A large health insurance company has announced that it will pay its employees for getting more exercise. Depending upon how many steps are recorded while walking or running, a worker could receive as much as $240 in Amazon.com gift cards, Reuters reported.
Multiple studies have shown that people who regularly engage in strenuous physical activity are less likely to suffer pain in their knees or hips. Exercising keeps joints fit and strong, making them less vulnerable to injury and degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis.
The company, Oscar Health Insurance, apparently understands the value of keeping its employees healthy. People who run, jog or walk are at much lower risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure. They also have fewer cases of breast, lung, colon and endometrial cancer. Running and brisk walking are forms of aerobic, as well as cardio, exercise. Such workouts boost the immune system, making the body more resilient to ailments.
Paying workers to exercise may a relatively new idea, but employer-sponsored health plans have long offered incentives like lower premiums for participating in “workplace wellness” programs, Reuters noted.
The news agency reported that Oscar, which operates health-insurance exchanges in New York and New Jersey under the Affordable Care Act, has enrolled 17,000 members. The New York-based company plans to expand to California in 2016.
Oscar recently started paying its employees to stay healthy by giving them $20 gift cards for getting flu shots. That worked so well that company executives decided to establish the walking-exercise program.
Workers are given Misfit fitness tracking devices, worn on the wrist, to measure the number of steps they take while walking or running. Other data, like the number of calories people burn and the amount of sleep they get, also can be recorded. The devices send the information to company computers with software that tracks individuals’ progress and sets their daily goals.
The goals are determined according to each employee’s ability and exercise level. Most people start with about 2,000 steps, while some take as many as 10,000, Oscar co-CEO Mario Schlosser told Reuters. He said researchers have detected measurable improvement in the health of study participants who walked about 6,000 steps per day.
At Oscar, some employees began experiencing benefits soon after starting the program. Others did not report positive changes, like weight loss, until later.
The program “is a big carrot hanging in front of you,” Schlosser told CNBC.com. “The original motivation was certainly that we want to give people a nudge to stay healthy.”
The company also plans to offer as many as 20,000 of its customers a Misfit app they can download onto smartphones. Wristband fitness trackers will be shipped to the customers, who can activate the devices to automatically sync to the app and individuals’ insurance plan accounts, CNBC explained. Customers earn daily gift-card rewards of $1, up to $20 per month, if they exceed their exercise goals.
“We think it can be a very powerful tool to getting people out on the street and being more active,” Schlosser said. He pointed out that giving away the devices, which retail for about $60 each, is worth the cost because healthy customers cost Oscar less money. Walkers and runners are less likely to need the doctors, hospitals and medications that their insurance plans cover.
“It will pay off, at best, in the medium term, if not the short term,” Schlosser told CNBC. “It’s potentially revolutionary, potentially incredibly impactful. If we were able to get everybody to do that, that would be a fantastic, fantastic outcome.”
Studies have proven that people who use fitness tracking devices and set goals get more exercise than others. Getting started on a walking or running regimen as early in life as possible can help prevent knee and hip pain, as well as osteoarthritis and other such conditions.
If you are experiencing joint pain, or suspect that you might be developing a degenerative condition, you need to know what is wrong and how you can address the problem. Schedule an appointment for an evaluation by the nationally renowned sports medicine surgeons at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego to learn about your options.