The world's largest, verified physical activity study on incentives and physical activity

Approximately one third of the global adult population is not meeting the minimum weekly level of physical activity recommended by the World Health Organisation. The Vitality Group commissioned an independent large-scale population study that tracked 422 643 Vitality members from 2015 to 2018 in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the
United States.

It specifically compared the activity levels of member on Active Rewards with members on Active Rewards with the Apple Watch benefit (introduced in 2016) to understand if the added benefit enhances physical activity. And importantly, it examined whether these associations persist over time.

The results were conclusive. The uptake of the loss-framed Vitality Active Rewards with Apple Watch benefit saw an average 34% increase of tracked activity days per month, leading to an additional 4.8 activity days per month. Along with the overall increase in activity levels was an increase in more intense exercise events. There was also variation across the three countries measured, with the largest percentage increase in total activity days in South Africa, at 44.2%.

In analysing sub-populations within the sample that initially tend to be more inactive, such as obese individuals, this at-risk group demonstrated an average increase in tracked activity levels in the range of 109% in South Africa, 160% in the United Kingdom and 200% in the United States.

Changes in activity levels after uptake of the Vitality Active Rewards with Apple Watch benefit

Time passage of the association between the Vitality Active Rewards with Apple Watch benefit and physical activity, South Africa

Vitality Active Rewards with Apple Watch uses short- and long-term incentives, including loss aversion and pre-commitment. Weekly rewards create a sense of immediacy, while reducing the Apple Watch repayments by meeting activity goals serves as a long-term motivator for sustained behavioural change.

The study found positive associations between the Vitality Active Rewards with Apple Watch benefit and physical activity, as well as higher levels of intensive activity, persisting over time (measured over the 24 months repayment period of the Apple Watch). This means that these members should enjoy health benefits such as greater cardiorespiratory fitness, improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduced healthcare costs.

The study’s findings directly contribute to the scientific literature in the area of behavioural science. And given its sample size across three countries, it supports a greater understanding of the use of incentives in motivating change in activity levels, an increasingly global issue.

"This landmark study contributes to a deeper understanding of how people can be incentivised to live fitter and healthier lives. The significance for individuals, the insurance industry and wider society is profound."

- Adrian Gore, Discovery Group CEO

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