American researchers have found that employers who want their workers to lose weight should pay them to do so!
It seems giving money to overweight workers is the best incentive to make them lose weight and is in the long term a cost-effective exercise.
Dr. Eric Finkelstein of the non-profit research organization RTI International in North Carolina and a team of researchers found people paid to slim down lost more weight than employees who had not been given a financial boost to get fit.
For the study the researchers divided 207 people, who had an average weight of 200 pounds (91 kilograms), into three groups to compare their weight loss.
One group were not offered any financial incentive to slim down; the second group received $7 for every percentage point of their body weight they lost, while the third group were offered $14.
Dr. Finkelstein says after three months people in the $14 group lost an average 4.7 pounds, compared to three pounds in the $7 group while those who had not been paid lost about two pounds.
A few people lost a lot of weight and Dr. Finkelstein says it was found that people in the $14 group were more than five times more likely to lose five percent of their body weight.
Finkelstein says the results showed that there are a few people who can really benefit and improve their health and these are the ones who are the most cost effective to target.
According to experts more than 64 percent of adult Americans are now either obese or overweight and many employers feel the impact through higher medical bills and absenteeism.
Though some companies provide options such as in-house gyms to encourage employees to become healthier, Finkelstein is dubious about financing high-cost, one-time strategies which are not cost effective and do not guarantee results.
He says incentive based strategies are attractive because they are essentially costless... if no-one changes their behavior, no money is paid.
The study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.