the social benefits of going to the gym might be more effective in increasing motivation. The success of SoulCycle, for example, is largely attributed to the unique bond between attendees.

“The collective energy in the room that [the riders] create is really important, and showing up for those people around them is equally as important as showing up for themselves,” said Gabby Etrog Cohen, SoulCycle’s senior vice president of public relations and brand strategy.

The Real Motivation For Elderly Workout Buddies

Another study even found that senior citizens with strong social relationships might live longer.

Out of 2,800 people over the age of 65, those who had the most active social lives were more likely to be alive after thirteen years had passed.

As one grows older, social relationships become more difficult to maintain. A growing number of senior citizens are filling this void by going to the gym, where they can make friends to work out with or take comfort in the fact that there will always be someone at the gym to talk to.

Arguably just as important as the exercise, however, is the socializing that takes place during and after each workout. New York’s Burt Abramowitz, 81, admitted that his primary incentive for going to the gym was simply to talk to his new, 76-year-old friend.

“The motivation for Jay and me was the camaraderie,” he says. “It was the friendship, someone to kibbitz with.”

After the gym, the pair goes out to eat. The simple act of having a meal with a friend becomes infinitely more exciting when you understand how rare it is to be this social at a certain age.

“I wouldn’t have seen my friend three times a week if it wasn’t for the gym,” Abramowitz acknowledged.

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