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How to take full advantage of your health plan

Every year, scores of Marylanders make New Year’s resolutions, especially to improve their health and wealth. In fact, 55% of Americans plan to make health-related New Year’s resolutions this year, while 53% have vowed to improve their financial well-being, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.

What are the most common resolutions for 2022? Among people making health resolutions, the survey found that 26% hope to lose weight, 24% are planning to exercise more and 21% intend to eat a healthier diet. When it comes to financial health, the most common resolutions include saving more money (26%), increasing income (25%) and paying off debt (19%).

Achieving any of these goals will likely require willpower and dedication, but additional support from your health plan may be helpful too. Here are three ways to take advantage of your  company’s health plan in 2022:

Explore digital fitness apps. The pandemic has prompted some people to avoid public gyms due to potential exposure risks to COVID-19, contributing to a surge in the popularity of at-home fitness routines. In fact, 30% of Americans surveyed said they had used a digital fitness app as part of their fitness regimen since COVID-19 emerged.

Whether your fitness resolution is focused on improving strength, enhancing endurance or finding new levels of flexibility, some health plans now include subsidized subscriptions to digital fitness apps with thousands of live and on-demand workouts, in some cases giving access at no additional cost.

Find a fitness tracker. Wearable devices are becoming increasingly popular and sophisticated, enabling people to track their daily steps, monitor their heart rate and analyze sleep patterns.

With that in mind, some employers and health plans are including fitness trackers as part of wellness programs, in some cases enabling people to earn over $1,000 per year in incentives by meeting certain daily activity goals, such as walking, running, swimming or strength training.

Some smart watches even sync with digital fitness apps, offering personalized feedback to help track individual workouts and progress over time.

Take a pass on tobacco. While smoking rates have declined over the last few decades, 14% of Americans are still consistent smokers, with cigarette use ranking as the leading cause of preventable death nationwide.

Kicking the habit can help support your health – both in the short and long term – while avoiding an estimated $1 million or more in lifetime costs associated with cigarette use. For support, many health plans offer smoking cessation programs, which may offer – at no additional cost – nicotine gum or patches, online tools and one-on-one coaching.

The new year is a great time to reflect on your personal and financial health, and it’s never too late to rededicate yourself to healthy living. In fact, people who make specific resolutions may be more likely to reach those goals than people who don’t set pledges.

By taking advantage of available resources that may be included with your health plan, it may be possible to improve both your fitness  and finances.

Dr. Donna O’Shea is the chief medical officer of population health at UnitedHealthcare.