Walk Your Way to Savings: How Taking Steps Can Slim Your Waistline and Your Insurance Bill!

Imagine this: The more you exercise, the less you pay for your health insurance. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what a group of obese people in Michigan discovered when they enrolled in Blue Cross. As part of this incentivized program, participants were required to take at least 5,000 steps per day or face a 20% increase in their insurance costs. Although there were some mixed feelings about the program, an astonishing 97% of people complied, with many saving around $2,000 a year as a result.

It’s no secret that obesity is an ever-growing problem, both in the United States and worldwide. With more and more people experiencing the ongoing effects of sedentary lifestyles, it’s becoming increasingly urgent to find ways that encourage physical activity.

The Power of Financial Incentives

Although some might consider such measures as attaching financial strings to encourage healthier behaviors – like in the case of the Blue Cross program – to be controversial or even forcing people to be responsible for their own health, programs like this have shown tremendous promise for motivating individuals to become more physically active.

In fact, according to Caroline R. Richardson, the researcher involved in the Blue Cross *study, “there are ethical debates around the idea of forcing someone to be personally responsible for health care costs related to not exercising, but we expect to see more of these approaches to financially motivate healthier behaviors.”

The Benefits of Walking

The simple act of walking has numerous health benefits that can have a significant and positive impact on individuals struggling with obesity or those who simply want to get into better shape. Walking not only helps to build strength and endurance but is also known to improve mental health.

In fact, walking has been proven to:

  1. Improve cardiovascular health: Research has shown that walking lowers the risk of heart-related conditions, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends walking for at least 30 minutes a day, at least 5 times per week for optimal benefits.

  2. Aid in weight loss: Walking is an excellent way to burn calories, which in turn can aid in weight loss. Combined with a healthy diet, walking can play an essential role in any weight management plan.

  3. Boost mood and reduce stress: Walking releases endorphins, which are natural hormones that help you feel happier and more relaxed. One study from the Journal of Physical Therapy Science demonstrated that 30 minutes of brisk walking made participants feel more content, relaxed, and positive.

  4. Improve balance and coordination: Walking strengthens the muscles and joints, leading to better balance and reduced risk of injury. For older adults, regular walking can also help prevent falls.

  5. Promote better sleep: Exercise, like walking, has been associated with better sleep patterns. A study from the National Sleep Foundation found that people who exercise regularly have better sleep quality and are more alert during the day.

Embracing Incentivized Health Initiatives

So, with a plethora of benefits like these, it’s no wonder that incentivized health initiatives aimed at encouraging people to become more active are becoming more popular. And while the ethical implications of these programs are still being debated, their effectiveness in promoting healthier lifestyles cannot be denied.

Ultimately, these programs present a win-win situation for both the insurer and the individual: The insurance company saves on healthcare costs as a direct result of healthier customers, while the individual gets to enjoy the many benefits that come with staying active (aside from cost savings, of course).

As we continue to face the very real consequences of a society with increasing obesity rates, looking towards innovative solutions like these could be the key to motivating individuals to embrace a healthier way of living. Another example worth mentioning is the “UnitedHealthcare Motion”program that focuses on giving employees up to $1,460 a year in HSA credits by meeting three daily health goals while wearing a fitness tracker.

The potential of incentivized health initiatives to create positive change is significant. What remains to be seen is how these programs will evolve in the coming years and if they will become a standard part of health insurance plans. But one thing is clear, the combination of financial rewards and promoting healthy behaviors may be the golden ticket needed to nudge people into making choices that benefit their overall health and wellness.