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Should Overweight Citizens be Financially Rewarded for Exercise?

According to this weekend’s edition of Parade magazine a number of countries are coming up with inventive ways to fight obesity.

In Japan, health officials are measuring the waists of citizens over 40 and asking overweight individuals to undergo diet counseling. In Germany the government is spending $47 million on healthy-eating, sports programs and tougher nutritional standards for school lunches. The government is also “asking candy makers to stop targeting young children and encouraging software companies to develop games that force players to move.”

While some countries are trying to assist their current citizens, others are combating the financial and health issue by closing their doors on the obese. New Zealand, for example, bans people it deems too fat from immigrating to the country in the first place.

Great Britain is taking a more interesting approach. The country is currently recruiting overweight individuals to wear electronic tags that calculate how much they move and how many calories they burn. As an incentive to exercise the participants are rewarded with store coupons and extra days off work.

This approach seems to be an innovative extension of preventative care. The government hopes to pay a little money now to get people into shape, so that it can avoid paying a lot of money later on obesity related diseases.

It’s certainly an original solution to fighting the epidemic of obesity. The question is this… Is money and/or time off enough incentive to exercise? I bet a lot of individuals would be interested in the money, while others would be more attracted by an extra day off work, but would either incentive provide individuals with enough motivation to actually rise off of the couch?

Either way I can certainly see why Great Britain is willing to give this a try. After all if the individuals don’t exercise there should be little cost involved and if they do exercise it could save the country a lot of money.

Betsy Bargain

Tuesday 10th of March 2009

I think this makes sense in England, because they have socialized medicine. If someone gets sick, the government foots the bill, so it pays to encourage citizens to stay healthy. If we ever adopt such a healthcare plan, it would make sense here too. I wish someone would pay me to exercise and eat right, that would be great!

Renee

Sunday 1st of March 2009

I wish gym membership was cheaper. I would be thrilled with help with that. I know I can walk or run outside, obviously. However, it's difficut with small children. There is the weather to consider. Then my 4 year old falls asleep each and every time he's in the stroller (or even shopping cart.) This is a problem because a nap causes him to be wide awake at 11 pm. We can't afford the family membership at the YMCA with the daycare for workout times. I try tapes at home, but it's a challenge to keep ones heartrate up with a 4 and 5 year old constantly demanding, "look at me, no Mommy, move your head and LOOK AT MY TRICK!" I would like a "reward" with affordable gym membership.

One Frugal Girl

Friday 27th of February 2009

I'm glad to see that this topic evoked some serious thinking.

I'm personally not sure how I feel about this issue. My father has been struggling with his weight for as long as I can remember. I've tried every method I can think of to help him lose weight and I have perpetually failed. In order to keep him happy and healthy on earth I'd approve of any government program that would motivate him to exercise.

On the other hand I think it's unfair to reward those who are already overweight, while not rewarding those who exercise to avoid gaining weight in the first place.

This is similar to the current mortgage crisis, in which those borrowers who have fallen behind on mortgage payments are being rewarded with principal reductions and lower interest rates, while those who have paid all along aren't rewarded at all.

Anonymous

Thursday 26th of February 2009

Um. I admit that I'm very extreme in my beliefs, but I honestly can't say this makes any sense.

Yes, we should all work out. But I fail to see how it's the government's responsibility to pay for this. I mean, if that's the case, then I want financial rewards for making my bed, brushing my teeth, eating my veggies... Government is government. Good parenting and adult responsibility is something different. And the trend nowadays is to shrink the latter of the responsibilities. Actions (and the lack thereof) have consequences; put on your big girl panties and deal with it. :D

And to the anonymous who pointed out that "it hurts to work out as a fat person" I would like to say "It hurts to work out as a physically fit person." I have worked out religiously since I was 12 (am now 34.) I have done ballet, step, yoga, lifted weights, cardio, rollerskated, hiked. I'm very healthy. 5'6" and 115lbs. But lemme tell ya something, girls...Working out hurts, it burns, it's NOT fun even if you do your cardio to the Brad Pitt scene of Thelma and Louise (I've also tried the beach scene from Top Gun - workout still sucked.) Here's the thing: if it doesn't hurt, you're not doing enough. I'm not saying go into full fledged pain, but burn and hurt is healthy. It builds character.

Great topic, btw.

Anonymous

Thursday 26th of February 2009

Well I am in the Uk and never heard of such a thing. Where do I go for my freebies??? Dont take stuff you read in the SUn too seriously.