BACKGROUND: According to current physical activity guidelines, a substantial percentage of the population in high-income countries is inactive, and inactivity is an important risk factor for chronic conditions and mortality. Financial incentives may encourage people to become more active. The objective of this review was to provide insight in the effectiveness of financial incentives used for promoting physical activity in the healthcare setting.
METHODS: A systematic literature search was performed in three databases: Medline, EMBASE and SciSearch. In total, 1395 papers published up until April 2015 were identified. Eleven of them were screened on in- and exclusion criteria based on the full-text publication.
RESULTS: Three studies were included in the review. Two studies combined a financial incentive with nutrition classes or motivational interviewing. One of these provided a free membership to a sports facility and the other one provided vouchers for one episode of aerobic activities at a local leisure center or swimming pool. The third study provided a schedule for exercise sessions. None of the studies addressed the preferences of their target population with regard to financial incentives. Despite some short-term effects, neither of the studies showed significant long-term effects of the financial incentive.
CONCLUSIONS: Based on the limited number of studies and the diversity in findings, no solid conclusion can be drawn regarding the effectiveness of financial incentives on physical activity in the healthcare setting. Therefore, there is a need for more research on the effectiveness of financial incentives in changing physical activity behavior in this setting. There is possibly something to be gained by studying the preferred type and size of the financial incentive.
- Journal Article