Cash rewards provide weight loss incentives

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by Marlie Hall / CBS News

khou.com

Posted on April 1, 2013 at 5:39 PM

NEW YORK -- Can cash rewards help people lose weight at work? A new study finds it can, but it's even better when employees compete for the money.

Starr Lynch lost nearly 30 pounds thanks to peer pressure from fellow nurses.

“What was really neat was my coworkers watched it coming off which was exciting,” said Starr Lynch, a participant in the study.

She and other employees at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia took part in a study about how much weight people can lose when offered money as a reward. Those in the study lost three times as much weight when awards were based on the group's performance -- not just their own.

“No question, hands down the individuals in the group incentive did much better,” said Dr. David Asch of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “They lost about 10 pounds, little more than ten pounds on average

Researchers looked at two strategies. Some individuals were offered $100 each month they met or exceeded weight loss goals. Other groups split $500 among five people, but those who did not lose the weight had to give their share of the money to those who did.

“If you didn't lose the weight, and everyone else did you would have this sort of unhappy circumstance of watching everyone else share the winnings you could have earned,” said Dr. Asch.

Many companies are offering workers cash incentives to get healthy. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers will soon be able to offer even larger financial rewards to promote a healthy lifestyle.

It's been a year since Starr took part in the program. She gained 15 pounds back, but is making better choices.

“It's time to exercise again and eat healthy,” said Lynch.

She earned more than a $1,000 during the weight loss program.

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