Study: Regular Exercisers Achieve Lower Health Care Costs

No shock here, but a new study released by Medica and Life Time Fitness demonstrates that members who began a new, regular program of exercise saw a decrease in claim costs after just two years in the program. The members, who received a financial incentive to exercise regularly, saw an average claim cost decrease of more than 33 percent on a per-member per-month basis during the period.

The study involved 3,249 participants in the Fit ChoicesSM by Medica program, which offers a $20 monthly credit from Medica toward the payment of members' monthly dues if they exercise at least eight days per month at their chosen Life Time Fitness center. To ensure comparability with regard to health care expenditures before and after participating in the program, a control group of equivalent size, demographics, health status, and health care consumption habits also was established. Health care costs examined included facility claims, physician claims, and Rx claims, which were summed to derive total expenditures.

The study's results showed that those who exercised at least eight days per month after joining the program achieved an overall 33.6 percent per-member per-month average claim cost decrease as compared with the comparison test group in their second year of program participation. These participants also realized the following claims cost decreases relative to the control group:

  • 64.3 percent decrease in facility claims.
  • 13.0 percent decrease in physician claims.
  • 9.2 percent decrease in Rx claims.

The study also revealed dramatic differences in visits to inpatient, emergency room and outpatient health care service providers among the same comparison groups. Non-program participant control group members realized an average of:

  • 63.6 percent more visits to inpatient facilities.
  • 105.0 percent more visits to emergency room facilities.
  • 43.3 percent more visits to outpatient facilities.

"Fit Choices is all about helping people make better decisions about their health," said Charles Fazio, M.D, chief medical officer at Medica. "When we formalized our partnership with Life Time Fitness in 2003, we began making an investment in peoples' health and, in doing so, we expected to see it pay dividends by way of controlled health care costs. Via the study, we found that offering a financial incentive is effective in motivating people to exercise. We also validated that health care cost reductions occur when participants exercise at least eight days per month, and participants experienced improvement in their health status based upon self-reported survey results."

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