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Nudging People to Exercise

Ian Ayres has long advocated the use of commitment contracts in achieving dieting and weight loss goals. Alan M. Garber and Jeremy D. Goldhaber-Fiebert write about their research on commitment contracts and exercise. In an experiment, they found that “[a]mong 619 individuals aged 18-69 years who were randomly shown a default contract duration of ‘8 weeks,’ ’12 weeks,’ or ’16 weeks,’ those shown a longer default duration were more likely to choose a contract of a longer duration with a large proportion simply choosing whatever default value they were shown.” Furthermore, “[t]he results thus far show that individuals who were nudged into longer contracts did not commit to less exercise per week, nor did they choose smaller financial penalties for not fulfilling their longer contracts.” Preliminary findings from a follow-up study confirm the role of nudges in exercise.