Happy With Your Health Care Premiums? See How Walking Can Help Reduce Costs, Especially If You’re A Diabetic.

Posted by Beth Hartman

We’ve all heard over the past few years how walking can improve your life, help you get healthy and not only live a more active life but live longer as well. Now we have proof that this is, in fact, the truth and some health insurance companies are now saying that by participating in a “Walking Based Exercise” monitored by using a Pedometer and or activity watch to record your data you can actually help to lower the overall costs of health care premiums. See below excerpts from a paper that has been presented just this past March 31st. 2017 at the Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting in San Diego.

"Walking is one of the best types of 'medicine' we have to help prevent diabetes, or reduce its severity and potential complications—such as heart attack and stroke—if you already have it," says JoAnn Manson, MD, Dr.PH, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Women who did at least 30 minutes daily of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, slashed their risk of diabetes by 30%, according to results from the Harvard Nurses' Health Study. (This is your body on walking.) Even a single 90-minute session of aerobic exercise improved blood sugar control in at-risk women, according to research from the University of Michigan.

Walking also shrinks the dangerous abdominal fat that raises your risk of diabetes. Excess fat around your abdomen causes inflammation in cells, making them even more resistant to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar; this increases your odds of developing the disease. A Canadian study found that women who walked briskly for about an hour a day decreased their belly fat by 20% after 14 weeks—without changing their eating habits. However, this is already taking into consideration that those who have already been diagnosed with either pre- or type 2 diabetes are following their dietary plans, laid out by either their doctor or nutritionist.

The study, by researchers from the University of Michigan’s Department of Family Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Center for Clinical Management Research, found an association between participation in a walking program and a reduction in out-of-pocket health care expenses for people with diabetes. This study will be presented to the Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting in San Diego during a paper session (titled “Can a Pedometer-Based Walking Program Lower Health Care Costs among Adults with Type 2 Diabetes?”).

One of the key factors that this study cemented is that using a pedometer to keep track of the distance a person walks helps to keep them motivated. It also provides a barometer of how active they are over the course of a month. It is our nature to want to be challenged and by keeping track of your steps on a daily basis you can program your brain to want to keep surpassing your current step-count. This is even more beneficial to people that suffer from type 2 diabetes.

Walking programs using pedometers help people become more physically active by getting more steps each day. These types of programs improve daily physical activity among people with diabetes. “In general, people with diabetes face higher health care costs than people without diabetes, since diabetes management includes medical costs from daily blood sugar monitoring equipment to regular vision and foot assessments,” said Mona AuYoung.

Considering the trend in rising health care costs, the research team assessed the impact of a walking program on health care costs for people with diabetes. The research team examined step count data for 7,594 Blue Cross Blue Care Network (BCN) enrollees who participated in a walking program they called “Walkingspree” back in 2010. Participants were eligible to join Walkingspree if their BMI was in the obese category. Individuals could potentially save an estimated 20% of their out-of-pocket expenses by uploading their step counts at least once every 30 days to the Walkingspree website and averaging at least 5,000 daily steps every three months. If they did not meet this requirement, they could not stay in the program and their deductible would increase to $5000. The researchers were able to compare the change in total annual health care costs for the year before and after starting the program.
Key research findings included: Every additional 100 daily steps taken by participants was related to an average individual savings of $9.07.
On average, individuals without diabetes experienced greater total cost reductions compared to those with diabetes or diabetes with complications.
Among individuals who averaged at least 5,000 daily steps, the average expected total change in annual health care costs was $872.67 for people with diabetes and $2491.88 for people with diabetes with complications. Although there is an expected increase in health care costs for the average person with diabetes, this increase is relatively smaller for those who averaged more daily steps.
Even though people with diabetes have greater health care costs, increasing daily steps may help slow the rate of costs increases over time. The key motivator, besides getting yourself in better health for you, your family and your wallet is tracking your steps and logging your activity and progress. A good way to do this is with an accurate, reliable Pedometer or  Activity Monitor.  One that keeps your data for you for at least a month that you can then record to keep track and surpass you last monthly goals!

A walking exercise program has been found to improve blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, and blood pressure and cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Yet, most people with diabetes do not engage in regular exercise, based on studied poll reports provided by polled physicians and nutritionists who deal with diabetic patients.

Type 2 Diabetes, is a chronic disease and must be managed for life. Regular exercise and healthy nutritional patterns are the basis for the treatment. The team of scientists analyzed published recommendations and guidelines for exercise prescriptions for people with type 2 diabetes for the study. Think of it though, if you seriously engage in a regular regimen of walking along with following your nutritionist’s advice on the good foods to eat and the bad to either eliminate or cut back on, YOU can possibly alter the needs to take specific medications that would otherwise keep your blood sugar in check.

So, if you do suffer from type 2 diabetes, take ownership of your life and get out there walking. This way you can not only improve your health but also keep some shekels, in your wallet where they belong, instead of paying out more in health premiums.

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