Fitness centers close to home, discount program encourage health club participation
Blue Cross study of fitness center discounts shows promise for lowering health care costs
EAGAN, Minn. (May 21, 2007) — People who use fitness center discount programs are more likely to live close to one; nearly half of fitness discount users say they joined a fitness center because of the discount; and persons who qualify for the discounts by using the center at least eight times per month are more likely to have lower health care costs compared to those who do not participate in the program, according to a study by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross).
Convenience/Proximity is the key
In a study of 74,000 members eligible for Blue Cross’ BluePrint for Health™ Fitness Center Discount program, 63.3 percent of all members who have signed up for the discount program live within two miles of a participating fitness center. Those who didn’t sign up for the discount program were, on average, at least 3.5 miles from a fitness center.
“This study shows that its important to have convenient locations for fitness centers because proximity to a health club has a pretty direct relationship to whether or not people use their fitness discount benefit,” said Shawn Patterson, Blue Cross marketing vice president. “Blue Cross has developed the state’s largest network of fitness centers, ranging from the smaller independent centers statewide to the large chains — and even some national chains, so convenience is a strength.”
Discount programs fuel club memberships
Part of the study involved a survey of Blue Cross 4000+ employees; 43 percent of those who responded that they make use of the discount program also said they joined a health club because of the discount.
Health clubs are seeing the impact. “We’ve seen the discount program as a huge incentive driving people to join and work out more, with the support of their jobs,” said Gussie Monks, executive director, Southwest Area YMCA, Eagan.
“People generally want to be healthy, but when they feel OK today, it’s hard for them to make time. This gives them the carrot they need to move their bodies — and they’re bringing their kids!”
High users have lower health care costs
High users, meaning those who used a fitness center at least eight times a month for at least nine months in the study year, had claim costs 17.8 percent lower than non-participants, after adjusting for health status. High users had emergency room visit rates which were 38.7 percent lower than non-participants. High users had hospital admission rates which were 41.4 percent lower than non-participants.
“This study suggests that if you can increase the number of days someone exercises, by having a fitness center discount at a health club close to home, their health care claims likely will be less than someone who doesn’t use a fitness center discount,” Patterson said. “Based on this study alone, we can’t say there is an absolute cause-and-effect relationship yet between fitness center discounts and health care costs, but we believe that incentive programs like these could ultimately help people live healthier and need fewer health care services,” Patterson added.
Other clinical studies, such as the 1997-98 National Health Interview Survey and a 2003 National Cancer Institute study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, show that increased physical activity reduces heart disease, cancer and diabetes for both men and women.
The Blue Cross study was a retrospective, observational analysis of 74,000 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota members who used the fitness center discounts program between July 2005 and June 2006. The program rewarded members up to $20 a month off their health club membership if they met attendance goals. The discount was paid by Blue Cross.
Visit www.bluecrossmn.com for more information on Fitness Center Discounts.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A not-for-profit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health pl