In a new study, researchers found people who sign a contract committing themselves to work out are more likely to meet their weight loss goals.
The research was conducted by a team from Brunel University London.
The study asked participants of a free, council-run slimming club to sign a contract committing themselves to turn up for 11 weeks.
Results showed that those who signed the ‘commitment device’ were more likely to attend regularly and to complete the program than those who did not.
The findings can be used to tackle attitudes and behaviors that might not deliver long-term health and wellbeing.
A ‘commitment device’ is any rule or strategy we use to influence people’s future behavior, when they know that they might set out to do ‘the right thing’ but not follow through when the time comes.
The team asked 97 of 197 participants of Camden Council’s ‘Shape Up’ weight-loss program to sign a semi-formal written contract which pledged them to attend for the full 11 weeks.
The study also collected data on the participant’s age, gender, diet, previous exercise experience, and health attitudes.
The findings show that those offered the commitment contract had higher attendance and completion rates, and the contract was especially effective for those who reported more short-term health attitudes at the beginning of the study.
However, the research states there was no evidence that signing the contract directly affected weight-loss.
However, it did get participants in the Shape Up program to attend more and to complete the course, and this additional engagement is hoped to support them on their weight loss journeys.
This study highlights the contribution behavioral science research can have on approaches to health improvement.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Manu Savani, a Lecturer in Public Policy at Brunel.
The study is published in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics.
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