We all need a bit of extra help to develop healthier habits, so would a free cinema trip motivate you to get off the sofa a bit more, or are you concerned about sharing too much data?
If my fitness tracker records that I have taken more than 7,000 steps in a day, my healthcare provider gives me points, which I can redeem to get free cinema tickets, coffee or iTunes vouchers.
This is an example of incentivisation, as the promise of a reward makes me much more likely to reach my target. And I do look forward to the pleasure of a free coffee every Friday – although I try to steer away from the temptation of a strawberry and cream iced coffee to keep the calories off!
The science behind trackers
The theory underpinning how incentives work comes from psychological, ecological and behavioural economics research.
People generally want to do what is in their long-term interests (get fit and lose weight), but usually succumb to short-term temptation (sit on the sofa and eat cake). An incentive gives a smaller, immediate reward for taking a step in the right direction and, over time, can help us to reach that long-term goal.
Incentives can play a significant part in helping to improve your health, but don’t just need to take the form of financial rewards. Purely knowing that you have a device counting your steps can give you that extra psychological push to walk more, and many devices will give you motivational messages to help you stay on track.
Incentivising healthy habits in this way might have some downsides, however. There could be potential privacy concerns with companies holding large amounts of personal data and what they might do with it – could the data be used to calculate your health insurance premiums, or could the information be accessible to third parties?
On balance though, if incentives encourage people to exercise and play an active part in improving their health, that can only be a good thing.
Testing the trackers
We’ve so far reviewed over 30 fitness trackers, with more to come later this year.
We assess their accuracy to record steps tracked, distance covered and calories used among other elements and additionally look at how easy they are to use. We’ve also uncovered some Best Buy fitness trackers that go the extra mile.
How do you motivate yourself to develop healthier habits? Do you use devices or apps to help, and would you be motivated by points or vouchers?