Do incentives increase action planning in a web-based walking intervention?


Objective: Examining the use of incentives to promote action planning in university employees participating in the web-based RISE@Work walking intervention. Methods: Lower-active, full-time University of Toronto employees were invited to participate in RISE@Work. The 11-week program engages participants in evidence-based behavioural support strategies with the goal of increasing their daily step counts by 3000 steps over 5-Phases. Half of the recruited participants were randomly assigned to an incentive condition where they received a $5 Starbucks e-gift card each week for completing at least 1 new action plan during weeks 3-7. Intention to treat was conducted and repeated measures ANCOVAs were used to analyze mean step count differences between the two groups, during the 4-week incentive period, controlling for baseline step counts. Results: The final sample (n=55; age=41.07 years±10.62; BMI=25 kg/m2±SD4.99; 85.5%Female) experienced a significant increase of 1728±2875 daily steps over baseline steps (p=.04). During the 4-week incentive period, 57% participants in the incentive group and 8% in the control group completed action plans; only 6% of the incentive group continued planning at post-intervention. At the end of the incentive period (Phase 3) the incentive group accumulated more steps, representing a small effect size (d=.37). Although there were no significant between group differences at post-intervention, 73% of the incentive group versus 43% of the control group increased from low-active (5,000-7,500 steps/day) to somewhat-active (7,500-9,999 steps/day). Conclusions: Offering incentives resulted in increased planning, but only short-term increases in steps. Research is needed in identifying the best way to incorporate incentives into the design of web-based physical activity behaviour change interventions.

Acknowledgments: GEF is supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research-Public Health Agency of Canada (CIHR-PHAC) Chair in Applied Public Health. MM is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) [grant number 305843].