Want to lose weight? Then take a bribe.
A March 7 AP release cites results from a study showing participants lost four times more weight when Vegas-like odds were included. Participants had a chance to make, or lose, $20 a month over a 12-month timeframe.
The opportunity to pocket a maximum of $240, plus other cash incentives, pushed dieters to drop an average of 9 pounds – not a significant loss but much higher than those who were not offered a monetary award.
The dangling of dollars to beat bad habits is not new. Employers concerned about their employees, insurance companies rewarding claim-free customers, and internet incentive packages all, at times, offer bucks for good behavior.
One-hundred obese Mayo Clinic employees participated in the latest study, and its success is much in line with popular weight loss shows like the Biggest Loser.
In the study, penalties were imposed for not shedding the pounds, multiple ways to earn cash were available, and dieters could recoup their money if they fell off the "diet wagon" but later made up for it.
Incentives are “not like training wheels where people learn healthy habits and then will continue them on their own,” said study leader Dr. Steve Driver of Mayo in Rochester, Minn. “People saw that if they stuck with it, they had a chance at winning more than they had lost.”
The results are promising, but 9 pounds is not enough to overhaul an individual’s health, said Dr. Kevin Volpp, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics. Over time however, such programs could prove successful.
“There's been an explosion of interest in this” and 86 percent of large employers now provide incentive programs like this, he said.