Gym Motivation: Holding the Hunger Games Hostage at the Gym

Reading time: 2.5 min

In a previous post, How to stick to a habit, I detailed how I managed to initiate and concrete a habit of working out to improve my health. It involved stacking my workout time with video watching time (something I consider pleasant), and aligning exercise with my goals (maintaining good health and converting unproductive time into productive time).

One study placed something similar to the test.

The researchers surveyed university students for books that were “difficult to put down once you had begun reading. Specifically ...... ‘addictive’ fiction books.” The most popular choices were The Hunger Games trilogy.

Then, 226 study participants (consisting of university students and staff) were divided into groups. The full treatment and intermediate treatment group were asked to pick four novels from the addictive book list.

For 10 weeks, they are allowed the following:

  • Full treatment: enforced to only be able to listen to audiobooks of their chosen novels at the gym (with regular checking that the participant left the listening device in the gym lockers when not at the gym)

  • Intermediate treatment: encouraged to only listen to audiobooks of their chosen novels at the gym

  • Control: given a reminder of the importance of exercise for health, and a one-off gift card (of perceived equivalent value to access to four audiobooks for 10 weeks) when they first went to the gym

The full treatment group and intermediate treatment group went to the gym 51% and 29% more than the control group, respectively, although the effect decreased over time and dropped around a major holiday (consistent with other research).

The research authors also noted that audiobooks may not have been the strongest gym temptation device. Instead, “individual television monitors attached to each machine offering members access to personalized entertainment during their workout” may be more effective.

The authors also noted, amusingly, the probable success of “Gymflix” entertainment streaming accounts that only allow some content to be streamed at the gym.

See the original study here: Holding the Hunger Games Hostage at the Gym: An Evaluation of Temptation Bundling, by Milkman et al., 2014 (PubMed has an openly accessible version).


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