Source: UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Oct 1, 2010
Project End Date
Sep 30, 2014
Grant Year
Project Director
Harvey-Berino, J.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Nutritional Sciences
Non Technical Summary
Physical activity has been identified as an important behavior to help prevent the development of overweight/obesity and associated conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Regular physical activity has also been found to improve dietary intake and patterns. Therefore, interventions targeting physical activity may lead to weight change not only by increasing calories expended each day, but also by influencing the food choices people make. This study will provide new information on the efficacy of using monetary incentives to help college freshmen meet physical activity guidelines, and therefore establish an important health-promoting behavior. It has been well documented that during the transition from high school to college students gain weight, and do not establish behaviors that may help combat weight gain such as a regular physical activity routine. Aside from any benefits on weight, increasing physical activity can lead to improved mental and physical health, which may in turn positively benefit freshmen students' general quality of life. Furthermore, developing novel ways to help young adults stay healthy has far-reaching consequences on the United States' workforce, economy, and health-care industry, as one's adolescent habits and weight status have been shown to track into adulthood.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Knowledge Area
724 - Healthy Lifestyle;

Subject Of Investigation
6010 - Individuals;

Field Of Science
3070 - Psychology;
Goals / Objectives
The overall goal of this project is to increase physical activity behavior in college students as a way to prevent weigth gain upon matriculation. Specifically, the aims are as follows: 1.Increase fitness center use by college freshmen; 2.Evaluate persistence of fitness center use; 3. Evaluate change in body mass index for students enrolled in the study during both fall and spring semesters.
Project Methods
One hundred and seventeen students will be randomized to one of three groups: continued-incentives, discontinued-incentives, or control. For 12 weeks during the fall semester both the continued-incentive and discontinued-incentive groups will receive weekly incentives for using the university fitness center. At the conclusion of fall semester weekly incentive payouts will end for both incentive groups. For 12 weeks during spring semester the discontinued-incentive group will receive no incentives to use the fitness center while the continued-incentive group will receive incentives on a variable-interval schedule, averaging one incentive payment each month. During the spring semester the exact schedule for the incentives will not be known to participants in this group. Outcome measures will be collected at baseline and throughout fall and spring semesters. The primary outcome is fitness center use, which will be monitored by the electronic fitness center entrance and exit records as well as periodic accelerometer use. The predictor variable is the presence or absence of monetary incentives. Other outcomes that will be measured include weight, height, and BMI.

Progress 10/01/12 to 09/30/13

Target Audience: The goal of this project was to determine the efficacy of offering financial incentives to first year college students to encourage physical activity behavior. Students were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a control group that got no incentives, a group that got incentives for the whole year and a group that got incentives for the fall semester and then got no incentives for the spring semester. Students who got incentives were more likely to attend the fitness center and continued incentives worked better than discontinuing incentives. The results of this project have been published and presented at department seminars and national scientific conferences. In the future, questions remain about the appropriate schedule and amount of incentives that may be needed to encourage and sustain physical activity behavior. Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Nothing Reported How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? The results of the study were provided to the students who participated and have been published in academic journals. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? We are continuing to submit papers from the study for publication.

What was accomplished under these goals? We discovered that incentivizing college students to attend the fitness center was effective. Continuing to provide incentives on a variable ratio schedule was also effective for encouraging sustained behavior.


  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Published Year Published: 2013 Citation: Pope EF, Harvey-Berino J. Burn and Earn: Incentivizing Exercise During Fall Semester For College First-Year Students. Preventive Medicine. 2013 Mar;56(3-4):197-201. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.12.020. Epub 2013 Jan 4.

Progress 10/01/11 to 09/30/12

OUTPUTS: The purpose of this project was to determine if financial incentives provided to first year college students would help encourage exercise behavior. We were also interested in knowing how financial incentives for exercise could influence weight change over the first year of college. One hundred seventeen students were randomly assigned to one of three groups; control group (no incentives); continued incentives (received incentives in the fall and spring semesters) and discontinued incentives (only received incentives in the fall semester). Students were given goals for fitness center use and the goals progressively increased over the semester as did the incentives. Measurements (weight, height, exercise enjoyment and internal and external motivation) were measured at baseline, end of fall semester, beginning of spring semester and end of spring semester. PARTICIPANTS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period. TARGET AUDIENCES: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

Incentives significantly increased the number of students who met fitness center goals. When incentives were removed for the discontinued group, they stopped attending the fitness center. Attendance at the fitness center did not help to prevent weight gain seen in first year students. Incentives did help to improve attendance to the fitness center for first year students. Incentives need to be sustained in order to be effective. The results of this study can be used by insurance companies or employers who may be interested in providing financial incentives for health behavior change.


  • No publications reported this period

Progress 10/01/10 to 09/30/11

OUTPUTS: There are currently no outputs for this project; data collection is ongoing. PARTICIPANTS: Elizabeth Pope is currently working on this project as part of her doctoral degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences. TARGET AUDIENCES: The target audience is college students and the scientific community. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

There have been no outcomes or impacts yet in this project.


  • No publications reported this period