Financial Incentives for a Healthier Lifestyle

blog visual final pictureby Valerie Targy

        There are few things that Americans do better and more often than work. As Americans strive to climb the corporate ladder, we tend to neglect caring for the very thing that helps us accomplish such great achievements; our bodies. I for one strive every day to stay healthy and in shape, but being a full time student and working part time has made finding the time to work out very hard. Some days I’m so exhausted that the only physical activity I get is crawling into bed! I’m still young and haven’t even figured out what I want to do with my future yet, but I know one thing’s certain; life is only going to get harder and more exhausting as years go on. The amount of endless hours and exhausting efforts put forth in not only jobs, but other activities can make finding the time to take care of our bodies difficult. Working a standard 8am-5pm job five days a week leaves very little time for physical activity and exercise. Taking care of family, going to school, sleeping, and whatever else Americans do on a daily basis can make finding the time to exercise almost impossible. As a full time college student and part time employee, having the time and energy to get my daily dose of exercise seems like a pretty far stretch some days. Taking care of my body and making sure that I am healthy is very important to me which is why I make sure that I can fit in some sort of exercise; even if it’s just 30 minutes of power walking around my neighborhood or turbo kicking for an hour to Billy Blank’s Tae Bo DVD. There are times where I hit the snooze button on my iPhone so many times for my 7:15 am alarm clock that I end up being late for work or school because I was too lazy to get up and exercise. When comparing days that I wake up for my early morning workout to days when I hit the snooze button thinking I’m doing myself a favor by sleeping in, there is such a huge difference on my attitude and behavior throughout the day.

Growing up in a healthy, active family really had an impact on me as a child and continues to impact me as an adult. There was only about a 4 year period when I was a child where I was considered to be overweight by my doctor at my yearly physical, but the rest of the time I’ve struggled with what I thought to be a healthy weight. My parents have always pushed for my siblings and me to be involved in athletics and extracurricular activities when we were young. My sisters could honestly be in fitness competitions if they wanted too; they don’t have one ounce of fat on their bodies and are great at almost every sport there is. And then there’s me; I have to bust my butt at the gym every single day and maintain a very strict diet to even come close to having the bodies that my sisters do. What I have come to realize in the past few months is that I do not want to look like a body builder; I just want to be healthy and feel good about the way that I look. That’s what we all want right? It just seems like such an unreasonable request with the amount of hours us Americans spend working and doing whatever else on a daily basis. So what if there were an easier way to release those feel-good endorphins every day from exercising and get on track to being healthy? What if you could even be making money while you are bettering yourself by exercising? What if you do not even have to leave the office to get your workout in? There is a pretty reasonable and simple solution; Businesses should offer financial incentives for employees who participate in wellness programs because incentives may help to increase the amount of participation; therefore, decreasing the obesity rates and the risk for associated chronic diseases. Giving employees the resources needed to lower these risks is something that all employers should be striving for.

Well, more and more businesses these days are taking steps to incorporate some sort of wellness program for employees to participate in, some even offering financial incentives to do so. More businesses are offering financial incentives that could include cash, discounted gym memberships, and lower deductibles because of the small number of participants; with most participants being those who are already physically active and who live a healthy lifestyle. According to LuAnn Heinen, vice president of the National Business Group on Health, employers have turned to incentives because “engagement is problematic. It’s not just, ‘If you build it, they will come’” (qtd. in Ladika par. 7). Okay, okay, so businesses are offering financial incentives to increase participation, but what is the purpose of these wellness programs? Well, the high obesity rates are a big concern in America and according to USA Today, “about 79% of adults do not meet the physical activity guidelines that advise getting two and a half hours of exercise per week”, therefore contributing to the high obesity rate in America (Hellmich par. 2).

From providing employees with an onsite gym, to offering healthier choices in the cafeteria, employers are taking steps to make it easy and accessible for employees to participate. Offering discounted memberships at nearby gyms, fitness and nutrition counseling, and fitness testing are also common aspects of wellness programs. Because most of the adult population in America is employed, it is important that employees are able to have access to these programs in their workplace. Obesity is not the only factor that has employers pushing for successful wellness programs, but diseases associated with obesity are also a concern. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are common risk factors of being obese. The chronic diseases that have been associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are; coronary heart disease, heart failure, strokes, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer; just to name a few (Neville, Merrill, and Kumpfer par.3).

By having wellness programs available in the workplace and by offering financial incentives for participation, employers can help to reduce the obesity rate while lowering the risk for associated chronic diseases. Whether employers will offer financial incentives for participating in wellness programs depends on the business; however, all employers should have a wellness program available for employees to participate in. The amount of time and energy spent at jobs will always be a factor in most American’s everyday lives. I for one would be ecstatic to be able to work out on my lunch break and not even have to leave the office. And what I would be even more ecstatic about is being paid to do so. Considering the need to live a healthy lifestyle, having an onsite wellness programs and offering financial incentives for participation would be extremely beneficial for employees.

Works Cited

Hellmich, Nanci. “Most People Aren’t Meeting Exercise Guidelines.” USA Today. Gannett, Inc, 02 May 2013. Web. 28 Oct 2013.

Ladika, Susan. “Well, Well, Well: Employers Tie Health Care Financial Incentives to Specific             Outcomes.”Workforce. MediaTec Publishing Inc. , 29 Sep 2012. Web. 23 Sep 2013.

Neville, Beverly Hyatt, Ray Merrill, and Karol Kumpfer. “Longitudinal Outcomes of a Comprehensive, Incentivized Worksite Wellness Program.” Evaluation & the Health Professions. 34.1 (2011): 103-123. Print

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5 thoughts on “Financial Incentives for a Healthier Lifestyle

  1. Very nice article. I definitely agree that it would be nice if businesses offered financial incentives to people who participate in wellness programs, though your assumption that the implication of this policy would cut down on obesity rates and chronic diseases is a bit abrupt. Although this policy may prevent a small percentage of people form becoming obese, I am hesitant to believe that this policy would have a very large affect on obesity rates. I think that it is the mind set of people who are obese, and are at risk of becoming obese that determines if they will indeed become obese, or if they will fight it; not financial incentives. Other than that, very nice article and I would also like to see this policy implemented.

  2. Not only is this a good point, but it’s a smart one. I don’t understand why businesses aren’t doing more to help not only their company, but their employes. Being very, very active in athletics in high school I still have to force myself to workout, besides walking everyday, now that I’m in college. If my job offered this kind of “push” you would see me working out everyday. I do agree with you that this policy, if people were to engage in it would make these obesity rates decrease. It seems to me like these businesses have nothing to lose, great article!

  3. I agree that businesses should offer financial incentives to employees that participate in wellness programs. The US obesity rate is high and this would be a critical way to attack it. Doing this would allow people to stay in shape as well as manage their busy everyday schedules. Overall this paper was well written and interesting.

  4. I definitely agree 100% with you post! I recently worked at Chick-fil-A and all the managers got free memberships to the local YMCA. How great is that, especially considering it is a fast food restaurant. I am one to want to be healthy rather than a body builder just like you mentioned. I personally think people who body build are looking more for that outward appearance rather than more concerned about what is going on in the inside of your body. Like you said even if you work out for just 30 min a day it is better than no time. Even 10 min of cardio or something like that is a great way to kick start your day! We all have to remember that yes exercise is great, but what we eat plays a big part as well. You don’t have to go on a diet, but eating well-balanced nutritional meals is what our bodies need! This was a great read!

  5. I agree with your post. union pacific has a similar program that offers incentives to their employees and has had a high success right. couldn’t agree with you more great article !!!

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