"We think of it as a gentle nudge; it's not supposed to be a carrot that we're dangling," says Marc Mitchell. (Credit: iStockphoto)

Would a $5 coupon help you stick to exercise?

Vouchers and coupons—for as little as five dollars—may help people stick to a new fitness regime.

A study involving 1,500 people recovering from cardiac problems suggests that small rewards increase the odds that patients will maintain an active lifestyle in the longer term.

The patients were taking part in a rehab program designed to help people with heart disease improve their strength and fitness to reduce their chances of future heart problems.

“Patients do great during the six-month program,” observes Marc Mitchell, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto who led the research. “But a lot of them stop exercising after they leave. The idea is to offer a modest incentive to facilitate that transition to independent exercise.”

For the project, patients receive these incentives after submitting their daily exercise logs, through an online portal called “BestLifeRewarded.”

During the second phase of his project, Mitchell led patient focus groups to determine which types of incentives resonate most with the cardiac rehab patients. Many liked the idea of receiving parking vouchers to supplement their costly trips to the hospital, while others preferred grocery store vouchers or a chance to donate their incentive to a charity of their choice.

The findings will appear in the September online issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Mitchell predicts that the act of submitting the entries will serve as a stepping stone to developing increased awareness and continued patient engagement.

“If they submit an empty entry, they’ll still get the incentive,” he explains. “Just doing that will continue to encourage them to self-monitor. We think of it as a gentle nudge; it’s not supposed to be a carrot that we’re dangling.”

The final stage of the project—the launch of a pilot program—is set to begin later this fall.

Source: University of Toronto

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7 Comments

  1. Smeagol

    Yes, here’s $5 to get off your [deleted] and make you feel better about yourself. Shouldn’t being healthy be a priceless reward?

  2. Floyd Gary Clyne

    What a short-sighted comment above. There are so many reasons why people are obese – if Smeagol read any of the new studies about the brain and weight gain or considered how our processed food, high sugar, high saturated fat is addicting and cheaper to eat than healthy organic foods which are actually at a premium price and out of reach for the working poor, or that a genetic propensity (much like alcoholics face) exists, or the fact that all of the fad diets of the past few decades actually have caused serious metabolic problems, the problems faced with weight gain during and after menopause, HRT therapy, quitting smoking, or anti-depressant meds, etc. there may be some understanding for the struggle of weight gain. Or as my Dad would say, “Plus that fact that virtually everything that tastes good is not good for you!” Bottom line – if this idea helps some people then it is a wonderful idea to assist them with having a healthier life.

  3. Floyd Gary Clyne

    And I forgot the problems caused by monosodium glutamate (MSG) in the human food supply – that’s a whole new conversation (MSG rats raised to be fat quickly for testing).

  4. Smeagol

    So the reasoning for being obese takes precedence over the need to exercise?

    It doesn’t matter what the reason is, if you exercised more it would inevitably make you healthier. It’s pretty simple. You shouldn’t have to be bribed with a $5 coupon to get off your obese ass and get on a treadmill, getting on a treadmill because you need to to survive longer and to have a better quality life while you’re alive is a reason enough. If you have to be paid to take care of yourself then you probably don’t need to be on this Earth anyway and your departure should be expedited.

  5. Matt

    Seriously? $5? Where is the motivation in that?? If you need a coupon to work out then once you stop getting those coupons you’ll stop working out. Exercise has to be a lifestyle.. otherwise, stop the incentive, stop the exercise

  6. Michael S. Minor

    I think the operative word is “nudge” rather than an incentive. If a $5 coupon serves as a reminder, and any amount of exercise is healthier than none, why not a nudge? Really, the idea that fat people should cease to exist…All right, so some are lazy, and others have genetic issues, whatever. Big deal.

  7. Smeagol

    I never said that fat people should cease to exist. Although I did imply that fat unhealthy people who have no desire to improve their health without being motivated with $5 coupons should cease to exists, yes.
    There’s a difference. Seriously though, if you’re not going to make yourself feel better and have more energy and an all around better quality of life by just exercising 30 minutes a day, then why the fuck are you on this planet other than to consume everything and weigh others down?

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