Govt. study calls for an incentive programme for walking

Even ₹20 a day found to be effective to get diabetics and pre-diabetics to walk more

March 08, 2022 07:29 pm | Updated 08:01 pm IST - CHENNAI

A study, commissioned by the Tamil Nadu government and a host of other institutions, has suggested an incentive programme for walking among diabetics and pre-diabetics.

Even a sum of ₹20 a day has been found to be effective to get diabetics and pre-diabetics to walk more, says the study based on an experiment carried out in Coimbatore during 2016-18. Such an incentive “leads to a large and persistent increase in walking” among those who are suffering from the chronic disease. 

The study, conducted by Shilpa Aggarwal of the Indian School of Business; Rebecca Dizon-Ross of the University of Chicago; and Ariel Zucker of the University of California, Berkeley, covered 3,192 persons. A paper on the study has been shared with The Hindu.

The organisations which associated themselves with the study included the Initiative for Global Markets; J-PAL USI; Chicago Booth School of Business; Tata Center for Development; Chicago India Trust; MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design; and the Indian School of Business.

One of the purposes of the study was to come up with scalable interventions to promote a lifestyle change among diabetics. The authors said, “We are the first to implement walking incentives among diabetics and pre-diabetics, and the first trial of incentives for exercise in a developing country.”

As part of the study, participants were divided into three groups — “incentive” group, which was provided with pedometers and financial incentives in the form of mobile phone credits; “monitoring only” group that received pedometers but no financial incentives; and the control group that got neither. The test was to observe whether or not and how people achieved the daily target of 10,000 steps.

The incentives did work, increasing the number of steps by 1,266 a day, approximately a 20% rise equivalent to 13 minutes of extra brisk walking each day, apart from having a striking impact on the distribution of daily steps. As for the perception that frequent payouts would work effectively, the researchers found no evidence.

The study, they concluded, had provided “the first evidence of a scalable, low-touch intervention with the potential to decrease the large and growing burden of the chronic disease worldwide.”

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