Should you be discussing fitness trackers with your clients? Andy Philo puts the case forward.
Healthy habits such as regular exercise, healthy eating and not smoking are essential for long-term wellbeing.
We all know that, but many of us are reluctant to take the first step. It can seem daunting, there's a perceived high cost to getting fitter and healthier, and finding time can also be a barrier.
There's also a common misconception that in order to improve your health, you have to start running marathons and hit the gym every day.
When in reality, small steps can make a big difference. Regular exercise is medically proven to reduce major illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50%, and lower the risk of early death by 30%.1
Compared with inactive people, those who run or walk for only 15 minutes a day have a 14% lower mortality risk, and a 3 year longer life expectancy.2
Statistics show that 29% of people in England are physically inactive (classed as failing to achieve 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week) and so fall into the Chief Medical Officer's ‘high risk' health category3.
In fact, when it comes to physical activity, we Brits are far less active than our counterparts in the US, France and Germany. Inactivity is now recognised as a pandemic and responsible for one in six deaths in the UK4, making it as dangerous to health as smoking.
As a nation, we are trying
If we look around though, we are trying. Gym memberships are at an all-time high, according to The Guardian there are 6.6million people in the UK registered to a gym.
Every weekend, the roads are full of Lycra clad cyclists, fields are full of footballers and there are largescale running races up and down the country... of which Vitality have their own Run Series which attracts thousands.
So, as a nation we are making an effort. Now one thing that you might see many of these runners and cyclists wearing, in addition to the Lycra, is some form of wearable technology.
A fitbug, a Fitbit, a heart rate monitor, an Apple watch... the list goes on. We want to know how fast we are going, how far we have come and what our average pace is. Then we want to look at all the data once it's downloaded from device to computer - in our minds, we are analysing the data, looking for improvements in the same way that Sir Dave Brailsford, the former performance of British Cycling, would.
That's for the really keen amongst us, what about those that just want to walk an extra 1,000 steps a day? And this is the joy of it.
We all know those who are bordering on elite and wanted to know their split times and performance, or you might be a complete amateur but the wearable tech looks great with your trainers and kit.
Or you might just be looking to do a bit more a day to help improve your health. Or you might be recovering from injury or illness and this is a way to help you get active once again.
There's a fitness tracker out there for all of us, anything from the free Moves app you can download on a smartphone, a £30 pedometer to £300+ for something all signing all dancing.
How does this help you and your clients?
It's thought that 6.1m have a wearable device already5, and this will continue to grow, so it may well be that many of your clients already have a device.
It's no surprise they're popular with pretty much everyone, but - interestingly - research suggests that engagement increases with age, while the popularity of the traditional gym declines at approximately the same rate.
Vitality members in the 56-plus age group are just as likely to use a wearable device as they are to go to the gym. So this technology could be much more appealing for older clients who wouldn't otherwise feel inclined to embark on a new exercise regime.
So what does this mean for your clients? They can choose from a variety of cutting-edge fitness trackers and link them to their Vitality accounts to monitor their progress, set themselves targets and accumulate points.
The more they do the bigger and better benefits they'll see. And all the evidence suggests that fitness trackers can encourage everyone to become more active - providing a particular incentive for anyone who feels daunted by the idea of joining a gym.
According to research conducted by Phillips Health, 9%-percent of British adults track their health with a connected device.
And 36%-percent of healthcare professionals believe the data gives them an invaluable insight into their patients, allowing them to offer more personalised advice.6
When talking to clients about taking out life insurance, CIC or IP, it's often a ‘what if' conversation.
What if you could make it a more positive conversation by encouraging them to get fitter and healthier, and they can even get rewarded for doing so.
Not only does it benefit your clients, it can benefit you as well. Clients will reap the benefit of their cover and be reminded of its value every week.
As a result of this ongoing value, they may be more likely to keep their policy, upgrade their cover, and recommend you, their adviser - to others.
So, fitness trackers really can be good for your clients, good for their health and good for your business.
Andy Philo is franchise distribution director, Vitality
2. Chi Pang Wen, Jackson Pui Man Wai, et al, ‘Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study'
3. Active People Survey 2013
4. UK Active ‘Steps to Solving Inactivity Report', November 2014 http://www.ukactive.com/policy-insight/steps-to-solving-inactivity-report
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