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You Literally Can’t Pay Us to Go to the Gym, According to New Study

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A new study finds that financial incentives are not enough to motivate people to exercise, even when those people really want to develop good habits. The findings were reported in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that just 1 in 5 American adults meets recommended physical activity levels. Many of us want to do better. That’s why we buy elliptical machines, sign up for yoga classes, and join the gym. Unfortunately, more often than we’d like, these investments go to waste.

Previous studies of exercise motivation have found that financial incentives have had mixed results. But these studies focused on the general population, so it’s possible that many of the participants didn’t actually care about upping their exercise in the first place.

To find out if paying people to hit the gym pays off, researchers recruited 836 new gym members: that is, people who already had a financial stake in working out more frequently. The experts divided the participants into four groups. The first group, the control group, was paid $30 no matter what they did. The other groups were told that they’d be rewarded for attending the gym just 1.5 times per week during their first six weeks of membership. The rewards were either a $30 or $60 Amazon gift card or a $30 item of the participant’s choosing.

The researchers tracked how many times each participant swiped in at the gym. To ensure that people weren’t just showing up, swiping in, then leaving, they enacted a 10-minute minimum halfway through the study. The new policy didn’t make much difference; people still showed up with the same frequency.

Or, more accurately, they didn’t show up.

Before the study began, participants said they planned to visit the gym an average of three times each week. Reality looked a bit different. People in the control group started out fine, going 1.5 times per week, but by the end of the study they were down to once a week. The folks in the incentive groups didn’t fare much better. They averaged 1.73 weekly visits during their second week, but tapered to a single weekly workout by the end of the study period. After the six weeks ended, all four groups’ attendance declined even further.

Co-author Mariana Carrera is an economist at Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management. She says adding money to the participants’ initial enthusiasm was still not enough.

"They wanted to exercise regularly, and yet their behavior did not match their intent, even with a reward," she said in a statement. "People thought earning the incentive would be easy but were way overoptimistic about how often they'd go."

Let’s not lose faith just yet. Gift cards may not be the key to a fitter life, but there are other ways we can motivate ourselves.

First, pause and reflect, and try to figure out what’s holding you back. Are you tired? Is your gym too far from your workplace? Do you just kind of hate your yoga instructor? The obstacles may be easily overcome once you know what they are.

Second, get someone else, a friend or a coworker, to hold you accountable to your exercise plan. Shame is a powerful deterrent.

Finally, try lowering your standards. Five minutes of exercise is better than zero; start there. And many of us are far more active than we realize. Carrying groceries, chasing your kids, and walking to the coffee shop may not require cute leggings or bright sneakers, but they're still exercise.

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6 Things Americans Should Know About Net Neutrality
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Net neutrality is back in the news, as Ajit Pai—the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and a noted net neutrality opponent—has announced that he plans to propose sweeping deregulations during a meeting in December 2017. The measures—which will fundamentally change the way consumers and businesses use and pay for internet access—are expected to pass the small committee and possibly take effect early in 2018. Here's a brief explanation of what net neutrality is, and what the debate over it is all about.

1. IT'S NOT A LAW; IT'S A PRINCIPLE

Net neutrality is a principle in the same way that "freedom of speech" is. We have laws that enforce net neutrality (as we do for freedom of speech), but it's important to understand that it is a concept rather than a specific law.

2. IT'S ABOUT REGULATING ACCESS TO THE INTERNET

Fundamentally, net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not be allowed to prioritize one kind of data traffic over another. This also means they cannot block services purely for business reasons.

To give a simple example, let's say your ISP also sells cable TV service. That ISP might want to slow down your internet access to competing online TV services (or make you pay extra if you want smooth access to them). Net neutrality means that the ISP can't limit your access to online services. Specifically, it means the FCC, which regulates the ISPs, can write rules to prevent ISPs from preferring certain services—and the FCC did just that in 2015.

Proponents often talk about net neutrality as a "level playing field" for online services to compete. This leaves ISPs in a position where they are providing a commodity service—access to the internet under specific FCC regulations—and that is not always a lucrative business to be in.

