OVERLAND PARK, KS -- A growing number of health club owners are using an online financial incentive program for weight loss to bring in new members.

Developed in late 2008, the program, HealthyWage, promotes the betterment of personal health and wellness through weekly weigh-ins at a local doctor’s office or participating fitness clubs. Primarily targeting people who are obese or have had difficulties losing weight in the past, the program incorporates personal, guided goal-setting and options for users to develop and monitor their own personal health and wellness records online. It also allows participants to set up reminders, daily tasks and tips.

Anyone can sign up for the program, but only two programs within HealthyWage offer a cash incentive. However, both have eligibility requirements. To enter the BMI Challenge and qualify for cash rewards, participants must start with a BMI greater than 30 and end a year later with a BMI below 25. For the Matchup Challenge, teams of five work together to get fit while competing to lose the greatest percentage of weight from May 15 to Aug. 15.

Modeled after NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” participants in the BMI Challenge sign up with a group of friends or family members who want to lose weight. They can compete individually or create weight-loss teams, set rules for the contest and follow through with weekly weigh-ins. If they lose enough weight, winners can receive up to $1,000. The Matchup Challenge is similar, but participants must work in a group, the weight-loss time frame is shorter and the reward is $10,000.

More than 2,000 clubs around the country are signed on as locations for the required weekly weigh-ins. The club owner or a trainer records the participant's weight on a special weigh-in form and reports the information to HealthyWage.

“It’s a wonderful way to get the obese into the club, to get them comfortable in the club, to support them on their journey,” says David Roddenberry, co-founder of HealthyWage, the for-profit group whose mission is to use incentives to motivate Americans to get healthy. “A lot of clubs would benefit from partnering with organizations that have the obese consumer and want to support the obese consumer.”

Some clubs offer additional weight-loss incentives to provide participants with a positive experience in the facility. Lady of America, Fort Lauderdale, FL, gives nonmember participants a free pass for one week as a way to let participants explore the club. A Curves franchise in Manorville, NY, offers participants weight-loss incentives such as T-shirts, mirrors, pocket calendars and folding brushes.

“The best thing about it is that it’s at no cost,” says Toni Negas, director of marketing at Lady of America. “It offers club visibility and free marketing for small business owners, which is great for us.”

Lady of America started the HealthyWage promotion on May 1. Negas has high hopes for transitioning participants into members.

Susan Cerasoli, owner of the Manorville Curves, which started participating with HealthyWage in May, says she has already seen a handful of participants become club members.

“People get excited,” she says. “It’s a chance for them to lose weight and earn money doing it.”