The knock-on effects of achieving healthy goals


If you're ready to make changes to your life this World Health Day, setting and sticking to a healthy goal will be your key to success. Here's how.

The key to making any life change, no matter how big or how small," says clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde, "Is to regard it as a long-term investment. Good investors are the ones who don't let the daily ebb and flow of the stock market send them into a panic. Rather, they have a goal and a plan, and keep working at these on a daily basis."

But for many, coming up with a plan isn't the tough part: sticking to it is. Dan Ariely - Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight - has some advice.

To sustain motivation, reward good behaviours - not just outcomes

Having spent many years studying the reasons behind the choices people make, Ariely concludes that when you're trying to develop healthy habits, one of the best ways to motivate yourself - and sustain that motivation - is to reward yourself along the way for practising good behaviours, not just for achieving final outcomes.

Dr Deepak Patel, Principal Clinical Specialist at Vitality, agrees, acknowledging that this insight was fundamental to the design of the Vitality Active Rewards and Discovery Insure apps - which offer weekly rewards for getting more active and driving better.

"People are more able to keep up healthy habits if they're regularly rewarded in tangible ways for smaller, short-term goals, rather than promised a bigger but less tangible reward for a long-term goal," he says. "By acknowledging the efforts people put in to make healthier choices every day instead of only rewarding them for achieving their ultimate goal, they're much more likely to succeed."

Achieving goals in one domain can trigger other positive habits

According to Head of Vitality Wellness Dr Craig Nossel, achieving goals in any aspect of your life can trigger other positive lifestyle behaviours.

"We see evidence of this knock-on effect in our studies, he says. "The data demonstrates that engaging in regular physical activity (through the Vitality Active Rewards programme) is directly linked to a higher prevalence of health screenings and other Vitality benefit activations."

Overall, participants experienced the following lifestyle changes after engaging in the programme:

  • A 28% decrease in the number of members who are smokers.
  • A 12% increase in the number of members engaging in the HealthyFood benefit (which offers discounts on the purchase of healthy grocery items).
  • A 24% increase in the number of members going for a Vitality Health Check (a general health screening test).

The implications of this finding are significant, because the behavioural improvements of these members translated directly into lower relative health risks and improved health outcomes:

  • Overweight and obese members experienced a 1.5% and 5.4% reduction in their Body Mass Indexes, respectively.
  • Members had a lower relative mortality risk, as reflected by their Vitality Age differential, which decreased from 3.0 years older than members' actual age to 1.7 years older than their actual age.
  • Hospital admission rates among these members decreased from 22% to 19% in the 12 months after activating Vitality Active Rewards.

Getting people to make smarter decisions

"Unless you understand the science of health promotion," says Nossel, "you won't see the ineffectiveness of putting a warning on a cigarette box and thinking it will stop people smoking. It's not going to happen. The reality is that we need to get much smarter and understand that all of us make irrational decisions - ones we need to actively counter when they hinder our future good health."

Referring to the Vitality Active Rewards benefit, which treats members with weekly rewards for getting active and driving better, he says, "Our job is to develop an architecture within our environment to get people to make smarter decisions - or at least to get them to think about their decisions. This is what Vitality is all about - incentivising people to make better choices."

Balls and bats, bands and mats - get brand new sports gear for less!

Whatever equipment you need to jazz up your training routine, spend less on it with Vitality HealthyGear. This benefit offers up to 25% cash back on a wide range of sportswear and equipment at Totalsports or Sportsman's Warehouse. Activate your HealthyGear benefit, or increase your cash back by doing a Vitality Fitness Assessment.

Plus, you can earn up to 100% cash back on a pair of running shoes with Vitality Active Rewards Shoe Booster. Find out how Vitality Active Rewards Shoe Booster works here and learn more about other exciting new booster benefits here.

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