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Vitality wellness program with Apple Watch incentive boosted activity levels, study says

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Participants in a Vitality Group wellness program from insurance company Discovery that allowed people to pay off the cost of their Apple Watch wearable led to 34 percent sustained increases in activity levels, according to a three-year study from RAND Europe.

The study, which represents the single largest investigation of tech-driven behavior change in exercise, examined the behavior of more than 400,000 people across the United Kingdom, South Africa and the U.S.

It found that participants in Vitality Active Rewards with Apple Watch, a program that incentivises physical activity to defray or negate monthly costs for an Apple Watch, added nearly five extra days of activity a month. The company estimates that translates to two additional years of life through health benefits including improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and cardiorespiratory fitness

While “at-risk” participants were less likely to pick up the benefit, those who did showed greater improvements in activity than in other groups.

The Apple Watch program from Vitality contrasts from its standard Vitality Active Rewards program, which simply offers prizes for individuals reaching different activity levels. RAND researchers said the “loss-framed incentive” of the Apple Watch program were linked to different level of physical activity thresholds.

“This landmark study contributes to a deeper understanding of how people can be incentivized to live fitter and healthier lives,” Discovery CEO and Vitality Founder Adrian Gore said in a statement. “The significance for individuals, the insurance industry and wider society is profound.”

The RAND study helps support the idea of device pay-off programs as a wellness incentive. The strategy has been pursued by an increasing amount of payer organizations including recently UnitedHealthcare, which launched its Motion program that allows members to “walk off” the price of their device if they meet certain fitness goals.

The study results are part of a larger initiative from Vitality and other insurance industry partners including AIA, John Hancock and Ping An to pledge to making 100 million people 20 percent more active by 2025.

“Our innovative use of Apple Watch opens the way to a proper understanding of how people can be incentivized to live fitter and healthier lives – and how we are leading the way in transforming how people are insured,” Gore said.

“That’s why we have committed to helping even more people become active and are encouraged by the support of the World Health Organization as this aligns with their Global Action Plan on Physical Activity. We believe the impact will be substantial and far-reaching.”

Picture: Apple

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