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Brits bribed to exercise more with gym passes and retail discounts

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Written by: Emma Lunn
22/10/2021
A new government-backed app will encourage people to eat better and exercise more – and reward those that do with a range of financial incentives.

From January 2022, a pilot scheme will see users wear wrist-worn devices that can generate personalised health recommendations, such as increasing their step count, eating more fruit and vegetables and decreasing portion size.

Users will collect points for these healthy behaviours which will unlock rewards including gym passes, clothes or food vouchers, and discounts for shops, cinema or theme park tickets.

Private company HeadUp has been chosen to deliver the new scheme, with £3m also coming from the Department of Health and Social Care to provide incentives.

According to the government, evidence suggests that financial incentives can improve rates of physical activity and inspire healthier eating, so HeadUp will work with a range of organisations to provide rewards such as vouchers, merchandise, discounts and gift cards.

Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, said: “I want to ensure we’re doing as much as we can to tackle health disparities across the country, and this new pilot will pave the way for developing innovate ways to improve the lives of individuals, and also help to reduce strain on the NHS.

“The Office of Health Improvement and Disparities is driving forward our levelling up agenda for health and ensuring prevention is a vital part of everything we do.

“This pilot is an excellent opportunity to find how best to inspire people to make small changes to their daily lives that will have a lasting positive impact on their health.”

Obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS £6bn a year and the scale of the challenge has been highlighted by COVID-19 disproportionately affecting people who are overweight. With almost two-thirds of adults in England living with excess weight or obesity the programme will focus on incentives and rewards for healthy behaviours, including increasing physical activity and eating better to support people to live healthier lives.

The government pointed to international examples of incentives programme showing promising results, such as Singapore’s National Steps Challenge.

The pilot will launch in January 2022 and will run for six months in a defined location in England to be announced in due course.

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