The app that pays you to go to the gym

Get paid to work out

Get paid to work out

My gym-going habits vacillate a lot. Some weeks I reckon I frequent the gym as many times as Jess Ennis. Other weeks, a sloth could put me to shame.

So on discovering techy app Gympact, which pays you to go to the gym, I couldn’t not try it. This, surely, could be the answer to all my fitness prayers.

In essence, you commit to a number of workouts a week – your "gym pact". You’re then rewarded for each workout you complete if you stick to your pact. The downside – or extra motivation – is that it charges for every workout you shirk. This cash funds payouts for those that do make their workouts.

How does it work?

Download the iPhone or Android app to your smartphone, register your details and tell it how many times a week you’re willing to gym it.

You also need to agree a stake you will forfeit per visit missed – it could be $5 (c.£3) or $10, or up to $50 per workout (yes, it’s a US site – more about the pitfalls of that later).

Every time you miss a session, you cough up the stake you agreed. This gets added to a pool of cash, which is used to pay the Gympacters who did make it to the gym. So if you’ve agreed a $5 stake on three gym sessions per week and miss two sessions, that’s ten of your dollars that goes into the pool to pay others.

The app uses GPS to ‘check you in’ to your gym. It has a database of verified gyms, but if yours is missing, you can add it and the team will give it the nod. Before you ask, no, you can’t just set your house up as a gym. Gympact says it won’t work.

The best bit for me, as a fair-weather runner, is you can sync Gympact with the free running (and walking/cycling) app Runkeeper. Just connect the two apps – very easy to do – then any runs, walks or cycles you complete over 30 mins and a minimum of two miles will count towards your pact. So there’s no need to have a pricey gym membership to get paid.

How much can you earn?

The bad news is you won’t be able to quit your day job anytime soon. And don’t think the amount you stake per workout is what you’ll get back either. According to Gympact, around 85% of workouts are completed – so the limited cash in the pool each week doesn’t go far.

Gympact takes a fee, then the remaining amount is distributed. So expect to get around $0.50- $0.75 per workout. In a month, depending on how many sessions you do, that could work out to be as little as £3.50, up to £13. The more workouts you agree to, the more cash you’ll get, but of course the more you risk losing.

It’s possible you could get no cash at all. If everyone goes to the gym then no one is charged, but this also means no one is rewarded.

What to watch for

  • You can lose big. Sounds obvious, but you could end up losing quite a sum if you’re not careful. You can put up to $50 on the line per workout – if you committed to a full-on, daily regime, that could be $350 per WEEK! The app is very flexible, though. It lets you change your pact and you can take a break at any time – just don’t forget to set it up via the app. And if you’re ill you can be excused from a workout, though you’ll need your doctor or employer to email Gympact.

  • You pay in dollars. As a US site, all payments are in dollars. This effectively means you’re spending abroad, and banks charge for this. Most levy a fee of around 3% on top of the exchange rate. However, I bypassed this by using a specialist fees-free overseas credit card (see the Top Cards For Spending Overseas guide). Payments are made to you via a Paypal account, so you’ll need to set one of those up too.

  • You need a good phone signal. The app relies on a GPS signal to check you into a gym or sync with Runkeeper. I’ve not had any problems, but if your gym/run route is in a blackspot, it’s worth considering it might not work properly.

The verdict

It’s a neat idea with clever psychology behind it and I have to admit, it’s got me to dust off my running trainers and keep up a modicum of routine. However I’m slightly uncomfortable with benefiting from others’ bad habits, so I think that will stop me using it long-term.

Let me know what you think via the comments below, in the forum discussion or via Twitter @archieluthra. Would you use it? Or share your tips for keeping up the new year fitness resolutions!