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Using behavioral sciences to teach fitness: A (sometimes unwilling) student’s perspective

Julie Perng's picture

 U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathan L. MaysonetEvery Monday and Wednesday afternoon, sometime between two and three, the email arrives. There’s no content, only a subject line inviting me to tomorrow morning’s cycling class.

I’m not one to enjoy spinning. But thanks to Arben Gjino, the originator of these emails, I participate in the cruel exercise approximately 150% more than I would have in an Arben-less world. So how did this Albanian-born, former volleyball Coach get me to ride time and time again alongside a dedicated group of early morning spinning enthusiasts?

Over time, I have pieced together his secret. What helps Arben – and his students – is the utilization of concepts from psychology. In particular, he uses concepts such as being non-discriminatory, salient nudges, making the classes fun and personal, and role-modeling. As a member of the World Bank’s behavioral sciences team, which applies psychology to international development projects, I especially appreciate the use of these techniques being used on – and for - me.