Get Paid to Play

By Joanne Blackerby, A.C.E.-P.T., A.C.E. A.H.F.S. – July 1, 2015

If the staggering, long term effects of obesity and the metabolic conditions associated with excessive weight gain have not persuaded us to eat healthier, we still face another health threat: sitting. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and could lead to premature death. Studies show that physical inactivity is responsible for almost 200,000 (or 1 in 10) deaths each year. 
When unhealthy eating and sitting for extended periods combine, they result in metabolic syndrome. It’s a syndrome associate with a cluster of conditions, including the following: 

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis

Medical treatment protocols for metabolic syndrome drain our economic resources and drive health care costs higher and higher each year. Diabetes and heart disease are among the biggest drivers of U.S. health care costs. 

The World Health Federation reports that a patient who makes a $1 investment in physical activity equates to a medical savings cost of $3.20. 

The Facts

  • According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, full-time workers in the U.S. who are overweight or obese (resulting in chronic health conditions) miss an estimated 450 million additional days of work each year compared with their healthy co-worker counterparts. These missed days of work come with a cost to U.S. companies: More than $153 billion is lost in annual productivity. 
  • Medical expenses for obese employees cost 42 percent more than expenses for people maintaining a healthy weight. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and accounts for $245 billion in total U.S. health care costs annually. More than 1 in 5 U.S. health care dollars are spent annually on diabetes, and health care costs for individuals with diagnosed diabetes are approximately 2.3 times higher than costs for those without diabetes.
  • More than 80 percent of people with diabetes are overweight. 
  • Obesity is preventable

Still not convinced? Still sitting on the fence about whether to take active responsibility for your health? Maybe this news will change your mind: Health insurance companies are starting to sweeten the deal with incentives for those who adopt healthy, active lifestyle changes. In some cases, you can actually get paid for working out. 
In the medical realm, getting people moving and eating well is notably less expensive than treating them for chronic disease. 
If your insurance provider didn’t make the list, you can still take responsibility for your health.

  • Ask your doctor or primary care physician to write you an exercise prescription. 
  • Get an FSA, or flexible spending account. An FSA allows you to divert up to $2,500 per year of pre-tax income to pay for a wide variety of health-related services that may not be covered under your health insurance plan. Services include chiropractic, vision, and prescription medications.
  • Check out non-profit fitness programs. Fitness centers and gyms are typically for-profit companies, but some gyms and community-based fitness centers offer sliding scale fees for those in need. It never hurts to ask. 

The bottom line. 

As the number of health-related incentive programs increase, so do the opportunities for us—as individuals and as a country—to adopt healthy lifestyle changes. We're running out of excuses for bad eating and sitting habits. The health crisis in America is at epidemic proportions, and it’s costing current and future generations. Today, you can find ways to earn back a dollar or two just by moving. How much is your life worth? 

Blue Cross Blue Shield Take the 2015 Blue Health Assessment (BHA) to address health risks before they become issues and earn $50 on your MyBlue® Wellness Card. You can take the BHA multiple times a year. Earn $35 on your card for completing up to three Online Health Coach goals related to a healthy lifestyle in the areas of exercise, nutrition, stress, weight management, and emotional health.
United Health Care Choose a participating fitness center from UHC's national network and get reimbursed $20 per month (to an annual maximum of $240) for every month you visit the fitness center or YMCA at least 12 times.
Aetna Aetna offers gym membership discounts with most of its plans. They also have a fitness reimbursement program. Plan members can receive reimbursement for gym memberships, purchasing at-home exercise equipment, group classes, and for receiving wellness counseling.
Humana Humana's Vitality Program allows members to earn rewards for investing in their health. Members earn Vitality Bucks for exercising, wearing fitness devices, or even getting a flu shot.  Vitality Bucks are redeemable at the HumanVitality Mall for everything from movie tickets and hotel stays to digital cameras.


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