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Why To Exercise Today: Someone Will Give You A Whole $5

This article is more than 6 years old.
(Wikimeedia Commons)
(Wikimeedia Commons)

The paradox never fails to amaze me: Even though we know that exercise is one of the very best things we can do for ourselves, our more primitive brains often put up a stunningly stubborn wall of resistance. So here's a new study suggesting that even a surprisingly small sum of money could help tip the balance in the right direction. (How to use it? There are Websites that can help — comes to mind — or maybe just get a friend to be your tight-fisted banker, willing to release your money to you only if you earn it with sweat.)

From the press release:

A review study published today finds that financial incentives –- as modest as $5 per week –- can increase the amount of exercise people do.

Lead author Marc Mitchell, University of Toronto PhD candidate and Cardiac Rehabilitation Supervisor at Toronto Rehab, worked under the leadership of University of Toronto exercise psychologist Guy Faulkner and exercise physiologist Jack Goodman to publish these findings in the September online publication of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The review study looked at 1,500 patients.

"The time commitment and discomfort of exercise prevents many adults from starting regular exercise," said Mitchell. "For those who do start, most drop out within six months."

Financial incentive-based public health strategies have gained popularity in North America in recent years, with smoking and weight loss being the more popular targets.

"People's actions tend to serve their immediate self-interest at the expense of long-term wellbeing," said Mitchell. "This is often the case for exercise, where the costs are experienced in the present and the benefits are delayed. Because of this, many adults postpone exercise."

This study was mainly done at Toronto Rehab's Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program to help understand the conditions which might increase cardiac rehab adherence for patients who have had a cardiovascular event or are at risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Our research shows that people who participate in cardiac rehab programs after experiencing a major heart event cut their risk of dying from another cardiac event by as a much as 50 per cent," said Dr. Paul Oh, Medical Director, Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program, Toronto Rehab. "One of our concerns is there are people who need cardiac rehab, but are not receiving it or sticking with the program over the long term. The financial-incentives model gives us an additional strategy to help more people fully engage with the life-saving care we provide."

This program aired on September 17, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.


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