3. INTERNET PROVIDERS GENERALLY OPPOSE NET NEUTRALITY

In 2014 and 2015, there was a major discussion of net neutrality that led to new FCC rules enforcing net neutrality. These rules were opposed by companies including AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. The whole thing came about because Verizon sued the FCC over a previous set of rules and ended up, years later, being governed by even stricter regulations.

The opposing companies see net neutrality as unnecessary and burdensome regulation that will ultimately cost consumers in the end. Further, they have sometimes promoted the idea of creating "fast lanes" for certain kinds of content as a category of innovation that is blocked by net neutrality rules.

4. TECH COMPANIES GENERALLY LOVE NET NEUTRALITY

In support of those 2015 net neutrality rules were companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Vimeo, and Yahoo. These companies often argue that net neutrality has always been the de facto policy that allowed them to establish their businesses—and thus in turn should allow new businesses to emerge online in the future.

On May 7, 2014, more than 100 companies sent an open letter to the FCC "to express our support for a free and open internet":

Over the past twenty years, American innovators have created countless Internet-based applications, content offerings, and services that are used around the world. These innovations have created enormous value for Internet users, fueled economic growth, and made our Internet companies global leaders. The innovation we have seen to date happened in a world without discrimination. An open Internet has also been a platform for free speech and opportunity for billions of users.

5. THE FCC CHAIR ONCE QUOTED EMPEROR PALPATINE

Ajit Pai, who was one of the recipients of that open letter above and is now Chairman of the FCC, quoted Emperor Palpatine from Return of the Jedi when the 2015 rules supporting net neutrality were first codified. (At the time he was an FCC Commissioner.) Pai said, "Young fool ... Only now, at the end, do you understand." His point was that once the rules went into effect, they could have the opposite consequence of what their proponents intended.

The Star Wars quote-off continued when a Fight for the Future representative chimed in. As The Guardian wrote in 2015 (emphasis added):

Referring to Pai's comments Evan Greer, campaigns director at Fight for the Future, said: "What they didn't know is that when they struck down the last rules we would come back more powerful than they could possibly imagine."

6. THE TWO SIDES DISAGREE ABOUT WHAT NET NEUTRALITY'S EFFECTS ARE

The Star Wars quotes above get at a key point of the net neutrality debate: Pai believes that net neutrality stifles innovation. He was quoted in 2015 in the wake of the new net neutrality rules as saying, "permission-less innovation is a thing of the past."

Pai's statement directly contradicts the stated position of net neutrality proponents, who see net neutrality as a driver of innovation. In their open letter mentioned above, they wrote, "The Commission’s long-standing commitment and actions undertaken to protect the open Internet are a central reason why the Internet remains an engine of entrepreneurship and economic growth."

In December 2016, Pai gave a speech promising to "fire up the weed whacker" to remove FCC regulations related to net neutrality. He stated that the FCC had engaged in "regulatory overreach" in its rules governing internet access.

For previous coverage of net neutrality, check out our articles What Is Net Neutrality? and What the FCC's Net Neutrality Decision Means.

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Live Smarter
This AI Tool Will Help You Write a Winning Resume
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For job seekers, crafting that perfect resume can be an exercise in frustration. Should you try to be a little conversational? Is your list of past jobs too long? Are there keywords that employers embrace—or resist? Like most human-based tasks, it could probably benefit from a little AI consultation.

Fast Company reports that a new start-up called Leap is prepared to offer exactly that. The project—started by two former Google engineers—promises to provide both potential minions and their bosses better ways to communicate and match job needs to skills. Upload a resume and Leap will begin to make suggestions (via highlighted boxes) on where to snip text, where to emphasize specific skills, and roughly 100 other ways to create a resume that stands out from the pile.

If Leap stopped there, it would be a valuable addition to a professional's toolbox. But the company is taking it a step further, offering to distribute the resume to employers who are looking for the skills and traits specific to that individual. They'll even elaborate on why that person is a good fit for the position being solicited. If the company hires their endorsee, they'll take a recruiter's cut of their first year's wages. (It's free to job seekers.)

Although the service is new, Leap says it's had a 70 percent success rate landing its users an interview. The rest is up to you.

[h/t Fast Company]

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