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The Effect of Participation in a Fitness Rewards Program on Medical Care Expenditures in an Employee Population

Abraham, Jean M. PhD; Nyman, John A. PhD; Feldman, Roger PhD; Barleen, Nathan BS

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: March 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 3 - p 280–285
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318246f20e
ORIGINAL ARTICLES: CME Available for this Article at ACOEM.org

Objective: In 2008, the University of Minnesota began offering the Fitness Rewards Program (FRP) that provides a monthly credit toward fitness center dues for individuals who exercise at a participating facility at least 8 times per month. This study evaluates whether participation in the FRP is associated with a decrease in medical spending.

Methods: Using a difference-in-differences approach, we estimate multivariate regression models of average monthly medical expenditures for 2006 through 2008.

Results: We find positive benefits from reduced medical spending among highly persistent FRP exercisers. However, the results are sensitive to the inclusion or exclusion of individuals who had very high medical expenditures in any year.

Conclusions: Offering exercise-focused wellness initiatives may have economic benefits for employers, but further research is needed to understand the sensitivity of results to the inclusion of outliers.

From the Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.

Address correspondence to: Jean M. Abraham, PhD, Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN (abrah042@umn.edu).

None of the authors have any financial, consultant, institutional, or other relationships that might lead to bias or a conflict of interest with respect to this study.

The JOEM Editorial Board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

©2012The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine