January is right around the corner, and that means a lot of people will be setting fitness, weight loss, and other health goals. It’s no secret that we need regular exercise to be healthier and feel better; the problem is finding the motivation to commit to an active lifestyle, and the consistency to stick with it. Now there’s a third-party app called Lazy Jar that pairs with your Fitbit to hold you accountable for your weekly fitness goals. The app uses negative reinforcement to help users achieve their goals by penalizing them financially if they don’t.
Lazy Jar’s founder and CEO, Justin Anyanwu, argues that the issue is not an unwillingness to work out, or educating people about the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Most people are at least vaguely aware of these sobering statistics: Around 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, and more than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese, which carries serious health risks of its own. The truth is that many people already belong to a gym but don’t go; more than 57 million Americans paid for gym memberships in 2017, yet only 18% of the memberships were used on a consistent basis. The real challenge is getting people to stick with their exercise routine. It’s this psychological aspect of the fitness journey – the lack of discipline and consistency – Anyanwu set out to solve for with the Lazy Jar app.
Here’s how the app works; a Fitbit and an active Fitbit account is required. Users set their weekly goals on Fitbit for 6 months using Lazy Jar’s in-app controls. To guarantee your commitment to the 6-months, you make a security deposit of $30. (The deposit will be refunded at the end of the 6-months.) The goals can be steps, miles, calories, or another metric of the user’s choosing recognized by Fitbit. If users fail to meet their weekly goals, they’re penalized a monetary amount they’ve preselected, which gets charged to their credit card. 80% of this penalty is donated to childhood cancer research; the remaining 20% is used to keep the Lazy Jar app running. Currently, the money is going to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, but there are plans for more charities to be added going forward. Since the app launched earlier this year, Apple Watch owners have asked for a version that works with their wearable. Anyanwu says that is also in the works, and will be rolled out early next year. Lazy Jar is currently live on iOS and Android as a free download.
If the financial penalty helps users build discipline and make a rewarding lifestyle change, all while benefitting cancer research and other charities, it will be a win-win. It could also reduce health care costs by giving people the extra push they need to commit to a fitness routine that will improve their overall health and well-being over the long term. Reducing obesity and cardiovascular disease while supporting a good cause is a lofty goal, but one well worth aiming for.