Giving people cash to lose weight works: Study

File photo of gym members working out with free weights and various exercise machines.
File photo of gym members working out with free weights and various exercise machines.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Joining a weight loss programme helps, but giving people money to shed the pounds works even better, a new study has found.

The study involved 161 people, each of whom paid $234 to join a four-month intensive weight loss programme.

On top of that, some paid an additional $165 to join a rewards programme, where they earned cash for meeting certain weight loss goals. This group could also opt for a lottery ticket instead, which would give them a one in 10 chance to win 10 times the cash amount.

When researchers looked at the results after four months, they found that the group who had joined the basic weight loss programme lost an average of 1.4kg. However, those who were in the rewards programme lost 3.4kg on average.

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This difference in weight loss between the two groups was observed up to eight months after the programme had ended.

The study was led by a team from the Duke-NUS Medical School and Singapore General Hospital.

On average, people in the rewards scheme won $225 - resulting in a net win of $60 after accounting for the cost of joining the scheme.

Around 80 per cent said they were satisfied with the scheme, even though less than half had won more than they paid in.

"Our findings not only show the value of rewards to increase weight loss and weight loss maintenance," said Professor Eric Finkelstein, who is in the Duke-NUS programme for health services and systems research. "They show it can be done in a manner that minimises third party payments, such as those by employers or insurers. This should help to expand access to these types of programmes."