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Is Making Money The Best Workout Motivation?

A new study says it might be. Whether you want to lose fat or bulk up, these tools can help you wager cash on your goals.

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Would the chance to pick up an extra 20 bucks a month help you stick to healthier habits?

It did for the participants in a recent year-long weight loss study, which found that those who were gunning for a small monthly payout lost more weight than those who didn’t.

In the study, which was released Saturday at the American College of Cardiology’s 62nd Annual Scientfic Session, researchers at the Mayo Clinic tasked two groups with shedding 4 lbs. per month—one that received financial incentives and another that didn’t. Members of the incentive group who hit their goal picked up $20, while those who missed it, on the other hand, had to contribute $20 to the payout pool.

The cash-bait, it turns out, really worked: Study participants in the incentive group lost an average of 9.08 lbs., as compared to 2.34 lbs. in the non-incentive group. That's a significant difference.

So how can you use this research-proven strategy to your advantage? Luckily, a host of new web sites and apps are picking up on power of monetary motivation. Here, a few worth checking out:

  • DietBet. This site, founded about a year ago, has set out to game-ify getting in shape. You choose a bet amount, set a start date, and invite friends to join—whoever loses 4% of their starting weight at the end of four weeks splits the pot.
     
  • stickK. Designed by Yale University economists, stickK lets you create “Commitment Contracts” that bind you into achieving a personal goal—from eating better to quitting smoking. Just set your target, choose the stakes, find a referee to report your progress, and invite friends to cheer you on.
     
  • GymPact. Download this smartphone app, then let them know how many times you want to get to the gym per week—and what you’re willing to pay out if you skip (minimum: $5). To avoid a penalty, check in at the gym enough times to meet your goal, or use their partnership with RunKeeper to log outdoor exercise. Bonus: The penalty pot gets distributed as reward payoffs (usually $.50 to $.75) for those who do work out.

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