By Clark Howard
SEPTEMBER 28, 2015 – Would you wear a free or subsidized fitness band from your employer, allowing them to track the number of steps you take each day in exchange for insurance discounts, gift cards or other prizes?
Kiplinger magazine reports that’s just the deal a number of employers are offering. I have a friend who works for an employer that said if he walked 1 million steps in a year, he would get a big cash reward. So he did the number of required steps and got the cash bounty!
As for me, I walk around 5 million steps a year or some 15,000 steps a day on average. Yesterday I did 18,124 steps. I know because I’m a dedicated fitness band convert!
Now Target is going to offer Fitbits to all its employees. The reason? To reduce corporate healthcare costs. Another one of Fitbit’s corporate customers lowered health care costs by 6% after the first year using the Fitbit with its employees, according to Bloomberg.
Other corporate clients also giving free bands to their employees include BP, Bank of America and Time Warner.
Check out these fitness challenge apps
In addition to the fitness bands, many companies have signed on with Healthy Wage, which designs and organizes weight loss challenges and contests in which participants can win money for losing weight.
This is a direct money maker for employers. As employees lose weight, medical costs and absenteeism go down and that boosts the company’s bottom line if they provide insurance.
Healthy Wage isn’t the only player in the game. GymPact is another way. You join and create a contract with yourself, where you promise to pay a fee everyday you skip the gym and you earn a reward every day you show up and exercise. This app is available for both Android and iPhone. Other similar options include Stickk and DietBet.
Read more: How to get a gym membership really cheap
How much money would get you motivated to exercise?
Several years ago, I talked about Scott’s Miracle-Gro firing employees who smoked. Employers have a direct interest in your health. Statistics tell us that smokers have higher absentee rates and medical bills than non-smokers.
I recall when I had a furniture delivery job in high school and the driver claimed that smoking since 12 hadn’t hurt him! But today it’s common knowledge that smoking is dangerous. Other than outright firing people, is there a way that companies can motivate people to have healthier habits? You guessed it — paying workers small financial rewards to go on a fitness regimen works.
According to a recent study in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, cash incentives of as little as $7 work to get people in shape. Money is even a better motivator than having a gym at work, the study found.
Here’s how the study worked: Groups were either offered no incentives, $7 or $14. They weren’t given any advice on how to lose weight or exercise. The people who were paid $14 dollars were more likely to lose weight than those who received no money. $14 was an even bigger motivator than $7 dollars, which I think is funny because it’s not really all that much money as an incentive for 3 months of exercise and diet.
The authors of the study were supposed to do more research to find out the optimal amount of money it will take to bribe workers to health!