Photo: Edward Leung via Flickr
It’s one thing that gyms make bank off bums who can’t drag themselves off the couch, but what if skipping that 5 p.m. yoga class could put cash in the pockets of people you don’t even know?That’s the premise behind GymPact, an app that holds users to a promise that they’ll either go to the gym or get hit where it hurts–their bank account.
How it works:
Every Sunday night, you log in to the site and commit to going to the gym however many times a week you think you can. Then you set your own stakes for skipping out, with a minimum penalty of $5.
Once you’re at the gym, you check in by logging into the site’s iPhone app, which has more than 40,000 gyms on file in the country (including universities, tracks and public swimming pools).
It’s a lot like FourSquare, except instead of earning badges for checking in, you’ll get attendance credit and keep other people’s hands out of your pocket.
Now, here’s the rub: If you skip a visit, whatever penalty you agreed to at the beginning of the week will be taken from your credit card on file and thrown into a communal money pot. Every week, the site dips in and divvies up the cash for users who went to the gym.
This definitely isn’t the best system if you’re looking to save money on the gym this year, but it’s hard to deny the logic. (See how some women are losing weight without ever going to the gym.)
The company was created a little over a year ago by a pair of Harvard business school students who decided to see whether people would be more likely to commit to the gym if they had real stakes at play.
“GymPact’s concept centres around time-inconsistent preferences, a situation in which something you want in the future (having gone to the gym) conflicts with something you want right now (staying home to watch TV),” they say. “We realised that if people had a way to commit to exercise with real stakes and easy, fool-proof check-ins at gyms, they could actually push themselves to make the most of their gym memberships.”
Users can commit to as few as one gym day per week and the site offers backup plans in case of sickness or emergency, pretty much like high school gym class. There’s an option to send in a medical exemption note signed by a doctor if you’re not fit for the treadmill.
You can also change your pact up until 11:59 p.m. the Sunday before the week begins. If you’re planning a vacation, you can freeze your account and sign back up when you’re in town.
The company claims a 90% success rate when they tested the program at two Planet Fitness gyms in Boston last year, but that’s the latest figure they have on their site.
Our advice? Proceed with caution. It sounds like an easy way to chip away at your checking account, unless you’re fully committed to following through with your pact. Just keep a close eye on whichever account you have linked to the site to avoid unnecessary overdraft fees.