Chronic Illness  
 September 30, 2014

Making The Pact

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When is that time of year, when you especially dread heading to the gym? Whether it’s the beginning of the New Year, or the beginning of swimsuit season, gyms, running trails, and salad bars galore are filled to capacity.  Many people will want to better themselves, only to fall to the unrelenting prophecy of not sticking to their goals.

A relatively new app named “Pact” (formerly “GymPact”) was created to combat this cycle with its three-part system:

Step 1: Committing

Step 2: Meeting your Goals

Step 3: Reaping the rewards

Each week you, the user, make a pact to participate in a healthy activity such as exercising more or changing your diet. But here’s the kick, you also have to set a monetary amount (you connect through a card or bank account) that you have to pay if you don’t reach your pre-determined goals.

The Pact app tracks your progress, whether that entails gym or other fitness center check-ins, outdoor runs, walks, bike rides, or activities measured by wearable tech devices and apps. The app integrates with other fitness tracking devices such as,  RunKeeper, Jawbone, UP, Fitbit, Moves, MapMyFitness, and MyFitnessPal.

As a reward for meeting your weekly healthy-living goals, you earn real monetary compensation from other members who aren’t as disciplined as you and hence don’t reach their goals.

The concept itself is certainly not new, and is derived from the economic concept of a commitment contract. The commitment contract is used against one’s internalities. Most people opt to maximize their utility in the present, ignoring long-term health down the line. Ordinarily this would equate to saying “I’m tired, I don’t want to go for a run,” which is exactly what makes you happier in the immediate future, but ruins your long-term interests.  Commitment contracts allow participants to grapple with the true monetary cost of their actions. Even if it’s simply to gain money back, participants are irrationally more likely to stick with their commitments.

Using personal contracts such as “Pact” literally puts your money where your mouth is. That is enough for some people to get serious about attaining their goals. Will similar incentive contracts work for diabetics trying to check their blood glucose levels more often, or multiple sclerosis patients remember to complete physical therapy every day at home? Remarkably, yes. Most reviews are glowingly positive that the added incentives helped users reach their goals. However, participants must be aware some users have had technical difficulties with the app. From reviews it appears occasional users and “Pact” quitters may be having trouble disconnecting.

Commitment contracts can be ran from a number of services including “Pact” as easily as it could be run from a home or office pool. The key is hard, unwavering, and unambiguous goals set in advance, matched against something that motivates you, namely money. While the saying may be old fashioned, utilizing the old Carrot-And-The-Stick approach to living healthier is an approach that shouldn’t be ignored.