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Inverse: Fitness Tracker Study Shows Why Paying People to Exercise Doesn’t Work

“Each day, millions of office workers are paid to sit at their desks all day. Now that we know sedentary life is linked to harmful health consequences, some scientists are coming up with creative incentives to improve people’s health. For instance, What if we actually paid people to be active?

It turns out you can pay people to take slightly more steps each day, going by the results of a study published Friday in JAMA Open Network. Overall, people who received a constant payout of $.00020 per step (which works out to 50 cents for every 10,000 steps) walked an average of 306.7 more steps each day than those in a control group.

But unfortunately, the effects were short-lived: Two weeks after the incentive ended, people were back to their old habits. That doesn’t bode well for using cash to create long-term habit change. But the authors, led by Chethan Bachireddy, M.D., M.Sc., an associate clinical professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, were able to show that setting up the right payment scheme can change how many additional steps people take, and how long they keep up that change — suggesting that there may be ways to fix the long-term issues in the future.”

Read more on Inverse.