When it comes to exercise, one of the biggest challenges is keeping the momentum going. Millions of us vow on January 1 to exercise regularly - and then fail to keep pace with that vow. What does it take to make exercise into a habit? Money, according to a new study reported by Psych Central on September 18.
You might assume that if someone has suffered a cardiac event or has an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, the knowledge that exercise could help prevent future problems would be incentive enough. But mental motivation isn't enough, according to the researchers conducting the study.
"The time commitment and discomfort of exercise prevents many adults from starting regular exercise,” said lead author and doctoral student Marc Mitchell. "People’s actions tend to serve their immediate self-interest at the expense of long-term well-being."
Delayed gratification isn't easy, and benefiting from exercise is a case in point. "Because of this, many adults postpone exercise," added Mitchell. Unless, that is, they have financial incentives.
The study lead by Mitchell revealed that even receiving as little as $5 a week improved exercise attendance. Conducted at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program, the study was designed to help understand the conditions that might increase cardiac rehab adherence for patients who have had a cardiovascular event or are at risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Our research shows that people who participate in cardiac rehab programs after experiencing a major heart event cut their risk of dying from another cardiac event by as a much as 50 per cent,” said Dr. Paul Oh, medical director of the Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention Program and a scientist at Toronto Rehab.
“One of our concerns is there are people who need cardiac rehab, but are not receiving it or sticking with the program over the long term. The financial incentives model gives us an additional strategy to help more people fully engage with the life-saving care we provide," added Dr. Oh.
A related study just released showed that mobility is one of the cornerstones of healthy aging (read about that study here). Should older people in retirement homes have exercise bribes as part of the amenities? What do you think? Put your comments below.