Smart Woman: Weight Loss Incentives

    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.

    Some 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. They lost about 10 pounds, little more than ten pounds on average," says Dr. David Asch.

    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. 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," says 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.

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