APR 11, 2024 9:00 AM PDT

Short-Term Exercise Incentives Cause Long-Term Gains

WRITTEN BY: Savannah Logan

New research published in the journal Circulation suggests that receiving daily reminders or small incentives to be more active causes adults to increase their daily step counts, with the effects potentially lasting after the reminders or incentives have stopped.

A total of over 1,000 participants completed the study. All participants had elevated risk of cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. They were given wearable trackers to monitor their daily step counts and instructed to set a goal of increasing their step counts by 33%, 40%, 50%, or any amount greater than 1,500 steps from their baseline average. Then, they were divided into four groups: one group had gamified reminders and rewards, one group had financial incentives, one group had both gamified rewards and financial incentives, and the last group was a control group. The interventions lasted for 12 months, and each group also had a 6-month follow-up period to see how their step counts changed after they no longer received incentives.

At the start of the study, the participants averaged about 5,000 steps per day. After the 12-month intervention period, all participants had increased their step counts by an average of about 1,500 steps per day. Compared to the control group, the gamified group increased their average by an additional 538 steps per day, the financial incentive group increased their steps by an average of 492 steps per day, and the group receiving both interventions increased their steps by an average of 868 steps per day. The group with both interventions continued to walk an extra 576 steps per day on average six months after the intervention period, while the other two intervention groups had increases that were similar to the control group after six months.

The researchers noted that daily interventions that created immediate benefits for the participants were effective for changing behavior. The long-term benefits of exercise are not always obvious, but small immediate rewards can lead to behavioral changes that last.

Sources: Circulation, Science Daily

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Savannah (she/her) is a scientific writer specializing in cardiology at Labroots. Her background is in medical writing with significant experience in obesity, oncology, and infectious diseases. She has conducted research in microbial biophysics, optics, and education. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
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