Workplace wellness programs could improve if more personalized

In a program that used three different types of behavioral nudges, a Penn Medicine study showed significantly different results for people with different personal and psychological characteristics.

A new study found that personal and psychological characteristics are strongly tied to people’s progress—or lack thereof—when they participate in programs designed to nudge them toward increased physical activity. The analysis, by researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine and Deloitte was published in PLOS One.

Person wearing a face mask leaning against wall and checking their fitness tracker on their wrist.

This research was an expansion of a similar study published in 2019, which analyzed a physical activity program called STEP UP. The program aimed to increase the step counts of roughly 600 Deloitte professionals classified as being either obese or overweight over a period of six months.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to nudging new behaviors within wellness programs can have limited success,” says senior author Mitesh Patel, director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit. “We’ve shown that different forms of nudging can be effective, and in this latest study on this program, we’ve now demonstrated that matching nudges to the right behavior profiles can unlock their full potential.”

In the STEP UP program, personalized daily step counts were established for each participant, but they were then randomly funneled into four different groups: one that just gave the participants their goals and a step tracker, and three others that mixed in different forms of nudges that were “gamified” using a point system. The gamified portions of this trial proved to be effective.

This story is by Frank Otto. Read more at Penn Medicine News.