Behavioural Economics Seminar: Incentivizing Exercise Improves Academic Performance

Open seminar on behavioural economics at Department of Food and Resource Economics.

Presenter: Mathias Ekström, ChioceLab, Norwegian Business School.


Incentivizing Exercise Improves Academic Performance


In a large randomized controlled trial, we test the hypothesis that incentives for physical activity can improve academic performance. We found strong support for this hypothesis: University students who were incentivized to go to the gym had a significant improvement in academic performance, by, on average, 0.15 standard deviations compared to a control group that did not receive any incentives. The success of this indirect incentive for academic performance emphasizes the importance of non-cognitive skills in achieving academic goals. Students who were incentivized to exercise report improved self-control and a healthier life-style. Overall, the study demonstrates that incentivizing exercise can be an important tool in improving educational achievements.

Authors: Alexander W. Cappelen, Gary Charness, Mathias Ekström, Uri Gneezy, Bertil Tungodden