Study by Indian American finds paying patients to exercise decreases risk of heart attack

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A man in a business suit offers money

A Penn study conducted by Neel Chokshi, medical director of the Penn Sports Cardiology and Fitness Program and an assistant professor of clinical medicine in cardiology, finds that the best way to get heart patients to exercise is bribery.

According to the study, financial incentives and wearable devices lead to increased exercise for patients who are at a high-risk of a heart attack as exercising helps decrease that risk.

Chokshi, an Indian American, and his team of researchers at Penn Medicine have published the results of a clinical trial in the Journal of the American Heart Association, which show that offering payment up front, and taking money away if exercise goals aren’t met, increases physical activity, according to a press release.

Chokshi was also aware that participation in exercise programs like cardiac rehab is extremely low; due to lack of motivation or access to classes and facilities therefore he wanted to find creative ways to engage patients in exercise while combining wearable fitness trackers with motivational techniques.

“In this clinical trial, we tested a scalable approach combining wearables and principles from behavioral economics to show significantly increased activity levels even after incentives were stopped,” Chokshi said in a press release.

Choksi also found that while wearable devices can motivate high-risk patients, wearables alone did not increase physical activity levels.

“However, framing rewards as a loss—a technique from behavioral economics—led to a meaningful difference in behavior,” Mitesh Patel, an assistant professor of medicine and health care management and director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit, added in a press release.

The study enrolled 105 patients and those in the intervention group were given personalized goals along with $14 at the beginning of each week for 16 weeks and $2 was retracted for each day a goal was not met.

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