Hyperbolic Discounting

4 min readMay 4, 2022


And how you can hack this for better health outcomes!

Why do we say ‘yes’ to the slice of pizza or to the oh-so-yummy cup-cake when we know that this can seriously set our health goals or diet regime back by some calories & more? Everytime.

Why do we forego the benefits of medium to long term for the pleasure of now?

Why do we eat salad for Monday lunch; only to give up by mid-week for Burger, Fries or other carb and fat combinations?

And how do we get out of this loop.

Yes, we all go through this including even the most astute athletes, celebrities and anyone who runs an inch or lifts a pound. When we know very well that to off-set a scoop of ice-cream means a grueling 20–30 mins of a treadmill session. But why?

A major part of the reason is Hyperbolic Discounting.

Photo by Danie Franco on Unsplash

Let’s go deep into this and explore how this impacts and influences our choices on everyday basis especially in matters related to health and fitness.

This is our 3-part series, where we discuss Zippy’s core product design thinking.

  1. Gamification
  2. Social Networks
  3. Reward Structures

We spoke about gamification here.

Let’s understand more about ‘Reward Structures’ and how ‘Hyperbolic Discounting’ influences this.

In simpler words, hyperbolic discounting refers to people’s preference for smaller reward NOW versus bigger reward LATER.

Hyperbolic discounting is a strong cognitive bias that influences our life and decisions in many ways but as usual our focus is on the wellness & health, let’s get into it.

And how we can hack the very hyperbolic discounting to feed into our tendencies to collect immediate rewards so that we stay committed to our long-term goals.

Now we know that exercising is an important health behavior; however the benefits or the outcomes of exercising are often delayed such as weight loss, increase in muscle mass, better shape, agility, endurance etc. However, the value of rewards diminish the longer we have to wait for them and is the reason why people attrition out, why people dont turn up for their gym appointments because we as human species tend to over-index on immediate rewards versus mid-term/long-term reward.

Photo by Frederick Medina on Unsplash

To come out of this bias — let us go back to the equation of ‘hyperbolic discounting’. It is a bias that influences us to grab the reward now even if it smaller, than the bigger reward in the future.

Now, while we can eat well, train well that will accelerate our health & fitness goals but this would still be in some cases months or in some cases years away from the intended goals; and the chances are that we wont see any marked difference in our initial days or even months — which will then trick us to abandon the goal altogether (remember — hyperbolic discounting).

Let’s counter that, what if we respect the hyperbolic discounting and reward ourselves with smaller, tangible rewards on day to day basis that will keep us hooked.

Will it work? and keep us committed?

Research has shown that augmenting the long term perceived reward with short-term attainable reward motivates people to stick to their exercising schedule.

Whereas participants intuitively focused on delayed rewards to motivate their exercise, they indicated that a focus on immediate rewards would actually be more motivating for them (M=82.45, SD=21.72) than a focus on delayed rewards (M=77.18, SD=20.90; t(79)=2.23, p=. 029).

Source: Kaitlin Woolley and Ayelet Fishbach. Detailed study can be assessed here.

How Hyperbolic Discounting Influences Exercising Behavior

At Zippy, in our endeavor to build a product that works and is not gimmicky — we keep going back to basics to understand what would motivate people and how are human beings wired.

We know we all want to feel better, look better but still a whole lot of us find it difficult to commit to our goals despite our best intentions.

Zippy’s move-to-earn metaverse focuses on tangible rewards through its native and redeemable / swappable tokens that puts crypto or cash directly into the pockets of runners; so on a day when a runner does not feel like running — there is a dollar or more hanging in there to reward you for your steps & miles.

Web3 or blockchain enables us to reward you for all your running discipline with tangible and sustainable rewards such as NFTs and tokens. And we do this by not selling your private data to corporates or flashing advertisements on your phone.

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

In short — by being on Zippy, you will not only gain physical and mental health, but also material health and that my friend is how you would hack hyperbolic discounting.

p.s. Please consider joining our discord channel for more such conversations.




Zippy is building world’s first move-to-earn metaverse focused on 1 billion runners/walkers/joggers where they can meet, connect and train better.