Get Paid to Lose Weight?

What if your company paid you more money to exercise and lose weight? Would it change your habits? 

One of the biggest employers in North Texas is doing that, and said it's working. Employees are slimming down and fattening their paychecks, while the company has cut its health care costs. 

Many workers at Baylor Health Care System were surprised when the company launched the program, called "Thriv" (pronounced "thrive"), several years ago. 

"You're going to pay me to do that? Are you kidding me?" said Leia Spoor, the company's wellness manager who oversees Thriv. 

Today more than 6,000 employees are participating by tracking their exercise and their weight. In return, they get $50 in their paycheck for each 100-day cycle they participate in the program.

Tommie Haliman, a lab manager at Baylor Dallas, joined the program with a tough goal. She wanted to lose 40 pounds. 

"I knew I had to lose weight because I was at the point where I could become a diabetic, so I was at the point where I was going try something," she said.

She bought a pair of running shoes and became a jogger in her early 60s. Three years later, her blood sugar and blood pressure are down and she's lost more than 30 pounds and hopes to reach her final goal this year.

Along the way, she's also run a marathon and a half marathon with her husband, who also joined Thriv, because spouses are eligible. At 72 years old, he just ran a half marathon this winter. 

"He's got the speed. I have the determination; he has the speed," Haliman said. 

Baylor said paying employees extra to work out is paying off for waistlines and the bottom line, too. Health care costs for workers  participating in the program have risen more slowly than for those not in the program.

"It tells us that it's working," Spoor said.

While many companies now offer wellness programs, cash incentives are more unusual. Baylor said a survey of employees before the program started showed that cash would be the biggest motivator.

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