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Effectiveness of an Incentive-Based Online Physical Activity Intervention on Employee Health Status

Herman, Christopher W. MS; Musich, Shirley PhD; Lu, Chifung MS; Sill, Stewart MS; Young, Joyce M. MD; Edington, Dee W. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2006 - Volume 48 - Issue 9 - p 889-895
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000232526.27103.71
Original Articles

Objective: The objective of this study was to test whether a financial incentive integrated with health benefits for an online physical activity program was associated with increased employee participation and improved health status among participants compared with nonparticipants.

Methods: Participation in the Virtual Fitness Center (VFC), an online physical activity program associated with a $150 cash rebate, was assessed. Risk status for 2004 VFC participants and nonparticipants was compared using a health risk appraisal.

Results: A total of 53.8% of total eligible employees were VFC participants and reduced their risk for physical inactivity (8.4% points), life dissatisfaction (2.1), low perception of health (1.9), high risk status (1.3), smoking (0.4), and high body weight (0.2).

Conclusions: Providing a cash incentive is one strategy for encouraging VFC participation and eliciting improved health status in an employer-sponsored, web-based physical activity program.

From the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center (Mr Herman, Dr Musich, Ms Lu, Dr Edington), Ann Arbor, MI; and IBM Corporation Research Triangle Park, NC (Mr Sill, Dr Young).

CME Available for this Article at

Christopher Herman has no commercial interest related to this article.

Address correspondence to: Christopher Herman, MS, Health Management Research Center, The University of Michigan, 1027 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1688. E-mail:

©2006The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine