People who fork out for the
gym fortnightly rather than annually will turn up for workouts more often,
according to new Australian research.
Behavioural specialists say that members who pay an up-front yearly fee
go less frequently because they don't have a regular reminder of their
commitment printed on their bank statements.
A team from the University of Wollongong compared people who paid for a
year's gym membership in advance to those who signed a contract but paid
by fortnightly salary deductions.
The results, published in the international journal Marketing Theory,
showed annual payers worked out five times a month on average, compared to
eight monthly visits for those on fortnightly schedules.
This second group were motivated by regular reminders of the real cost
of missing a visit, said Professor Sandra Jones from the university's
Centre for Health Behaviour and Communication Research.
"People look at their pay
slip and think to themselves 'I paid $20 this fortnight
and didn't get anything for it,' which motivates them to go to the gym
more often and get their money's worth," Prof Jones said.
"But if they pay in advance it isn't until they get the renewal bill at
the end of the year that they realize how much money they've 'wasted' and
by then they are out of the habit of exercising."
This proves that the method of gym payment can seriously affect
people's activity levels in this study, at least, by up to 50 per cent.
The findings have important implications for the promotion of physical
activity and support a change in the way gyms operate, the researcher
"I am not suggesting that facilities shouldn't charge up-front fees , as these are often necessary
to cover equipment and running costs," Prof Jones said.
"But since we seem to be dealing with a reminder mechanism, up-front
payers could be sent a regular reminder of what the last month has, in
effect, cost them and encouraging them to make full use of their
This would benefit gyms, too, because members who attend more regularly
are more likely to sign up for another year, she said.