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Incentives and rewards: what do adult populations truly want? Insights from the physical activity loyalty (PAL) scheme


Trials depend on good recruitment and retention, but efforts to improve these have had varying success. This may be due to inadequate understanding of what participants would value in return for taking part. An opportunity arose in one trial to investigate the incentives that might help recruit and retain participants to another.


To determine what adults value as an incentive for involvement in a trial.


In the PAL Scheme, employees used a ‘loyalty card’ to monitor their physical activity over 12 weeks. The incentive group (n=199) collected points and received rewards for physical activity (1 minute = 1 point, max: 30 pts/day). A comparator group (n=207) self-monitored their physical activity only. Points could be redeemed as retail vouchers. 17 different incentives were available, from 75 pts (£2.50, a sandwich) to 1800 pts (£60, 1 month gym membership).


148 of the 199 intervention participants used their card at least once, earning a mean of 374 pts. 121 earned sufficient to collect a reward and 76 redeemed points for vouchers but only 48 exchanged the vouchers for rewards. The most popular reward was not that of highest monetary value: two cinema tickets (300 pts, £10).


The value that participants place on a reward might be more important than its monetary value. Some might appreciate receiving the voucher, without spending it. In choosing incentives to boost trial participation, it may help to allow people to choose from a variety of rewards, rather than reimbursing in money.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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McAneney, H., Hunter, R., Kee, F. et al. Incentives and rewards: what do adult populations truly want? Insights from the physical activity loyalty (PAL) scheme. Trials 16 (Suppl 2), P108 (2015).

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