posted by Aaron Smith-McLallen
on July 18, 2016
It’s no secret that walking is good for your health, but did you know that with a little structure and encouragement from your employer, you might be even more likely to experience the benefits of walking?
At Independence Blue Cross (Independence), the largest health insurer in the Philadelphia area, we conducted a nine-month walking study that recently appeared in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
The randomized study included more than 470 employees from six employer groups that purchase health insurance through Independence. Three groups were randomly assigned to participate in a standard program that tracked the number of steps walked each day, biometric screenings at various stages, and resources such as flyers and posters to promote the importance of walking. These employers had the option to do as much or as little promotion as they wished. The other three groups were assigned to the enhanced walking program that provided the same trackers, screening, and promotional resources as the standard group, as well as incentives, coaching, feedback, competitive challenges, worksite-specific walking maps, and monthly wellness workshops.
The results speak for themselves.
With greater support from Independence and their employers, participants in the enhanced walking program averaged 726 more steps on a daily basis and were more likely to meet the 10,000 steps-a-day threshold than those participating in the standard program. While those in the enhanced program had higher participation and walked more, participants in both programs who increased their steps by 1,000 steps per day lost weight: 3.8 pounds on average for men and 2.1 pounds on average for women. Both groups also saw reductions in Body Mass Index. Participants who walked more also reported improved moods and better overall feelings about their health.
We realize that a majority of our members spend much of their day in the workplace. We also know that workplace health and wellness programs can be a convenient and valuable way to help employees achieve a healthy lifestyle, such as losing weight or stopping smoking. For this reason, we offer a variety of health and wellness programs to our employer groups, including “Maintain, Don’t Gain!” a program to help employees avoid weight gain during the holidays, and “Losers R Winners,” a weight loss challenge program that includes cash or other prizes.
Whether at home or in the office, it’s important to live a healthy lifestyle and that starts with eating properly and exercising. So, next time you’re looking for a healthy boost, consider going for a walk! Also, talk with your employer to see what health and wellness programs are available to you.
Aaron Smith-McLallen, Ph.D., is Lead Research Scientist at Independence Blue Cross.