Regular physical activity (PA) enhances weight-loss and reduces risk of chronic disease. However, as few as 10% of U.S. adults engage in regular PA. Incentive programs to promote PA have shown some promise, but have typically used incentives that are too large to sustain over time and have not demonstrated habit formation or been tested in community settings. This report presents the rationale and design of a randomized pilot study testing the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of small monetary incentives for PA (n=25) versus charitable donations in the same amount (n=25) versus control (n=25) over 12months among 75 low-active but otherwise healthy adults at a local YMCA. Incentives are based on YMCA attendance, which is verified by electronic swipe card data and is the primary study outcome, with self-reported minutes/week of PA assessed as a secondary outcome. Incentives are intentionally small enough—$1/session, maximum of $5/week—such that they could be indefinitely sustained by community organizations, privately-owned health clubs, healthcare organizations, or employers (e.g., employer fitness facilities). Costs of the incentive program for the sponsoring organization may be partially offset by increases in membership resulting from the appeal of the program. Moreover, if efficacious, the charitable donation incentive program may have the added benefit of building social capital for the sponsoring organization and potentially serving as a tax write-off, thus further offsetting the cost of the incentives. Findings will also have implications for the use of financially sustainable community-based incentive programs for other health-related behaviors (e.g., weight loss, smoking).
Contemporary Clinical Trials – Elsevier
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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