Being fit and healthy is a good goal because it can improve your quality of life now and in the future. And if it's your decision, then more power to you. However, it's increasingly looking like it won't be your decision too much longer.
For companies that pay for health insurance, a fit and healthy workforce is going to save a lot of money. A fit populace would also be a big money-saver for the government in terms of medical payouts. It used to be that keeping track of an individual's fitness wasn't very precise, so an organization couldn't penalize individuals. That's not the case anymore.
Thanks to wearable fitness monitors, like the Fitbit, a company or organization can easily track individual people's activity levels on a day-to-day basis. A good example is Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Oral Roberts University has long had a fitness requirement for students. In the past, students had to use complicated charts to keep track of their physical activity and meet certain standards. It was tedious and imprecise.
Starting this year, however, every freshman is required to buy a Fitbit monitor. The Fitbit integrates with a school system that examines the number of steps each student takes and their heart rate. The goal is 10,000 steps per day and 150 minutes of "intense activity" every week.
While the Fitbit can log more information than just heart rate and steps, such as sleep patterns, the school is quick to say it doesn't see or store that extra information. However, you can imagine other organizations taking advantage of that kind of data.
With the current worry about childhood obesity and the push for high achievement on standardized tests, for example, suppose the government made every school child wear a fitness monitor. It could make sure kids are getting proper exercise each day and rest each night.
OK, that probably wouldn't happen given the certain outcry from parents and privacy advocates, not to mention the logistics involved, but you can imagine a school district somewhere doing a trial run or at least proposing the idea. After all, the L.A. school district bought iPads for every child (and had to take them back after kids quickly got around the security measures), Illinois schools can force students to hand over their social media passwords and Boston schools tried installing video cameras on school buses.
Even private organizations are thinking in the direction of getting people fit. Mega-retailer Target offered free Fitbits to its 335,000 employees last year. Granted, employees weren't required to take one, but who knows what will happen in a few years.
In the past, companies have offered discounts on health insurance if employees can prove they're active and healthy. Usually, that meant going to the gym regularly.
A lot of employees declined because committing to going to the gym regularly isn't for everyone. However, with a fitness monitor, if you prefer to hike or just run around with your kids, you can prove that you're active.
Again, that's fine in a voluntary program, but what happens when a company penalizes people for not signing up, or starts requiring fitness trackers to get company health insurance? At that point, things are going to get interesting.
Do you see companies forcing fitness trackers on employees? What would you do if your company started requiring it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.