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A better incentive for exercise

March 30, 2010 |  5:02 pm

We've long thought there should be some payoff — other than better health — for the copious hours people spend on various cardio machines at the gym. Like, for every 25 hours on the elliptical trainer you'd get a T-shirt. Or a smoothie (nonfat, of course). Or a gift card to Target. Something.

KnvkkzncFlavien Cassier and his compatriots at Digngo understand where we're coming from. Cassier is president and co-founder of Digngo, a luxury European bicycle tour company, and he has a new incentive program for clients: For every calorie burned daily, you'll get 3.5 cents. So if someone weighed 150 pounds and rode for four hours (the average amount of time per day, according to Cassier) at a light pace, that would be about 400 calories per hour ... times four, times .035, carry the one...that's $56!

"The idea came to us around Christmas," said Cassier, from his home base in a small town near Geneva, Switzerland. "Instead of discounting the price on the website for no reason, we thought, let's try to find a way for people to be rewarded for working out." A small device on the bicycle calculates the caloric burn.

Most of Digngo's clients are Americans who, for the most part, Cassier said, don't think of such tours as a way to lose weight. They have to be in pretty good shape to cycle for hours, even though the leisurely pace isn't up to Tour de France standards. The money-for-calories incentive might motivate some to do an extra 10 miles or so at the end of the day (especially the type A's in the bunch), but Cassier doubts people will turn into Speed Racer. Still, we like that someone came up with compensation for all that sweat.

For those less inspired, there's a van for riders who don't feel like keeping up with the pack. Cassier said it's usually used after events such as wine tastings, which makes sense. People should never drink and bike.

— Jeannine Stein

Photo: Provence, France. Photo credit: Los Angeles Times.

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