What is a wellness program?
While there are many types of wellness programs, along with just as many incentives to adhere to them, the basic idea of all of them is that physical activity has a positive influence on your health. In fact, increased physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of strokes, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Of course, physical activity can also help beat one of America's growing epidemics: obesity. While these facts might be well known, Americans continually reduce their physical activity levels. In 2005, 39.9 percent of adults spent the majority of their day sitting, an increase from 36.8 percent in 2000. The percentage of those adults who didn't do any physical activity during their leisure time increased from 38.5 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2005. Along with these increases, there's one decrease: the percentage of adults who have a high level of physical activity has dropped from 18.7 percent in 2000 to 16.7 percent in 2005 [source: CDC].
That's where the wellness programs come in. Businesses or insurance companies can start wellness programs catered to their employees or customers. At the very least, a wellness program usually addresses both physical and emotional issues, including smoking cessation support, stress management services like therapy or yoga, weight loss plans and exercise programs (by offering discounted or free gym memberships). Others may have more comprehensive plans that also include disease management for at-risk people, personalized nutritional services, family and personal therapy, and a variety of education programs focusing on wellness. Some wellness programs may even include stress-reducing massages, safe driving classes and ergonomics training to keep people from injuring themselves or suffering from daily fatigue due to a poor workplace setups.
Unfortunately, getting into shape isn't enough incentive for most of us to actually use wellness programs. So businesses and insurance companies have a well of rewards for people who use the programs successfully. Participants can get rewards for attending educational health programs or reaching health goals, like lowering blood pressure. Rewards can include cash, toys such as iPods or exercise equipment, and even vacation days. Often, rewards will focus on health care needs -- they can include a deduction in insurance premiums or flexible dollars that can be used for medical expenses. The bottom line is the more people use wellness programs, the bigger the rewards get.
Now that it's clear why you should take advantage of these wellness programs, let's find out why businesses use them in the first place.