Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How about ten bucks per pound? Hey, it's cheaper than steak!

A research team out of the University of Pennsylvania has recently published a study in JAMA that showed that financial incentives are very effective weight loss tools.

If being healthy isn't enough, cold hard cash better be!

57 healthy participants (aged 30-70) were randomly placed into one of three weight loss programs in which the goal was to lose 1 lb every week for 16 weeks.

The groups were laid out as follows:

1) Monthly Weigh-Ins: No reward

2) Lottery Incentive Program: if they met their goals they could win money!

3) Deposit Contract that the participants could match.

After the 16 weeks, the lottery incentive group lost  an average of 13.1 lbs while the deposit group and no money group lost 14 lbs and 3.9 lbs respectively. 

Interestingly, at the 7 month follow-up; both incentive groups had still kept a significant amount of the weight off!

9 lbs for the lottery while only 6 lbs for the deposit group and 4 lbs for the penniless folk

So how much did they all earn for their weight-loss endeavours?

Participants in the lottery group walked away with a cool $378.49 while the other reward group earned a handsome $272.80

The study concluded that it would be prudent to explore longer periods of incentives to see if a sustained weight loss could be achieved from this reward system.

Chasing that dollar!

These numbers are actually quite interesting because in a previous study in The American Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (2007), researchers showed that a mere $7 was enough to motivate workers to lose an average of 3 lbs in 3 months.  Not huge numbers but any amount of sustained, healthy weight loss is always a good thing.

It is well known that those who are obese spend far more on health care every year than those who are at a healthy weight, or even just overweight.

So where is the line? 

How much might it take for employers or health care programs to be able to offer cash or other incentives for weight loss in the workplace?  Obviously a very dicey issue, but something I am sure may be pursued further as companies look to cut health care costs by any means necessary in the coming years.

Do you think lottery weight loss systems, or Biggest Loser (The Office anyone?) type competitions might make their way into the workplace in the future?

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