More Choose to Share Weight Loss with Employers

Would you want your boss looking over your shoulder when you stepped on the scale? Or tracking your exercise plan? What if it meant extra cash in your pocket?

Thousands of North Texans are opting to wear devices that track their every step as part of company wellness programs, but some say the idea comes with privacy concerns.

For years, Cari Shannon didn't care to take pictures of herself because of her health condition.

She was hit by a drunk driver 20 ears ago and never fully regained normal walking function.

She says she struggled to walk up a flight of stairs without running out of breath.

"It was basically endurance. I would find myself exhausted at the end of the day. I wasn't able to do the things. I had to go to kids events and it was just like, 'Sigh, let’s get this done. Let's go home. I'm tired,'" says Shannon.

However, today, she's 30 pounds lighter and active on her feet. She says her employer, Lockheed Martin, helped make it happen by offering a pedometer as part of a wellness program.

"It's really, really wonderful. If I hadn't built up the endurance, and I hadn't gotten the flexibility back, which was due to daily walking, I wouldn't be in the shape I am in. And I'm very close to the shape I was in prior to the accident," said Shannon.

She tracks every step on her pedometer and uploads the data each night.

In return, she can receive up to $600 in credit towards medical costs like deductibles.

"The money was definitely a benefit. Like I said, being a single parent, making a little money was great. I just put the pedometer in my pocket and wore it," said Shannon.

Critics, however, say the reward could come with risks. Industry reports indicate more companies are track employees activity data as part of wellness programs.

Consumer advocates warn that as gadgets advance to track more than "steps," employees should be worried about privacy.

Pam Dixon, founder of The World Privacy Forum, warns that "the focus on preventive health at the expense of privacy is dangerous."

At Lockheed Martin, however, employees choose what information to provide and the company says success stories like Shannon's validate the programs.

"What it does for us is that it helps verify and validate that the programs that we are putting through have high value not only to the company but to the employee," Dr. Charles Williams, managing physician for Health and Wellness Region 8.

Shannon's goal is 10,000 steps a day, up from 3,000 when she first started the program three years ago.

Last year, she walked through Stonehenge and toured London on foot.

When asked if she ever expected this kind of life style change to come out of the pedometer program, she said, "No, I wasn't even looking for that. I just wanted to not be in a wheelchair like my mother, to be honest with you, and I didn't even know if that was going to happen. But I knew if I didn't start something, I probably would be."

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