By Dr. Donna O’Shea, chief medical officer of population health, UnitedHealthcare
Every year, scores of Coloradans make New Year’s resolutions, especially to improve their health and wealth. In fact, 55% of Americans plan to make health-related New Year’s resolutions this year, while 53% have vowed to improve their financial well-being, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.
What are the most common resolutions for 2022? Among people making health resolutions, the survey found that 26% hope to lose weight, 24% are planning to exercise more and 21% intend to eat a healthier diet. When it comes to financial health, the most common resolutions include saving more money (26%), increasing income (25%), and paying off debt (19%).
Achieving any of these goals will likely require willpower and dedication, but additional support from your health plan may be helpful too. Whether you have coverage through an employer, an individual or family policy, or a government-sponsored plan such as Medicare Advantage, here are five ways to potentially use your health plan to help encourage a healthier lifestyle in 2022:
Get a Digital Fitness App. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted some people to avoid public gyms due to potential exposure risks to the coronavirus, contributing to a surge in the popularity of at-home fitness routines. In fact, 30% of Americans surveyed said they had used a digital fitness app as part of their fitness regimen since COVID-19 emerged. Whether your fitness resolution is focused on improving strength, enhancing endurance, or finding new levels of flexibility, some health plans now include subsidized subscriptions to digital fitness apps with thousands of live and on-demand workouts, in some cases giving access at no additional cost.
Find a Fitness Tracker. Wearable devices are becoming increasingly popular and sophisticated, enabling people to track their daily steps, monitor their heart rate, and analyze sleep patterns (among other measures). With that in mind, some employers and health plans are including fitness trackers as part of wellness programs, in some cases enabling people to earn over $1,000 per year in incentives by meeting certain daily activity goals, such as walking, running, swimming, or strength training. Some smartwatches even sync with digital fitness apps, offering personalized feedback to help track individual workouts and progress over time.
Enroll in an Online Weight Loss Program. Given that shedding unwanted weight is a priority for many people after the holidays and year-round, it can be helpful to check with your employer or health plan for online programs that focus on helping users build healthier habits, such as increasing daily activity and eating more fruits and vegetables. Maintaining healthy body weight is more than just cosmetic: Research shows that when overweight people lose just 5% of their initial weight, it can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than 50%. This is especially important amid COVID-19, as diabetes is among the most common risk factors linked to an increased chance of COVID-19 complications.
Take a Pass on Tobacco. While smoking rates have declined over the last few decades, 14% of Americans are still consistent smokers, with cigarette use ranking as the leading cause of preventable death nationwide. Kicking the habit can help support your health – both in the short and long term – while avoiding an estimated $1 million or more in lifetime costs associated with cigarette use. For support, many health plans include smoking cessation programs, which may offer – at no additional cost – nicotine gum or patches, online tools, and one-on-one coaching.
Support Your Smile. With growing evidence of a link between oral health and overall health, it is important to take care of your teeth. That means consistently brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash. Even if you are doing all that, regular dental cleanings are also crucial, as consistently visiting the dentist can help remove plaque that tends to build up over time. Many dental plans include up to two annual cleanings with no cost-sharing, with some even offering discounts on electric toothbrushes to make this type of technology more affordable.
The new year is a great time to reflect on your personal and financial health, and it’s never too late to rededicate yourself to health. In fact, people who make specific resolutions may be more likely to reach those goals than people who don’t set explicit pledges. By taking advantage of available resources that may be included with your health plan, it may be possible to improve both your waistline and wallet.