Not surprisingly, the hardest set — eat less bad stuff and exercise more — got the worst results, while the easiest — eat more fruits and vegetables and cut down on the after-work screen time — was the one people did most successfully. Still, all groups improved and sustained the changes to some degree during five months of follow-up.
"The most important part of the study," Spring said, "is showing that people can make these changes and we can maintain them pretty well."
The eat more/watch less group increased fruit and vegetable servings from 1.2 to 5.5 during the first three weeks, then fell back to 2.9 servings. Sedentary leisure time went from 219 minutes per day to 89 and then to 126. Calories from saturated fat went from 12 percent to 9.4 percent and to 9.9 percent. Eating more fruits and vegetables did not lead people to reduce fats. Not watching TV, which is often paired with snacks, was the key factor.
Study participants recorded what they were doing and a coach monitored them. They were paid $175 if they met initial goals and $30 to $80 for continuing to input data during the follow-up.
Paying people to do healthy things is controversial, Spring said. It just seems wrong, especially to people who already behave properly, to pay bad actors to do what they should have been doing anyway. "My own view about this is we’re going to be paying anyway," she said. Her point is that behavior that leads to heart disease and other chronic illnesses results in higher insurance costs for everyone.
— Stacey Burling