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Dole out cash to workers if you want them fit

New York, March 16 (IANS) Fit workers lead to better productivity and if you want your employees to be physically active, start rewarding them with financial incentives, a team of researchers including an Indian-origin scientist has said.

According to the researchers, the combined incentive scheme worked best at getting people to exercise more as providing individual rewards may be less effective because there is not enough social reinforcement from peers. 

"Better to try a combination of individual and team incentives," said Mitesh Patel from University of Pennsylvania.

"The findings provide a better understanding of how team-based models and financial incentives can be used to change people's behaviour towards better health and how physical activity interventions and wellness programs can be better designed," added Patel in the paper published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. 

For the study, the researchers challenged 304 employees from an organisation in Philadelphia and divided them into 76 four-member teams to take at least 7,000 steps a day. 

Participants received daily feedback on how well they fared. Smartphones were also found to be a hassle-free and more objective way to monitor a person's physical activity. 

The results showed that the combined incentive scheme worked best at getting people to exercise more. 

Participants in this group averaged 5,280 steps per day -- 1,446 steps more than the control group. 

People tend to be more engaged when they are offered variable rewards such as through a lottery or drawing than through a constant payment, the authors noted​

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