Racking Up HealthMiles

As of January 1, 2009, our conference has a new health insurance plan (HealthFlex) through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (of the United Methodist Church). The plan offers a new incentives program, Virgin HealthMiles, designed to get participants active and fit.

Participants who sign up for the program can earn HealthMiles (i.e. reward points) which can generate HealthCash (up to $300/year per participant). HealthMiles is currently only available to organizations, but is going to be made available to individuals in the future, according to the site.

From the perspective of the health insurance companies, active/fit people tend to have fewer health issues and therefore cost less to insure so it’s a win-win for both participants and health insurance companies.

This comes at a good time for us. As I’ve written before (this post and this post) exercise is an area where we’ve needed to find the rhythm in our new life as parents. I also need to lower and contain my (bad) cholesterol, which has always been a nagging problem (for mostly non-dietary reasons).

I think that because I’m a competitive person, simply having the system of tracking activity would be good for me, even without the financial incentive. Of course, adding HealthCash to the mix makes it even better! šŸ™‚

The HealthMiles program involves wearing a pedometer, which automatically counts (most) steps (we each received a free pedometer with the program), and then periodically uploading steps to the computer (via USB cable). The website offers a central location to track activity, results, and rewards.

Participants earn HealthMiles by taking steps (i.e., walking, running, even biking) or other kinds of (cardiovascular) workouts using a heart rate monitor, participating at the website (visiting the site, logging entries in an activity journal), and by showing improved health (body mass index, body fat percentage, and blood pressure). There are special incentives along the way as well. For example, last week, there was an opportunity to earn extra HealthMiles simply for logging at least 7,000 steps each of the five days leading up to Valentine’s Day (we just started on Valentine’s Day, unfortunately).

It took us a little while to sign-up and to get our pedometers registered/activated. We’re also waiting for a Mac version of the software (used to upload steps from pedometer to computer) which is slated for a late March release (in the meantime, we’re using a PC that we have access to).

Even though I’ve just gotten started, I’m finding it a real incentive to keep moving and to be more active. For example, I’ve always parked toward the back of parking lots and I usually take the stairs instead of elevators, but this program has already increased my commitment to that! (In the early days of our relationship, I use to tell Joleen she’ll thank me when she’s 90. šŸ˜† ).

So, how many steps should you take each day? According to one of the FAQs at the Virgin HealthMiles website …

We recommend 30 minutes of accumulated, moderate physical activity at least 5 days a week. This equals about 7,000 steps a day, including the steps you take just going about your daily life. Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator, take the dog for a jog on the beach, start a lunchtime walking group at work, consider a walking tour instead of a bus tour on your next vacation. It all adds up.

It’s amazing how quickly the steps add up. I tend to do a lot of walking, anyway, while I think, pray, and (sometimes) eat (some might call it pacing šŸ˜‰ ).

There are five reward levels. Level 2 earns $25 (with 6,000 HealthMiles) and Level 5 tops out at $300 (with 36,000 HealthMiles). At the outset, I’m thinking Level 4 is doable, and while reaching Level 5 will be somewhat intense, I think it’s also doable, especially if there are some extra incentives along the way.

So what have you found to be a good incentive for you in staying active and fit? Also, if you participate in the Virgin HealthMiles program, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

4 thoughts on “Racking Up HealthMiles”

  1. I have registered for the pedometer, however it has yet to arrive. I am curious though, as I typically walk 10,000-12,000 steps daily, exactly what constitutes a “Health Mile?” Is it a certain number of steps… a certain number of steps taken at a particular speed, etc.?

  2. Good question, Earl.

    HealthMiles are earned by the number of steps, generally. If I remember correctly, you get 20 HealthMiles for taking up to 7,000 in a day, 60 HealthMiles for more than 7,000, 80 HealthMiles for more than 12,000 steps, and 100 HealthMiles for more than 20,000 steps in a day.

    Unless you take 20,000+ steps every single day for a year, you’ll need to rack up HealthMiles in other ways, too, in order to reach Level 5 (36,000 HealthMiles).

    There are other ways to earn HealthMiles, like reporting weight, body fat percentage, and blood pressure, monthly (if ideal or improving), and for completing other fitness reports, periodically. You can earn HealthMiles for writing exercise journal entries or starting (and/or winning) a “personal challenge” of other HealthMiles members.

    I should also add that the HealthMiles website is easy to use and uploading steps from the pedometer to the computer couldn’t be easier, which makes it more likely for users to keep it up!

  3. Hello, I saw your comment on the VHM blog!

    Since joining late September last year I have been periodically checking the status of the Individual Plans as my husband has been wanting to participate. I noticed last month they were available- just click on “HealthMiles for Individuals” and “join now” to order the plan!

  4. Ah, thanks for that info. Looks like it costs $29.99 to join plus $12.99 a month, but you can earn up to $500 in rewards.

    In our case (because we join through our conference’s insurance plan), we can earn up to $300 but without paying for the service. The reward works out to be the same, but if you join as an individual, you’d have to earn nearly $175 (the first year, about $155/year afterward) in rewards to break even.

    BTW, I think I’m going to do periodic updates on how I’m doing on the program, possibly whenever I reach a new level (I expect to reach level 2 very soon).


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