Comparing Types of Financial Incentives to Promote Walking: An Experimental Test

Rachel J. Burns, Alexander J. Rothman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Offering people financial incentives to increase their physical activity is an increasingly prevalent intervention strategy. However, little is known about the relative effectiveness of different types of incentives. This study tested whether incentives based on specified reinforcement types and schedules differentially affected the likelihood of meeting a walking goal and explored if observed behavioural changes may have been attributable to the perceived value of the incentive. Methods: A 2 (reinforcement type: cash reward, deposit contract) × 2 (schedule: fixed, variable) between-subjects experiment with a hanging control condition was conducted over 8 weeks (n = 153). Results: Although walking was greater in the incentive conditions relative to the control condition, walking did not differ across incentive conditions. Exploratory analyses indicated that the perceived value of the incentive was associated with the likelihood of meeting the walking goal, but was not affected by reinforcement type or schedule. Conclusions: The reinforcement type and schedule manipulations tested in this study did not differentially affect walking. Given that walking behaviour was associated with perceived value, designing incentive strategies that optimise the perceived value of the incentive may be a promising avenue for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-214
Number of pages22
JournalApplied Psychology: Health and Well-Being
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (RJB). The PRO version of the Runtastic app was provided free of charge by Runtastic. Runtastic had no involvement in the study design, analysis, or interpretation of the results.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The International Association of Applied Psychology


  • financial incentives
  • health behaviour change
  • mechanisms of action
  • physical activity


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