Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain
Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain
A new study from the University of Western Ontario suggests that if you start exercising with the promise of a little extra money, you may continue with the habit even after the financial incentive wears off.
A study of more than 580,000 Canadians in three provinces using a step-counting app found that most participants continued to walk about the same amount even when the rewards stopped after a year.
By using the app, walkers were able to increase their daily step count by an average of about 900 steps (twice as many for those who were inactive to begin with). When the $0.04 per day incentives in the form of gas cards, movie tickets, and other perks were removed, step counts decreased by about 200 steps, which Western researchers said was “not clinically important.” It was considered.
“Ideally, we would want people to go out and exercise for free. But given the high levels of obesity and physical inactivity, it’s clear that this is not the case. There are no financial incentives to start exercising. “The fact that it may be available but not permanently used is a very encouraging sign,” said Sean Spilsbury, lead author of the new book. research has been published in JAMA network open.
“You have to kick the ball to get it rolling. Once the ball starts rolling, momentum can take over,” he added of the study participants’ exercise habits.
Spilsbury completed his master’s degree under kinesiology professor Mark Mitchell, whose research includes behavioral science and digital health, including prior research on the role of financial incentives on physical activity.
In Ontario, participants using the now-defunct app received incentives for walking over a year and increased their step count by an average of 900 steps (twice as many as those who were previously inactive) Received compensation to help.
After that, government funding was abolished, and with it, most of the rewards disappeared.
The Western study looked at Ontarians using pedometer apps, as well as users in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, where incentives for activity remained for the duration of the study. , provided a sham control group.
Spilsbury, Mitchell and co-authors Piotr Wilke, Carolyn Taylor and Harry Prapavessis found a small decrease (about 200 steps on average) among Ontarians using the app after most of the rewards were removed. I discovered that I can see it.
Reducing step count is clinically meaningless
The biggest decline was among those who were most engaged with the app, who took about 330 fewer steps. Those who were inactive when the incentive was available remained inactive or increased slightly after the reward was removed.
Researchers say the average reduction in step count is “moderate” or of little importance to a person’s overall health.
“We’re seeing a clinically meaningless reduction,” Mitchell said.
These post-incentive results were exciting for the team analyzing the step count data.
“Reducing 100 to 300 steps per day is promising because that’s the frustration with encouraging physical activity. ‘Okay, if you give it (a reward) it works, but what if you take it away?’ ‘Is it?'” Spilsbury said.
The latest research shows that even if you remove incentives like gas, movies, and other points perks, little changes.
“Governments, businesses and corporate health programs in Canada and abroad are interested in this approach (encouraging physical activity). The Achilles heel has always been that it’s too expensive. We can’t show this. “This is one of the first things we’ve ever done. If we have really large samples, we can make effective programs more affordable and more sustainable,” Mitchell said.
Spilsbury, who runs five times a week and loves swimming, was initially skeptical.
“I never thought people would campaign for money,” he says. But he enjoyed studying them, despite the challenges of completing his work during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was Mitchell’s early work on exercise incentives that led Spilsbury to earn a master’s degree in kinesiology from Western University.
“I love psychology. My passion for psychology is different than my passion for athletics. Psychology explains why I do what I do, and why other people do it too. I want to know what you are doing.”
For more information:
Sean Spilsbury et al., Reductions in economic health incentives and changes in physical activity; JAMA network open (2023). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.42663