Monday, September 10, 2012

Using Virgin HealthMiles to Track Daily Activity

Virgin HealthMiles is a tool that allows users to keep track of their activity to earn "HealthMiles", which can be used to earn money (financed through your employer).  This program caught my attention because I think the financial incentives provided a unique way to encourage people to get healthier.  You can either log your activity manually or use cool gadgets to record your activity (which earn you more HealthMiles, because they are not biased).

At my company, anybody who filled out the initial heath survey earned $50.   I used my $50 to buy a GoZone Pedometer, which I have been using to record my activity for approximately 2 months (see below for an example of my recorded activity).

The pedometer works well for counting steps, but not much else.  For example, it is advertised that the pedometer can count "active minutes" (activity where the user takes more than 135 steps per minute), but it is really hard to earn active minutes.  Fifteen minutes on the StairMaster earned me 6 active minutes.  Cycling for 1 mile earned me 0 active minutes.  Slaving away with strenuous yard work for 8 hours earned me 0 active minutes.

Potentially, I could be using these HealthMiles to eventually earn more expensive gadgets (which I assume are more accurate).  However, my employer currently doesn't fund any of these incentives (possibly because they are trying to gauge employee interest).  I think the incentives are an important part of the program, and I hope they are added in the future.  If your employer does appropriately fund a Virgin HealthMiles program at your company, I think it is a useful program to help motivate employees to live an active, healthy lifestyle.
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My Biomedical Informatics Blog by Charles Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.