How much money would it take to get you to exercise more? It may be less than you think, if you're like most people, new research suggests.
A provocative study by the University of Toronto has found that even small financial incentives — as modest as $5 per week — can boost the amount of exercise people do. The findings, published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, suggest specific immediate financial incentives may be more effective in encouraging sedentary people to exercise than talking up more general long-term health benefits.
"People's actions tend to serve their immediate self-interest at the expense of long-term wellbeing," said lead researcher Marc Mitchell, University of Toronto PhD candidate and cardiac rehabilitation supervisor at Toronto Rehab. "This is often the case for exercise, where the costs are experienced in the present and the benefits are delayed. Because of this, many adults postpone exercise."
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Marshall's findings are based on a study involving 1,500 heart patients at Toronto Rehab's Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program designed to help understand what might increase their adherence to exercise regimens.
"Our research suggests that providing incentives in the short term increases the amount of exercise people do — there is also potential to drive long-term change, but that will need to be studied further," Mitchell said. "The sustained behavior change we are seeking could save our health system millions by preventing repeat heart events."
Paul Oh, M.D., medical director of the program, noted patients who participate and stick with cardiac rehab programs after experiencing a major heart attack cut their risk of dying from a second attack by as much as 50 percent.
"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," he said. "The financial-incentives model gives us an additional strategy to help more people fully engage with the life-saving care we provide."
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