Obese woman

More than 34 percent of U.S. adults are obese. Obesity is mounting rapidly among children, with one-third of U.S. children already obese or likely to become obese. Wellness programs could help to lower those numbers.

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As you may have noticed, the health of Americans is suffering. The adult obesity rate in the United States increased from 13 percent in 1962 to 34 percent in 2004, with child obesity doubling since 1980 and adolescent obesity more than tripling in the same time period. Along with obesity, more and more Americans are suffering from chronic conditions that are a result of poor health and limited physical activity. High blood pressure is increasing yearly, with more than 30 percent of people under 55 and 69 percent to 82 percent of those over 75 suffering from the condition. With the increase in obesity, the threat of type 2 diabetes, along with the No. 1 killer, heart disease, has increased as well [source: CDC].

So why do any of these statistics matter to those of us in good shape? Because the poor health of America can affect your insurance premiums and cost businesses and insurance companies billions each year. To give you an idea of the enormity of insurance costs, consider this: The amount Americans spend on health care is four times as much as the government spends on national defense [source: National Coalition on Health Care]. If you have a group health insurance policy through your employer, the company could be paying a good part of the cost. However, individuals are paying more and more each year as well. In 2006, employer insurance premiums increased 7.7 percent, twice the rate of inflation [source: National Coalition on Health Care]. One solution for these rising costs is the use of a wellness program. This type of program may be offered by an individual business or by an insurance company, both with the same primary goal: improve health in order to reduce health care costs.

In the next section, find out what exactly is a wellness program and how it can benefit both your health and your wallet.

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