Getting paid to start living a healthy lifestyle may just be what employees need to get started on exchanging their unhealthy habits for healthy ones a new study has found.

Almost 12,000 IBM employees were offered $150 each to participate in a 12-week program where they were given a list of health-promoting activities to choose from that included among other things, adding more vegetables to the family diet, increasing physical activity and reducing time in front of the computer and the TV.

The program was successfully completed by 50% of the participants. The results were reported online ahead of the publication of the October issue of Pediatrics.

"I think this program was likely successful because once these activities were pointed out to the employees, they probably felt like it was a no-brainer. They could make their families healthier and receive the incentive," study senior author Dee Edington, director of the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center in Ann Arbor said.

"Employers spend a lot of time thinking about how to get their employees healthy, and while the employee is an important factor, what about the family? When you have a sick child, you also have a sick employee. So, if you're going to have a healthy culture, you need to think about having healthy families as well," he added.

Families that set five or fewer action goals reported greater success with the program than did families who chose more.

The biggest changes were found to have occurred among the female employees and parents of younger children, which according to the researchers reflects the greater responsibilities that women often have in child-rearing and health-related decision-making and the greater control that parents can exercise over younger children compared with adolescents.