Why Companies Pay You to Get Fit

Commuting on bike

Hey you, working at your computer, sitting for eight hours straight. Want to make some money for becoming healthier?

“Wellness programs” are increasingly available as part of employee benefits packages—and before open enrollment season ends, you might want to see if your company offers one.

These programs can range from weight-loss courses to free gym memberships and more. The goal is to lower worker healthcare costs by giving employees incentives to get into shape, including cash rewards—or raising or lowering the cost of insurance premiums.

  • At IBM, employee Anna Davis says she earned $300 last year for hitting her target of losing 20 pounds in six months, and working out at the company gym three times a week.
  • But at Scotts Miracle-Gro, for example, employees who don’t participate in its voluntary health-risk exam pay an extra $40 per month in insurance premiums (more if you’re found to be in the mid- to high-risk range, according to various criteria).

The scenario could be Big Brother-ish (imagine the boss monitoring your mid-afternoon snack). Davis says she’s glad she got the push, especially after a workplace screening showed she had high blood pressure and was at risk for diabetes.

“The money isn’t the best part,” she says. “It’s knowing I’m getting in shape, and making my life healthier and happier.”

Feel better. Would you lose weight or make serious health changes if you got paid for it?

Vanessa Richardson covers personal finance and small business issues. She lives in San Francisco.

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