Employers are increasingly trying to promote healthy behaviors, including regular exercise, through wellness programs that offer financial incentives. However, there is limited evidence that these types of programs affect exercise habits within employee populations. In this study, we estimate the effect of participation in an incentive-based wellness program on self-reported exercise. Since 2008, the University of Minnesota's Fitness Rewards Program has offered a $20 monthly incentive to encourage fitness center utilization among its employees. Using 2006 to 2010 health risk assessments and university administrative files for 2972 employees, we conducted a retrospective cohort study utilizing propensity score methods to estimate the effect of participation in the Fitness Rewards Program on self-reported exercise days per week from 2008 to 2010. On average, participation in the program led to an increase of 0.59 vigorous exercise days per week (95% Confidence Interval: 0.42, 0.78) and 0.43 strength-building exercise days per week (95% Confidence Interval: 0.31, 0.58) in 2008 for participants relative to non-participants. Increases in exercise persisted through 2010. Employees reporting less frequent exercise prior to the program were least likely to participate in the program, but when they participated they had the largest increases in exercise compared to non-participants. Offering an incentive for fitness center utilization encourages higher levels of exercise. Future policies may want to concentrate on how to motivate participation among individuals who are less frequently physically active.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by grant # 5R03CA173558 from the National Institutes of Health . The research presented in this paper is that of the authors and does not reflect the official policy of the National Institutes of Health. The funding source had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.
- Wellness programs