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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Minnesota Study Shows Incentive-Based Employer Wellness Programs Effective, But Demonstrate Diminishing Effects

New research from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health finds incentive-based employer wellness programs were effective in promoting fitness center attendance, but that their impact begins to diminish after the first year.


[Photo: Dr. Jean Abraham]

The findings were published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“Incentive-based programs that encourage employees to go to the gym are popular with many large employers today,” said Dr. Jean Abraham, lead author and associate professor at Minnesota. “We sought to understand what happens over time with respect to employees’ fitness center attendance.”

The study analyzed data from Minnesota employees from 2008-2010. On January 1, 2008, the university launched the incentive-based Fitness Rewards Program (FRP), now known as Fit Choices, to promote regular exercise among employees and adult dependents covered by its health insurance plan. The FRP offered a monthly financial reward or credit of $20 per adult member for utilizing a fitness center at least 8 times per month.

Results show among eligible employees, 42 percent initiated program participation and 24 percent earned the financial reward at least once between 2008 and 2010.

Other key findings:

“This research suggests that there may be a ‘novelty’ effect when an incentive-based program of this type is first launched and that over time, employers may need to consider modifications to the program design in order to maintain employees’ engagement,” said Dr. Abraham.