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Money Motivates People to Lose Weight

Money Motivates People to Lose Weight Credit: Weight loss image via Shutterstock

It may come as no surprise that difficult tasks are easier to complete when money is a part of the equation. And a new study suggests that even the onerous task of losing weight gets a little lighter when every pound has a dollar sign attached to it.

A recent study from the Mayo Clinic measured the success of incentive-based systems in the context of weight loss. Researchers followed participants in four weight loss programs — two that offered financial incentives and two that did not — for one year.

All participants were given a goal of losing four pounds per month. The participants in the two incentive-based programs who met their monthly targets received $20 each month, while those who failed to lose the weight paid $20 each month into a bonus pool.

The study results showed that those involved in the incentive-based programs were far more likely to reach their monthly target weight loss than those in the nonincentive groups.

Those who were able to earn money for dropping weight in the study lost an average of 9.08 pounds over the course of a year, compared with 2.34 pounds for participants in the nonincentive groups. Furthermore, 62 percent of those in the incentive groups completed the yearlong program, compared with just 26 percent for those who didn’t receive cash incentives.

“The take-home message is that sustained weight loss can be achieved by financial incentives,” said Steven Driver, M.D., lead author of the study. “The financial incentives can improve results and improve compliance and adherence.”

And as obesity and its related conditions continue to plague the United States, researchers are looking for new ways to make weight-loss programs more effective.

“Traditional therapies are not working for a lot of people, so people are looking for creative ways to help people lose weight and keep it off,” said Dr. Donald Hensrud, a preventive medicine expert at the Mayo Clinic. “The results of this study show the potential of financial incentives.”

David Roddenberry, co-founder of HealthyWage, a pioneer of financial incentive-based weight loss programs and contests for both businesses and individuals, said he isn't surpised by the finding.

To date more than 100,000 individuals and more than 500 companies and organizations have participated in HealthyWage's wellness programs, which have facilitated multiple 100+ pound weight loss/financial gain success stories.  

"This is yet another study validating that, while 'the carrot and the stick' mentality is effective for inducing weight loss, the most successful programs will leverage both loss aversion and competitive drive, including both the threat of losing of money and also the opportunity to win large prizes--and bragging rights as in a weight loss 'bet'," Roddenberry said.

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Elizabeth Palermo
Elizabeth Palermo

Elizabeth writes about innovative technologies and business trends. She has traveled throughout the Americas in her roles as student, English teacher, Spanish language interpreter and freelance writer. She graduated with a B.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University. You can follow her on Twitter @techEpalermo or .