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Roughly every three days, one person biking or walking is killed by someone driving a car in the Chicago region.

Rewarding healthier employees is getting easier

A new website is helping employers provide valuable incentives for workplace wellness.

“Enter HealthyWage,” wrote Ann Fisher in Crains last Friday, “a New York City-based startup that runs contests whose winners get cash prizes for meeting weight-loss goals.”

The costs of automobile-focused commuting and its attendant inactive lifestyle are reaching critical levels for workplace productivity.

A recent study estimates that chronic illnesses stemming from obesity costs employers as much $153 billion annually, including $56 billion blamed on diabetes alone.

So it should come as no surprise that wellness programs have a big return on investment. Take Johnson & Johnson, for example, which saved $250 million from 2002 to 2008 by cutting employee smoking by two-thirds and the number of physically inactive by half. Their enterprise-wide wellness strategy has paid dividends of $2.71 for every $1 invested.

Fisher writes that with websites like Healthy Wage, small companies no longer need to worry about putting a lot of money up front to get their own return on investment for encouraging wellness.

In fact, it costs the companies nothing. They just need to promote it to their people. Participants pay a $60 registration fee to begin collecting rewards from sponsors and advertisers in exchange for losing the pounds.

Active Trans has always been cognizant of the connection between well being and human powered transport, not to mention the power of grassroots change. It’s been the driving force behind 18 years of the Bike Commuter Challenge, and in 2012 we’re raising the bar significantly.

The Bike Commuter Challenge will be better than ever, among other annual contests that promote walking, biking, and transit to get Chicagoans moving to and from work.

Underneath it all will be a similar incentive structure to Healthy Wage. But instead of pounds lost, mileage lost is our goal – as in car miles. Participants will score points and rewards for commuting in any possible way besides driving alone.