Some of us are motivated to shed those extra pounds by the number on the scale, or by the way our clothes fit. Some of us are motivated by compliments or critiques, and some of us find encouragement in celebrity moms who have overcome the odds to lose that baby weight! When it comes to making nutritious choices, though, how many of us would be motivated by a healthy sum of money? If someone offered you, say, $500, would you be more willing to stick to those weight loss goals? A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania revealed that money might not be the big motivator we think it is.
An investigation published in the journal Health Affairs studied the effectiveness of financial incentives on achieving weight loss goals. Experts asked 197 obese employees of the University of Pennsylvania health system to lose 5 percent of their body weight over the course of one year.
The participants were divided into four study groups. Three of the groups were offered a monetary incentive valued at $550 to lose the weight, while the fourth control group was not given any kind of financial premium. The first group was informed that they would receive biweekly discounts on their health insurance after they reached their 5 percent weight loss goal. The second group was told that they would receive the same biweekly adjustments the following year, if they satisfied the goal. Finally, the third group would be eligible for a daily lottery payment if they could meet a daily weight loss objective.
After a year, only 19 percent of the study's participants had reached the goal of a 5 percent weight loss. Overall, the participants' weights were unchanged. While this might leave many of us scratching our heads, there are several reasons this study may have failed. For one, the $550 premium discount may not have been a large enough sum to serve as a motivator. The discount was applied to participants' paycheck, so it wasn't as if they were being handed a check for their efforts. Also, the people in the study were asked to weigh themselves at work, rather than at home or in a doctor's office, which may have also altered their motivation. Finally, the participants were not compensated until the completion of the study, and this delay could have easily been a deterrent for even the most determined individuals! Further research has shown that people respond better to regular feedback, rather than postponed rewards.
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While this study failed to motivate people through monetary rewards, evidence suggests that this might not always be the case. More and more companies are getting their employees up and moving through incentives like lower premiums, cash, or even free merchandise. Products like the Fitbit have also created quite a stir in companies that are encouraging their employees to engage in more physical activity and engage in healthy competitions with their coworkers.
What about you? Do you think that money could motivate you to hit the gym? Share your thoughts below, and be sure to check out our sources here: CNN.com, NPR, and the National Bureau of Economic Research.
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