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App charges gym-goers every time they miss a workout

It's not even February and already you're skipping the gym. You may still want to lose weight and get buff, but it's getting easier and easier to miss those dates with dumbbells. Perhaps what you need is a little extra incentive – of the cold hard cash variety.

GymPact, a new iPhone app, charges users anywhere from $5 to $50 for every time they miss a workout.

"We decided to motivate people by having money on the line, rather than giving them money, which is a very radical departure from other motivational apps and programs," Yifan Zhang, GymPact's co-founder and CEO, told Reuters.

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Zhang created the app while she was at Harvard researching the link between financial incentives and motivation, according to the news agency.

"One of the key concepts is loss aversion. Say you take the same amount of money and you offer it as a reward, or use it as a penalty. People are much more motivated by a loss than by gain," she said.

Here's how GymPact works. Users provide their credit card information and then enter how many times they plan on going to the gym that week as well as how much they'll pay for each missed workout.

At the end of the week, you are charged for whatever gym dates you missed, with your money going to reward people who went to the gym as promised. Last week, workouts were paying 73 cents, the company said.

Don't think you can easily cheat the system by lying to your phone and telling it you went to the gym when you were really at home scarfing down donuts. You must stay at the gym for at least 30 minutes for it to count, and thanks to the GPS on your phone, the app knows whether you've been at the gym or home on the couch.

The purpose of the app isn't to take your money or make you rich, of course.

"We really think of what you have on the line as the number of days you're committing. That's really the focus of the program – how many days can we get you to go to the gym every week," Zhang said.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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