A plan to offer financial rewards for exercising is being considered - how would it work?

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 11:26 am
Updated Thursday, 4th March 2021, 11:26 am
A scheme in Singapore rewarding people for exercise proved successful (Photo: Shutterstock)
A scheme in Singapore rewarding people for exercise proved successful (Photo: Shutterstock)

As part of a planned extension to weight loss services, the Government is considering cash rewards for people who adopt healthy habits.

In an effort to drive down obesity levels, NHS services and local councils in England are to be awarded £70 million in total to cover the costs of weight management courses for up to 700,000 overweight or obese people.

These courses will involve something similar to those offered by Weight Watchers or Slimming World, or, alternatively, will provide a personal coach to help people shed weight.

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In addition to this, the Government has reportedly asked the creator of Nectar and air miles reward schemes, Sir Keith Mills, to explore financial incentives for helping people to lose weight and eat better.

How would a health incentive scheme work?

Such schemes have been tried in other places around the world, with Singapore's 'national step challenge' being taken up by 26 per cent of the population.

The scheme saw citizens offered rewards for doing certain amounts of exercise, such as running or walking, with progress tracked on a wearable device.

Participants stacked up 'health points' which could then be exchanged for rewards worth up to $10 (USD).

Influx of cheap junk food could cause issue

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to take action on the UK's obesity crisis last year after his stint in hospital with coronavirus. Currently, around two thirds of adults in the country are overweight or obese.

“Losing weight is hard, but making small changes can make a big difference. Being overweight increases the risk of becoming ill with Covid. If we all do our bit we can reduce our own health risks but also take pressure off the NHS,” he said at the time.

Some experts fear that the Government's plans to tackle obesity may be undermined, however, by an influx of cheap junk food as part of post-Brexit trade deals.

Research undertaken on behalf of food charity, Sustain, by the London School of Economics warned that future trade partners may ask that firms making unhealthy products in their countries must be allowed to export them into the UK.

Orla Delargy, Sustain’s head of public affairs, said that some of the nations the UK is negotiating with, such as the US and Canada, are "home to multinational food corporations and so have a strategic interest in increasing their junk food sales."

“The government has already removed tariffs entirely on cane sugar and has made it easier and cheaper to import junk food like biscuits, pizza, waffles and confectionery," she added.

“If the UK’s trade policy allows our markets to be swamped with cheap, un-nutritious food it could nudge low-income families towards unhealthy choices.”