Health Team

Money Can Be a Motivator to Losing Weight

Posted January 3, 2008 5:53 p.m. EST
Updated January 3, 2008 6:44 p.m. EST

— Some companies add incentives for employees to stick with their New Year's resolution to get fit.

The state's largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, reports that employers save $3 for every dollar invested in employee health and wellness programs. One hospital is giving some of the savings back to the workers.

All the members of the Centers for Health and Fitness in Pinehurst go there to improve their fitness. But those who work for the larger company - First Health Moore Regional Hospital - have something else to shoot for: cash.

“Incentives work. Financial incentives really work,” said Randy Ballard, a personal trainer with Centers for Health and Fitness.

In the hospital cafeteria, employees save money by choosing healthier food options, such as salads and grilled salmon. There's also a cash incentive for regular exercise.

Before starting an exercise program, it's important to get a physical health assessment that includes checking your blood pressure, heart rate and looking for any physical limitations.

At First Health Moore Regional, they take it a step further. After a health assessment, Ballard and other personal trainers help employees set a six month fitness goal with about $40 a month in reward money.

“It’s equivalent to about the cost of a health club membership,” Ballard said.

Or, employee Linda Cooke said, you can just keep the money.

“So you can exercise at home, you can walk, you can do whatever to meet those goals,” she said.

Thomas Halloran said he thought the strongest incentive to lose weight and improve his strength and flexibility would be the money.

“But I want to meet those goals,” he said. “We set them together. We discussed them. I came up and agreed to them. I want to reach them just to make that goal.”

Halloran has already lost 20 pounds. Money may be a good motivator, but progress and a healthier body has its own rewards.

For those who don't want to join a gym, they can consider walking. Research shows walking three to four times a week for 30 minutes helps builds aerobic fitness. The benefits increase if you walk more frequently and for longer periods.