We’re fat. We’re lazy. And we’re expensive.
Sixty-one percent of adults in the US are overweight or obese and 70% are sedentary. The average American spends 600 hours a year in a car. That’s five years of the average lifespan or roughly 7% of our lives.
Our sedentary lifestyle is making us unhealthy and costing us a lot of money.
According to the annual Milliman Medical Index, the total cost of healthcare for a typical family of four covered by a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan was $20,728 last year. That’s an increase of $1,335, or 6.9% over 2011.
That’s more than $20,000 a year for a family of four and increasing at an alarming rate.
Not only do individuals carry the burden of skyrocketing healthcare costs, but companies pay the price as well. With most of their workforce overweight and sedentary, they incur the costs of higher injury rates, insurance claims, days off, turnover and lower productivity.
A study of nearly 200,000 General Motors employees found that overweight and obese individuals—2 out of 3 adults—average up to $1,500 more in annual medical costs than healthy-weight individuals.
Thus finding ways to keep employees healthy offers a big pay-off.
US employers have become increasingly interested in workplace disease prevention and wellness programs to improve health and lower costs. In a recent Harvard study, researchers found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 and absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent on wellness programs.
Think about that math: for every dollar spent on health promotion, health-related expenses drop between $3 and $6. That’s a 300-600% return on investment.
Then there’s the impact of health on performance.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, regular physical activity can improve an employee’s work performance by up to 52%.
So how can companies help their employees take on a more active lifestyle?
Corporate fitness centers and gym memberships make exercise convenient. Wellness campaigns that reward employees for walking and biking make it fun. Support for participating in local races and charity events help make reaching goals possible.
But what about getting out of that car–the one we spend 7% of our lives in–and instead of driving to work and then later driving to the gym we hop on a bicycle?
Commuting by bike, even if only for a day or two a week can make a significant contribution to wellness.
The average person will lose 13 pounds in the first year of riding to work. Thirty minutes of daily cycling saves $544 per person in annual medical costs. Since bike commuting becomes a way of life, versus another activity you need to add onto an already busy day, its effects are sustainable – for employee and employer.
See how Quality Bike Products’ health and wellbeing program has paid dividends. By supporting employees in adopting and maintaining physical activity and exercise (with an emphasis on cycling), they’ve experienced a significant reduction in healthcare costs over the past three years.
Riding to work is the fastest, most direct route to a slimmer, healthier, more productive workforce. Supporting employees with a carefully planned bike program is one of the best investments you can make. The returns for companies and individuals are real and long lasting.
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With Ariadne Scott, Bicycle Program Coordinator at Stanford Parking & Transportation Services.