Fitness Incentives: Motivation for Active Aging?

Endless data confirms that staying physically fit has significant benefits as we age.  I recently read an interesting story in Arianna Huffington’s new book ‘Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom, and Wonder’ that made me think – what motivates us to stay healthy as we age?

In 2005, US based supermarket Safeway learned that their annual employee health care bill was $1 billion and rising by $100 million/year. Researching the reasons behind these figures, they found that 70% of health care costs were associated to people’s behavior.  This revelation led Safeway to develop a win-win solution, introducing programs that provided employees with tools to address health issues such as weight loss, controlling blood pressure and managing cholesterol levels.

Safeway then established a baseline health insurance premium with behavior based discounts.  Employees got discounts based on working towards better self care which resulted in decreased costs for the employee and increased productivity for the company. It was a huge success.

The Ontario government has taken a similar step through the introduction of a Children’s Fitness Tax Credit allowing parents to claim up to $500/year to cover registration costs associated with physical activity programs for their children. It’s time people over 55 enjoyed a similar benefit.

As early as 2011 the Canadian government began to review an Adult Fitness Tax Credit, proposing a credit of up to $500 annually for those 55+ to stay or become more active, utilizing eligible fitness expenditures. Studies related to the proposal suggested the credit would increase the physical activity of almost one million Canadians, thereby providing better health outcomes for the individual and ultimately saving long term health care costs. In the last election the Conservative government promised the Adult Fitness Tax Credit would be introduced once the federal budget was balanced, which is expected in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Now the question is – Would we be motivated to make positive changes that impact our overall well-being if monetary incentives were provided through the government or health insurers?

Why not go for a walk and think about it.
Sandra Downey

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