Fat and on welfare? Look out.

Londoners payment benefits may depend on their diet and gym regimen

If you really want to see benefits from working out, consider a move to the central London area of Westminster. There, overweight Londoners could see their benefit payments rise and fall depending on how often they hit the gym. Under the controversial new proposal, a family doctor could prescribe exercise to obese patients, who would then be rewarded with financial incentives if they followed the doctor’s orders—or be penalized if they didn’t. “You could use council tax benefits to incentivize people to undertake more healthy activities,” says Jonathan Carr-West, of the Local Government Information Unit, the think tank that wrote the report for Westminster city council. Obesity costs Britain about $8 billion a year, he notes. “We have to try and be innovative, and we have to try and be radical.” The idea made headlines across the country—and drew scoffs from the medical establishment. The British Medical Association’s Lawrence Buckman, a family doctor, said when he heard the idea, “I thought it was a joke.” But Carr-West isn’t bothered by criticisms. “Doctors haven’t been able to solve this problem,” he says. “We need to try something else.” The report comes ahead of a dramatic change in health administration that will see local councils take control of public health care budgets from the National Health Service in April. “It’s a preventative measure to save money,” says Carr-West. And a whole new way to monetize pounds.