Some wellness practices have made their way deep into the fabric of organizations and the industry with little if any solid justification for their ongoing use. For nearly 30 years the annual or biennial HRA was a mainstay until enough people finally asked why are we doing this? For too long the answer was so we could tell clients they need to move more, eat more vegetables, wear their seatbelt, and get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Oh, and you’re outside the desirable BMI range — better lose some weight, too.
In the last 5 years, the wellness tool du jour seems to be portals, the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink websites that promise to solve all program delivery and communication needs in a 1-stop shop. That HRA? Check. Education modules? Check. Challenges? Check. Health coaching? Check. Self-care content? Check. Rewards system? Check. Everything for everybody… check, check, check.
You’d think that someone aware of their health risks (compliments of an HRA) would naturally want to change behavior. Uh, no. And similarly, if all the best resources for supporting health improvement were rolled up into a wellness portal, participants would beat a (virtual) path to your door. Not yet, they aren’t.
Wellness professionals sometimes languish in their careers because there’s no path leading up and out. To stay in wellness, but get ahead in your career, consider these steps:
Practitioners have for years been so concerned with wellness participation that we’ll do almost anything to keep the numbers climbing. Financial incentives? Yeah, that will work — until it doesn’t. Premium differential? Ooh… that’s a good idea — until it’s not. Lowering the bar on what, exactly, is “participation”? No one will figure out we’re gaming our own system — until they do.
In our never-ending quest to keep participation numbers high, we seem to have lost sight of the real goal of every wellness program on the planet: health and well-being of those we serve. Participation in your wellness programs and services may be less significant than you think, or even (gasp!) irrelevant.
The NIH offers these and other suggestions for moderate intensity exercise. While we’ll agree it’s better than driving through a car wash, it also gives the false impression that routine chores are sufficient forms of activity to improve health. They’re not.
Somewhere along the line many health professionals decided suggesting exercise in moderation was as good as recommending vigorous exercise. But moderate exercise somehow came to be defined as gardening and hosing down the car.
It’s time to stop kidding ourselves. People aren’t going to reach their risk-reduction or cosmetic goals by raking the leaves.
To truly help people, wellness managers need to step up to this fact: The only way for most Americans to achieve the health benefits of exercise is to do it every day (or darn close to every day) and to do it vigorously. We’re not talking triathlon training, but we are suggesting 20 or more minutes of heart-pounding, face-flushing, breath-stealing exercise — almost every day. Let’s get serious: