Discover The Pros & Cons Of Health Incentives

The use of health incentives for improved wellness

Health incentives are an effective and affordable way to motivate people to live healthier lives. But, they’re not exempt of controversy. 

Health is a key factor in many people’s lives and it should be taken seriously. However, for several reasons, a person may find it very challenging to prioritize their health and wellness. However, health incentives can encourage healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise or eating right. In fact, health incentives are not only beneficial to your physical health. They can significantly improve your productivity at work, reduce absenteeism and boost morale.

This blog post will explore how incentive programs work and how they can help improve your quality of life.

What are health incentives?

A health incentive is defined as a medical or non-medical health benefit offered to a person in an attempt to influence the person’s behavior for the good of their health.

Here’s a behavior chore reward star chart for multiple children. This chart will help your child learn purposeful actions, organizing and managing while increasing their self-esteem, discipline.

What are examples of a Health incentive?

Some examples of Health incentives are: health organizations that offer discounts on flu vaccines, gym passes given to employees in exchange for completing health risk assessments, and health-based credit cards.

Employer health incentives and fitness incentives are becoming increasingly common.

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"The basic idea that incentives can be used to motivate behavior is a powerful one. It works for employees, and it has a clear place in parenting, as anyone who has tried to potty-train a recalcitrant toddler with sticker rewards knows." - Emily Oster

What are the benefits of health incentives?

The benefits of implementing health incentives include:

  • By fostering a culture of wellness, employers can reduce absenteeism and its associated costs, increase productivity, improve public image and enhance recruitment efforts.
  • Persons may have access to some of the best equipment and resources that they may not otherwise have the time, money or motivation to utilize.
  • Health incentives can also potentially save money on health care costs by encouraging healthy habits and the avoidance of toxic habits.
  • They can lead to better results due to improvements in motivation and a greater commitment to goals.
  • Health incentives are powerful tools for self-regulation. They give us a sense of control over our own desire to achieve something we want.
  • A sense of achievement is often the first step in developing a healthy lifestyle and adopting new, more active habits.

Read also: Why are habits more important than inspiration?

What are the disadvantages of health incentives?

There are many controversial opinions about Health Incentive programs. These include:

  • Health incentive programs can be expensive to implement and maintain. As such, they are usually difficult for small businesses to incorporate.
  • The effectiveness of health incentives is not guaranteed. Studies show varying results in weight loss outcomes due to health incentives. Some studies suggest that it “might have a significant effect on weight loss.” Conversely, others indicate a “small but statistically significant addition to an economically sustainable weight loss program.”
  • Health incentives that focus on good behavior can also promote negative behaviors. For example, giving employees gym passes for completing a health risk assessment might encourage them to skip the assessment in the future.
  • There may be challenges in measuring the success/effectiveness of health incentive program.
  • We can easily misuse or overuse health incentives. For example, it may end up being counterproductive when you start to neglect your physical health by focusing all your effort on getting an incentive instead of staying active.
  • Health incentives can also be a source of frustration if you fail to achieve the result you desire on time. Such emotional ups and downs can easily lead to an unhealthy lifestyle where we associate reward with inactivity instead of exercise.

The use of incentives in the field of fitness

In the past few years, many personal trainers and fitness experts started incorporating incentives and rewards to induce positive behavior in their students.

The concept is well-documented in the field of psychology and has been implemented in several contexts, including business, raising kids, and pet training.

The idea behind using an incentive is based on simple behavioral change mechanisms in our brains. Basically, we humans are programmed to want things that have value to us. When an incentive is involved, we develop a type of ‘attraction’ to it.

Incentives can be as simple as a star on a chart or some more complex tokens that you might find at the casino. The significance lies in the act of associating positive behavior with something desirable and rewarding.  

The latter, however, requires an extra input of time and money.

Read also: Why is a healthy physical condition important?

Health incentives can significantly boost your lifestyle and personal wellness
"Call it what you will, incentives are what get people to work harder." - Nikita Khrushchev

Positive behavior and fitness

In the field of fitness, people often struggle to keep pursuing their fitness goals, especially in the beginning.  It is very easy to lose motivation when you are working hard to achieve your goals and nothing seems to happen.

Now, if we take a look at the positive behavior theory (PPT), we can discover that it aims to explain this issue.

In positive behavior theory, we find two main components that can help us understand how to encourage positive behavior and stop demotivating people from reaching their goals.

By combining these two concepts, we can find the solution for overcoming negative feelings about fitness.

The first component is called positive behavioral aspirations (PBA).  According to psychologists, we base most of our actions on the sense of what is desirable (e.g., I want to be more active, get in better shape, control my diet etc.).

The second component is called self-discrepancies theory. It shows that we often have different images about ourselves and perceive these facets to be inconsistent.

For example, we might have a strong urge to exercise more, but at the same time, we might also lack motivation and feel lazy.

You see, when you first start working out, your body is not yet adapted to the new routine. For this reason, experts are advocating to incorporate positive behavior in fitness.

To use the psychology of positive behavior, rewards and incentives are important to keep you going.

For instance, if you reach 20 miles of jogging in one week, you get a reward (e.g., your favorite food, movie night, gift).

Here’s an example

In an observational study published in Nature, researchers analyzed the level of physical activity in 11,881 participants who received frequent short-term incentives to promote positive behavior.

After several years of follow-up, participants who received incentives were significantly more active than those who didn’t.

This study suggests that positive behavior will play a pivotal role in the future of fitness. This is because it could be used to stimulate people who lack motivation and patience.

Discover the pros and cons of health and wellness incentives
"It's the people who have an incentive to find the problem who usually find the problem." - Andrew Ross Sorkin

Final words on the pros and cons of health incentives

Health incentives are powerful tools for changing behaviors. But, you can also use incentives to maintain healthy habits.

By understanding the psychology behind incentives and applying them to your own lifestyle changes (and challenges), you may find that it is easier than ever before to make good choices and stay on track with your goals.

If you’ve found success using health incentives, let me know in the comments below.

Related Topics

What is a personal wellness plan?

A personal wellness plan is an objective unique to an individual’s personal wellness. It is a combination of changes that an individual makes to their lifestyle.

A personal wellness plan may include things like exercising, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, or making time for family and friends.

These are just examples; the list is not exhaustive.  Anyone who wants to improve their life physically, emotionally, psychologically/mentally, or spiritually can create a personal wellness plan.

It can sometimes be difficult to create a personal wellness plan but it’s important if an individual wants to live a healthy and happy life. Read more

Why is physical exercise so important?

A Healthy lifestyle is very important, especially if you want to live a long life. Not only does it help you feel better about yourself and your body, but also it helps maintain weight.

Exercise is one of the most important components in creating this lifestyle. In fact, exercise keeps the blood pumping through all of your major organs and muscles which can help ward off major diseases and health concerns. Read more


Hajat, C., Hasan, A., Subel, S. et al. The impact of short-term incentives on physical activity in a UK behavioural incentives programme. npj Digit. Med. 2, 91 (2019).

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