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Incentives boost results of corporate wellness programs

A study by the Mayo Clinic found that employee reward programs can help reduce the health risks of employees to keep insurance premiums down.

Young workers are at greater risk for health problems than most people realize. A study by the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California noted that the health status of young individuals between the age of 18 and 25 was a significant concern for businesses. The study noted that young workers needed access to a broader range of medical coverage as health issues that occur at this age, such as onset of type 2 diabetes, can have lifelong implications.

"Emerging young adults are adrift in a perfect storm of health risks," said Lawrence Neinstein, author of the study. "This population needs healthcare coverage that is beyond catastrophic health issues but is broad enough to cover many health risks."

Fortunately, a study by the Mayo Clinic found that employee reward programs can help reduce the health risks of employees to keep insurance premiums down. The study tracked weight loss of 100 healthy adults for one year. Two group received incentives for meeting personal goals, while the two control groups were not provided any additional motivation. Sixty-two percent of those in the incentive groups lost weight, while just 26 percent of people in the control groups had successfully kept weight off after a year. Participants in the incentive group also lost more weight on average than those in the control group.

Obesity is tied to a large number of long-term health concerns, including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Helping workers lose weight reduces insurance costs, and studies have also shown that healthier employees are more productive. When employees eat right and exercise regularly, they are often more creative, have more energy and are more engaged by their work. Companies that help workers achieve their weight loss goals may also see lower turnover and higher employee loyalty.

The Mayo Clinic study provided incentives to participants with cash rewards. However, businesses may be able to see greater results with non​-financial rewards. Cash bonuses work well for short-term goals, but weight loss often requires long-term commitment to keep the pounds off. Providing workers with the opportunity to earn exercise equipment, running shoes or other fitness-orientated rewards could encourage them to continue healthy habits even after the reward program ends. Regardless of what type of rewards are offered, it is clear that employee incentive programs can help create healthier, happier workers.

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