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Livestrong: Do Apps That Pay You to Lose Weight Really Work?

By September 26, 2019 No Comments

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But what about a healthy lunch you get paid to eat? That’s more or less the premise of weight-loss apps like DietBet and HealthyWage. Users place bets on losing X pounds in Y months, and those who achieve their goal win money or at least, don’t lose money.

Can Money Motivate People to Lose Weight?

Do the financial incentives these apps offer actually motivate people? Research says yes — as long as you keep using them. An August 2019 study published in JAMA found that Achievement users increased their physical activity if they got paid regularly for it.

Researchers rewarded participants for the number of steps they took, with amounts from $0.10 to $3.50 per 10,000 steps. People responded especially well to consistent payments (as opposed to increasing or decreasing the amount). Unfortunately, after the experiment ended, everyone returned to their pre-study behavior.

Alternatively, you can find something you dislike to reverse-motivate you. “Losses tend to be about twice as motivating as the same gains,” says Katherine Milkman, a behavioral economist at the University of Pennsylvania and coauthor of the JAMA study. “You can either give me $10 or take away $5 and get the same motivational result.”

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