- By Leah Ingram
Deborah Woodward, an audiologist in Greensboro, N.C., gained 50 pounds between age 40 and 59. But she was committed to lose that weight by her 60th birthday. Why?
Two reasons: a humiliating experience of being so overweight that she couldn’t pull herself out of her bathtub and the chance to win $10,000 through a weight loss challenge offered by the Healthywage.com site.
There are now a growing number of weight loss challenges like the one Woodward signed up for, as well as health insurer incentive arrangements and a money-for-exercise app (all described below). One of them just could help lower your weight and raise your savings simultaneously.
In Woodward’s case, HealthyWage.com offered its prize money at the end of a 12-week challenge. The site runs such challenges 20 times per year, averaging 150 teams per challenge; the team that loses the largest percentage of weight loss shares the $10,000 first prize. Woodward lost her 50 pounds as she wanted — six percent of her weight — and her team took second place in the challenge; each member won $1,500.
The site runs challenges 20 times per year; the team that loses the largest percentage of weight loss shares the $10,000 first prize.
Offshoots of ‘The Biggest Loser’
This notion of paying people to lose weight is nothing new, of course. NBC’s The Biggest Loser has been dangling hundreds of thousands of dollars in front of its overweight contestants since the series began in 2004. But there is now solid research showing that money is a pretty strong stimulus to get off your butt and get in shape.
For instance, a year-long 2013 Mayo Clinic study found that the offer of winning $20 a month for reaching a goal of losing four pounds a month or the threat of being fined $20 a month for not losing that much was a huge motivator for success. The study included two groups — one receiving money for weight loss and one charged money for not losing weight — plus a control group that did not receive incentives. Compared with the control group, 62 percent who had money riding on their weight loss completed the challenge and lost, on average, nine pounds. The ones with no incentive lost just two pounds, on average.
And according to The New York Times, a recent study of 281 employees whose goal was to take at least 7,000 steps a day found that the ones who’d earn $1.40 for every day they met the goal achieved it 35 percent of the time; the ones who weren’t offered a financial incentive only hit the 7,000 mark 30 percent of the time. (The group who knew they’d lose $1.40 for every day they didn’t meet the goal achieved that goal 45 percent of the time.)
Weight Loss Challenges, Programs and Apps
If you’d like to pocket some cash for dropping some pounds, you may want to look into some of these weight loss challenges, programs and apps:
Health insurers that reward you for exercising Some health insurance companies now literally pay you to work out.
Take the HorizonbFit program, part of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. If you work for a New Jersey employer that participates in HorizonbFit, you’ll get $20 deposited into your bank account each month you go to the gym 12 times during that month. That adds up to $240 in a year. Gym visits are tracked electronically when you scan your membership card at the check-in desk. HorizonBFit tracks only that you went to the gym, not how long you stayed or what you did there.
United Healthcare has a similar incentive, known as its Fitness Reimbursement Program. Here, some of its policyholders get $20 direct-deposited every month they visit a fitness center or Y at least 12 times during that month. This program is currently available in 24 states to covered employees and spouses enrolled in a participating UnitedHealthcare Small Business insurance policy. The fitness reimbursements won’t be offered after this year, though.
An app that pays you to exercise With the PACT app (formerly GymPact), which is linked to your bank account, you note how many times a week you’ll hit the gym for at least 30 minutes at a time and how much you’re willing to wager to keep yourself motivated to do it. PACT will then deposit money in your bank account when you meet the goal. The money you get comes from all the other people who slacked off from going to the gym that week.
And that’s the catch: PACT will withdraw money from your bank account (you set the amount) when you don’t meet your goal. There’s no cheating: PACT uses GPS locators and gym check-ins to see how you’re doing. You won’t get rich using this app, though. According to the company’s website: “Rewards have generally been $0.30 to $5 per week depending on the number of activities committed.” (In addition to making a “pact” to go to the gym, you can also set a wager to eat more vegetables and log your food accordingly.)
PACT also works with FitBit (and other step counters) so if you walk 10,000 steps in a day but don’t make it to the gym, you aren’t dinged, because the steps count as exercise.
Weight loss-challenge sites Two popular weight loss-challenge sites are HealthyWage.com, noted earlier, and DietBet.com. With HealthyWage, you pay $25 a month to participate in its 12-week team challenges. That “team” could be people you work with, friends and family, or, in the case of Woodward, people she teamed up with virtually through the site.
In addition to the monthly fee, you choose a wager amount, basically betting dollars to inspire you to lose weight. “We find that somewhere between $50 to $100 a month [as a wager] seems to work well [to keep participants motivated],” says HealthyWage co-founder David Roddenberry. “Less than that and you’re not really fully in.”
After the team challenge is over, you can continue your weight loss journey to “win” more money. “You set the parameters of the investment (the number of pounds to lose, the number of months and the amount to invest) and we pay you a prize (typically 200 to 300 percent of what you put in),” adds Roddenberry. If, at the end of nine months, you’ve lost at least 10 percent of your starting weight, you get the $75 entry fee for the Team Challenge refunded, plus whatever winnings you earned based on the personal “wager” you made with yourself about your weight loss.
DietBet has two levels of challenges: a four-week challenge to lose four percent of your body weight or a six-month challenge to lose 10 percent. The minimum “bet” to get started is around $30. Because the winning “pot” is based on how much each person in your challenge bets, that prize number varies. But according to DietBet, the average winnings are between 1 ½ and 2 times the amount you originally bet.