Bribe yourself to better fitness

You look at the mirror and spot a couple of things you’d like to improve. Some of them, you can’t do much about. Then your eyes fall on those couple of extra pounds of fat persistently hanging around your body, refusing to melt away on their own.

So you decide to hit the gym.

You stick your hands into your metaphorical pockets and pay for a full year in advance. You’re determined to commit and to reach your goals!

Here’s the problem.

As you get closer to the gym, you see this huge mountain of failure looming in front of you. It reminds you of all the times you started out, splurged on a membership, and then just quit a couple of sessions later.

Soon, your motivation runs out and you’ve got every reason in the book for skipping this workout… and then the next… and so on.

What gives?

If “looking hot and being fit” isn’t motivation enough, what’s it gonna take to finally drag you to the gym and get you working out without dropping out?

Research from the University of California seems to suggest that a little bribe could do the trick!

Study shows money makes for a great fitness motivator

Two researchers (Charness, Gneezy) took a group of university students and split them into 3 groups. None of these students exercised regularly.

The first group was given a handout explaining the benefits of exercise.

The second group was given the handout, and $25 to attend the gym once in a week.

The third group was given the handout, the $25, and an additional $100 to attend the gym eight more time over the following four weeks.

The results? The group three students who received the additional $100, kept showing up for the required gym sessions. The other groups dropped out.

But the surprising thing is that group three students kept showing up at the gym, even after they had completed the number of visits they had been paid for!

Instant rewards can keep you showing up till you build the habit

Exercising is a habit. And like any other habit, it takes repetition to build. The problem with exercising is that the rewards aren’t immediately visible. You go to the gym, you work out like a beast, but you’ve got nothing to show for it right away. So your brain thinks, “Nah… not fun” and convinces you to quit.

The “bribe” does two things.

  1. It gives you an instant reward that you already associate with compensation for hard work
  2. It keeps you showing up long enough for you to develop a habit.

You can start using this hack right now to get fit

Here’s how you can apply this.

  1. Find a good friend, a family member or someone you trust. Explain that you plan to hit the gym for 8 weeks, once a week.
  2. Agree on an amount of money that you consider significant without being exaggerated — 10% of your monthly salary should do.
  3. Then, get them to pay you for each workout.

So, if you gave them $200 and you’ve committed to 8 weekly sessions, they will pay you $25 per session. If you don’t fulfill your end of the deal, you lose the money.

For some extra motivation, you could put aside the money you’ve earned and re-invest it into training gear.

Remember, all it takes to build a habit is repetition. If you manage to keep showing up during the first few times, you massively increase your chances that the habit will stick.


Charness, G., & Gneezy, U. Incentives to Exercise. SSRN Journal SSRN Electronic Journal.

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