Utilizing Behavioral Economics to Understand Adherence to Physical Activity Guidelines Among a Low-Income Urban Community

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Behavioral economics studies have found that individuals with more patient time preferences (ie, greater willingness to forgo current costs for future benefits) are more likely to save money. Although research has observed significant relationships between time preferences and health-promoting behaviors, scant evidence exists with physical activity as an outcome.


We examined the association between monetary saving behaviors and physical activity among adults of low-income who reside in an urban community. Specifically, we assessed the relationship between saving behaviors (checking/saving account, monthly savings, and planning family finances), and future orientation to physical activity as a dichotomous (meeting guidelines) and continuous (total and domain specific) endpoint.


In multivariable regression, being future-oriented and having a checking/saving account were related to a 1.3 and 2.1 times higher (respectively) likelihood of meeting physical activity guidelines (P < .05). When examining physical activity continuously, all measures were significantly related to leisure-time activity (P < .05).


Our study findings establish a relationship between future time preferences and increased levels of physical activity among low-income adults. Future research should prospectively explore the efficacy of various schemes that help individuals overcome impatient time preferences to determine a causal relationship.

Shuval (Kerem.Shuval@cancer.org) and Nguyen are with the Intramural Research Dept, Economics & Health Policy Research Program, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, GA. Si and Leonard are with the Dept of Economics, University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX.