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Cash Helps People Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Study Shows That Cash Incentive Can Get People off the Couch

There's an App for That

You don't need to take part in an organized study to reap these benefits, Spring says. "Just because someone else isn't offering you an incentive doesn't mean you can't arrange one," she says.

Reward yourself for making healthy changes or losing weight.

Also, Spring says, it wasn't the coach or coaching as much as it was the keeping track and perception of support. "This can be accomplished by writing down what you eat and/or your physical activity."

William Riley, PhD, wrote an accompanying editorial. He is a clinical psychologist and program director for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, in Bethesda, Md.

There are certain habits that are more easily changed than others, he says. "Increasing fruit and vegetables and reducing sedentary activity are relatively easier than some of the other targets."

The money helped, too. "The role of an incentive was useful and changed behavior quickly," Riley says.

It is also relatively simple for individuals to monitor and track their own behaviors. "There are many apps on smart phones that can track diet and exercise," he tells WebMD. "Self-monitoring even without an established program can monitor how many fruits or vegetables a person eats or the amount of time they spend sitting in one place, and provide feedback."

Gradual Changes More Likely to Stick

This is a "welcome study," says Scott Kahan, MD, MPH. He is the director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. "This and other studies that use technology and incentives to change health behavior have been pretty positive, but after longer follow-up, the differences tend to go away."

The real issue is how to make these changes stick for the long-term.

Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, says Michael Aziz, MD. He is an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and author of The Perfect 10 Diet.

"Changes should be gradual," he says. "If you push everything at same time, people get overwhelmed."

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