Schools Can Improve Child Exercise Habits for Pennies

With child obesity an ever-expanding problem and fewer children being active daily, policy makers are desperately searching for solutions that will get kids to exercise. It turns out there’s a really easy way: bribe them. Students whose schools offered cash prizes to people who walked or biked to school were much more likely to take advantage of those outdoor options.

The study took place in Boulder, CO, where students who walked or biked to school were entered into a lottery to win a $10 prize. According to the study’s abstract†currently being offered by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the researchers “find that being in a prize period increases riding behavior by sixteen percent, a large impact given that the prize value is just six cents per participating student.” That’s right, for six cents per student, schools can increase students’ activity drastically.

One of the coolest parts of the study, though, is that after the prizes were awarded, students kept on biking. Once they were given a small incentive to get more active they — not surprisingly — actually liked it. So much so that they didn’t even need a monetary boost to keep going.

This study is great news for child health advocates everywhere. It shows how cheap it is to alter the exercise habits of children in really positive ways. Given that 12.5 million children and adolescents in the US are already clinically obese, any breakthroughs in getting children to be more active is crucial. Hopefully other school systems will follow Boulder’s lead and implement similar policies to get kids out, about and active.

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Photo credit: hoyasmeg's Flickr stream.


Shaheen N.
Shaheen N.4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Shaheen N.
Shaheen N.4 years ago


myra d.
myra d.4 years ago

I don't get it?? A ball, a jump rope, tag, hop scotch.....what's the problem?

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Laura Strobel
Past Member 4 years ago

In a way it's sad because when we were kids, there weren't any video games or computers, we naturally go out and play. Now we have to "bribe" them to earn money to play? If that's what we have to do, I hope they don't become greedy when they get older thinking $ is only way to get what they want.

Judith Emerson
Judith Emerson4 years ago

Play is a learning experience!

june t.
june t.4 years ago

We didn't need incentives, we wanted to go outside to play, but then we used to have lots of space, trees to build forts in, all kinds of things. Today, it seems kids can't really play the way we used to, because someone might get hurt or something. A lot of people seem afraid to let their kids play, so many parents schedule all their kid's time.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton4 years ago

Seems to me that child obesity started to rise when kids stopped walking to school.

Vivek Bhanu
Vivek Bhanu4 years ago

i love this competition , as my friend said this should be done for adults , so we can save resources and decrease pollution ,

Glen P.
Glen P.4 years ago

They should do this for adults too!