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As I set out to collect the benefits from health incentive programs, the odds of winning are slim and the odds of failing are likely.

But my collection of winnings has grown. I’m proud of my fancy National Park gift set, $25, and all-inclusive hot springs resort weekend. The fact that I won, still surprises me.

At one point, a salty coworker would drop out of health incentive programs if he knew I had registered. When I quit, I am sure he was doing a tiny happy dance.

Like Indiana Jones (Indy), I went looking for adventure. Unlike Indy, when I claimed the grand prize – I was surprised. Thankfully, none of the prizes included death traps, but I would have been happy with a few snake encounters.

A Healthy Offering

Health incentive programs offered by employers are one of the easiest ways to win quality prizes. It isn’t a mystical stone that glows, but it does involve a chase. 

A few weeks ago, my current employer announced a healthy incentive challenge. I signed up for it, which included putting my name on a digital spreadsheet and tracking my routine. If there was a cost, I wouldn’t have signed up. I avoid spending money, I prefer receiving.

The challenge was blasted to all who heeded their emails. By then, I had already found the directions and reviewed them carefully. Next, I dived into the program like Indy downing an antidote to poison – quickly and with panicked zeal.

I’m about halfway through the challenge, which has involved collecting points for nutrition, fitness, and general wellness. Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables, exercising for 30 minutes, and meditating are well-established routines.

Many years ago, my habits used to involve supersized grease with an extra heaping of sugar. I was on the fast-track for diabetes. As a teenager who knew-it-all after 18 years, I assumed everyday ramblings would keep me fit enough to pass a fitness test. 

Failing changed my mind. 

After boot camp, I thought I could pass any fitness test without weekly workouts. I heard several sailors boast of working out twice a year which is how often the fitness tests are. I tried to follow in their footsteps and instead set myself up for embarrassing failure. 

This wake-up call was like a steam engine coming into my bedroom to say hi. With shame and disappointment ringing in my ears, I decided to become a neurotic person who found enjoyment in working out. 

Eighteen years later, it’s all going to plan!

The Chase Incentive

My current health incentive challenge at work is at the halfway point, and I’m a top contender. I’m far from a fitness fanatic, but I enjoy the rewards of a healthy lifestyle. I happily cash in a healthy weight, pleasant mood, and a regularly scheduled bowel movement that would make Sheldon proud.

Rarely do I need to adjust my typical shenanigans for health incentive challenges. There are areas I’m dodging, like Indy evading long-term relationships. Drinking half my weight in ounces and giving coworkers compliments have been awkward failures.

I’m pretending only the water part is awkward. 

Even with little effort and awkward shortcomings, I’m at the head of the point pack. Truthfully, a big reason for this is the small pool of participants. My odds of winning are significantly higher than other gambling opportunities like cheese rolling

I prefer odds that don’t involve scrappy competitions with cheese.

Captured Rewards

Even if I lose the grand prize, I still win. I get a nice ego boost for trying.

Health incentives entice higher levels of fitness like a careening cart of adrenaline, pushing well beyond routine. 

Years ago, I ended up hiking over 100 miles in less than 6 months because I signed up for a health incentive challenge when I was working at Yellowstone. 

By the summer of 2012, I was working out frequently. I had little experience with hiking, but I signed up to hike 100 miles. More than anything, I was homesick and tired of being a moody fart. 

I knew few people except through work and they were all signed up too. So, I managed to find hiking partners every weekend. My first experience with long-distance hiking included a wide range of weird sensations like feeling my heartbeat in my hands and my depth perception on steroids like a bizarre form of dilation. 

After a few rounds of tingly sensations with an extra heaping of whininess, I got used to hiking. By the end of the challenge, I hiked more than 100 miles. 

My prize was a shirt, pin, and certificate. I was proudly collected my rewards. The best reward was accepting the challenge because it changed my identity. I started as a skinny girl Midwestern girl, hesitant to hike 10 miles. A 100 miles later, I was a bold backcountry hiker who eagerly anticipated the next 20 miles like a fat cat ready for Fancy Feast.  

Fearless Finishes 

I do fail challenges. 

Winning every time is a feat I have yet to accomplish. But, I have won enough that I sign up for health incentive challenges with barely contained excitement. Similar but different to how Indy accepts the siren call for adventure, bizarre alien artifacts and all.

I may not have a sweet hat or be a pro with a whip, but I do chase after a reward like Indy on a mission to save the world – one challenge at a time. 

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6 thoughts on “Health Incentive Programs: A Lost Benefit Raider

  1. Not gonna lie, I like the sounds of your program Avery. Gift cards are great prizes and I am bit envious of your program already! I get excited whenever there is some kind of reward for being fit, I have worked at too many places where that isn’t an option.

    May the may the gift card odds be ever in your favor!

  2. Wow, your health incentive programs sound awesome! Mine is a bit boring in comparison. I just log my steps and sleep hours into a tracker to obtain points and after a couple months’ worth of points, I can redeem for a gift card. The nice thing is that it’s a guaranteed point earning as long as I take over 5,000 steps a day. I’m not the most fit person so I don’t think I could ever win these grand prizes you’re winning if I had to compete for them.

  3. Kevin Drevik says:

    Interesting way to earn cash & prizes. Never thought of this before!

  4. I know! These little employer sponsored programs are great ways to win quality stuff!

  5. I never knew these existed until my husband signed up for a generic one through work. It took him five minutes a day to log his habits. The only prizes were entries into drawings, and he thought he’d never win. But he won an Instant Pot his second month!

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