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Insurer Incentive Program for Obese Encourages Walking

Most met their step targets and appreciated the value of the program

FRIDAY, May 10 (HealthDay News) -- Most obese members of a health insurer participating in a pedometer-based financial incentive program met their step targets and appreciated the value of the program, according to a study published online May 8 in Translational Behavioral Medicine.

Donna M. Zulman, M.D., from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and colleagues analyzed outcomes after the implementation of a wellness program by Blue Care Network of Michigan that provided discounts for obese members if they enrolled in a pedometer-based program. Of 15,397 eligible individuals, 43 percent chose to participate in the Internet-mediated walking program.

The researchers found that participants achieved an average of 6,523 steps per day. During the first 10 months of the program, only 3.3 percent failed to remain eligible for the discounts because they did not meet the required step-count goal of 5,000 steps per day. Of the 12 percent of participants who completed an optional Web-based survey, 51 percent appreciated the value of the program, 17 percent were initially unhappy with the program but came to appreciate its benefits, and 31 percent did not like the program and felt forced to participate due to the financial incentives.

"Acceptance and participation rates in this incentivized Internet-mediated walking program suggest that such interventions hold promise for engaging obese adults in physical activity," Zulman and colleagues conclude.

One author is a scientific advisor to the Internet-mediated walking program provider Walkingspree and an unpaid consultant to Blue Care Network.

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