behavioral economics at the gym

Are you ready for another post related to behavioral economics? I find this topic so fascinating – using our knowledge of psychology and how people make decisions, to subtly change the environment and influence what decisions people will make. Some might think it’s creepy and controlling, but I like it. Instead of big brother, I prefer the term “big mother”. In the public health world, this is all about changing the environmental cues/defaults so people can more easily make healthier decisions (eat better/less, move more, etc).

Again, this is the book I am currently reading and highly recommend!


One of the interesting things I learned this past week from the book is that people would rather never gain something, than lose it. For instance, people would rather not be given $1,000 in the first place than to be given $1,000 and then have it taken away. Makes some sense, right? They’ve been able to determine this through various studies (the mug study is classic) and translate it into real world approaches.

So, how can we apply this principle in the world of public health? Take fitness levels. It makes sense that once you work hard to attain a certain level of fitness, you do not want to lose it. In fact, you might be more willing to have stayed out of shape entirely, than to work hard on your fitness goals, make progress, and then lose all that progress and go make to square one (makes me think of the old “chutes and ladders” game!).

At least… this is how it is for me. Since starting graduate school, I’ve been working out with a personal trainer on a most-weekly basis. It’s funny that I’m paying money for doing exercises that I was fully capable of doing on my own before, but this time there is accountability and it is actually leading me to improvements in fitness and strength. Climbing up the ladder, so to speak, is encouraging me to stick with it. Had I never started this personal training, I wouldn’t have had much “invested” in to keep doing these kinds of exercises. But now, having gained that strength, I don’t want to lose it, and so I (mostly) keep up with it. And then I go and start reading “Nudge” and see that I am a textbook case of … well, being human 🙂

Anyone else enjoying the ideas of behavioral economics?


One thought on “behavioral economics at the gym

  1. […] grounded in wonderful behavioral economics theory (which we all know I love), which might actually be the biggest reason I’m considering it. haha. It’s not a method for […]

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