Posted on Jun 14, 2013, 6 a.m.
When given the option of walking 5,000 steps each day or paying 20% more for their health insurance, obese people opted to walk.
A health insurance scheme to encourage obese people to get active has been hailed as a success. Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System and Stanford University studied a group of obese people who signed up to an incentivized health insurance program to evaluate its effectiveness. Participants in the scheme had the choice of paying 20% more for their health insurance or exercising more. 6,548 people who enrolled onto the scheme chose to walk at least 5,000 steps each day or 450,000 steps a quarter in order to keep on qualifying for the discounted insurance. After one year, results showed that nearly 97% had met or exceeded their target of 5,000 steps each day. The researchers were very surprised at the high rate of compliance, especially since one-third of participants were originally highly resistant to the scheme, disagreeing with the financial incentives and calling the program “coercive”. Lead author Donna Zulman, M.D. concluded: "Our findings suggest that incentivized wellness programs are acceptable to many individuals and that these programs encourage healthy behaviors."
Donna M Zulman, Laura J Damschroder, Ryan G Smith, Paul J Resnick, Ananda Sen, Erin L Krupka, Caroline R Richardson. Implementation and evaluation of an incentivized Internet-mediated walking program for obese adults. Translational Behavioral Medicine. 2013 May. [Epub ahead of print]