It has been found that negative conditioning is much more effective as an incentive to motivate people to get fit than positive encouragement.
Financial incentives were not suitable as exercise motivators. Instead risk of losing money was a more effective agent of exercise participation. The research was consistent on this one.
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Three methodologies of inducing participation in an exercise regimen were employed in the study. The way that the financial scheme is framed was how the obese subjects reacted in turn.
All of America knows that exercise is good for health. But over half of Americans hardly find the time for some jogging or weight training.
Although vocation-related exercise programs have been set up, the incentive is too small. Ordinary people need much more than a rosy picture of themselves in the future to get up from their seats and huff and puff their way to a fit and lean body.
The whole issue has so much to do with motivation and desire. The incorporation of incentives within the program is of the essence. Were the programs to include such financial incentives as loss aversion into their repertoire, maybe the battle against obesity will be won in the long run.
Behavioral economics is the name of the game.Over 281 people were included in the study. They were to complete a goal of walking exactly 7000 steps a day for a 26 week period.
For the first 13 weeks, the participants were divided into four groups. The control group received no financial rewards. The gain incentive group received $1.40 on a daily basis. That is $42 per month.
As for the lottery incentive group, they could participate in a daily lottery where the prize was once again $1.40 per day. However, the loss incentive group got $42 at the start of the month and had $1.40 deducted for each day that the goal of 7000 steps was not reached.
An average American walks about 5000 steps a day. The extra 2000 steps are enough to account for fitness over a long term period. The end results showed that the second and third groups had no different outcomes from the first control group.
The success rates for the second and third groups were 30% to 35%. However, the fourth group which risked losing the money completed the goal of 7000 steps for so many weeks 45% of the time.
Thus it is quite clear that the way a financial incentive is framed has a lot to do with the motivation to exercise among obese individuals.
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Results were published on Feb. 15th in the Annals of Internal Medicine.