Baby Steps, Big Benefits – How Walking Can Curb Medical Renewal Rates
Many employers believe employees will accomplish more work if they spend more time at their desks, but we may be losing money in this situation.
Our medical insurance renewal rates tell us about the health of our employees – this isn’t new news. In fact, we have known this for years. Coping with (and paying) double-digit renewal rates from our group medical carrier is exhausting. So, what can we do about it?
We should all get up and walk away.
An American Cancer Society study found that sitting for more than six hours a day possibly shortens our lifespan1. Our sedentary lifestyle creates a greater risk of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. According to a Health Value Study, health care costs for people with chronic conditions make up the majority of U.S. expenditures on health care2. A deskbound lifestyle triggers higher utilization and claims, which in turn increases the rate at which our medical premiums rise.
One of the best ways to help curb our medical renewal rates is to encourage employees to stop working and get on their feet. A daily routine of regular, brisk walking can considerably improve one’s health. The benefits of this simple and easy routine are extensive:
• Improves circulation
• Improves heart health
• Bolsters the immune system
• Helps prevent osteoporosis
• Helps prevent/control Type 2 diabetes
• Helps control weight
• Lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
• Raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol
• Lowers blood pressure
• Improves mood
• Reduces risk of stroke
• Improves cognitive function3, 4
Walking is the ideal gateway to making sustainable changes for long-term health.
Inspiring our employees to step it up creates a healthier, happier work environment. It is proven that wellness programs are a very cost effective solution toward preventing and managing chronic disease5. In return, we will see a reduction in the rate at which our medical premiums rise. Partner with your insurance broker and medical carrier to sponsor employee awareness and healthy interoffice competitions.
THE STARTING LINE – Relay these 6 tips to your employees to help get them on their feet:
1) Be prepared. Always have a comfortable pair of walking shoes in your car or at your desk. It will be easier to squeeze in power walks throughout the day.
2) Pencil it in. Set yourself a reminder on your computer or cell phone that prompts you to get up at least every hour to take a walk around the office.
3) Skip the Java. When you are feeling sluggish, take a walk! Increasing your heart rate boosts concentration and energy levels.
4) “There is an app for that.” Download an application for your smartphone (such as Walkmeter or MapMyWalk) to record routes, distance and speed. Show off by uploading your results straight to your favorite social media sites.
5) Start small. Begin with a goal of walking 10 minutes each day. Once comfortable, increase your goal – even if it is by 1 minute. You will quickly be on your way to the recommended 2½ hours of moderate physical activity per week.
6) Social Studies – the more, the merrier:
– It’s all in the family. Make it a nightly routine to take a walk around the neighborhood. It is a great way to squeeze in extra steps while building healthy habits. If you have kids, have them add walking to a responsibility chart. Use stickers as points toward a special prize. They will be the ones reminding you to walk.
– “Let’s meet for…a walk?” Yes! Instead of catching up over lunch or a cup of coffee, meet a friend for a walk. Having a stimulating conversation will help keep your mind off of your steps. An added bonus: you will strengthen your respiratory system by walking and talking simultaneously.
– Bring it on! Organize an interoffice competition to see who can take more steps during each month. Use pedometers or body monitoring devices (such as Basis Band or BodyMedia) to keep track of steps. A healthy sense of competition creates healthy lifestyle habits. Just like kids, adults are motivated by rewards. Use a point system and award prizes – such as smoothie bar gift cards or an iPod shuffle – to the winner(s).
2) http://www.healthvaluestudy.com/assets/files/papers/Paper–Chronic_Sufferers.pdf (page 9)
5) http://www.healthystates.csg.org/NR/rdonlyres/E42141D1-4D47-4119-BFF4-A2E7FE81C698/0/Trends_Alert.pdf (page 18)