Obesity not only affects your health but will also affect your pocketbook when it comes to health care costs. Nathan Bomey wrote an article in the Ann Arbor Business review about how “unhealthy behaviors” cost companies an average of $670 per employee in extra health care costs.” Private insurance carriers will also increase health insurance premiums for “unhealthy behaviors” such as being overweight, alcohol consumption and tobacco.

Thomson Reuters, an Ann Arbor-based information services company, has introduced a new annual calculation called the Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index. The report tracks health care costs associated with six key factors: body mass index, blood pressure, blood glucose and tobacco and alcohol use. We all probably have friends or family members that struggle to control their weight. I have a friend that has been on one diet or another for the last 25 years. And, she still struggles. The National Heart Blood Lung Institute reports that “some hormone problems may cause overweight and obesity, such as underactive thyroid, (hypothyroidism), Cushing’s syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).” Other causes include an inactive lifestyle, environment, genes and family history, medicines, emotional factors, quitting smoking, age, pregnancy, and lack of sleep. Of all the behaviors that cause us to be unhealthy obesity is the most serious problem.

When applying for health plans, even if it is a high deductible health plan, you will be asked your height and weight. Every insurer has a certain height and weight ratio that if exceeded, will not allow you to purchase medical insurance. Some carriers also have “levels” and your policy could be “rated up” (charged more money) by as much as 150% over the standard premium!

So, what can we do? Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just about dieting or a pill or a program. It’s part of an ongoing lifestyle that you can adopt and change as your life changes. The number one recommendation to fight obesity is physical activity, especially when combined with calorie reduction. Walking is a great way to be active and you don’t need any special equipment or training. Start with a 10-minute walk three times a week. Gradually work your way up to 30 minutes of brisk walking or other form of moderate activity five times a week. In addition to weight control physical exercise helps prevent heart disease, helps control cholesterol levels and diabetes, slows bone loss, lowers the risk of certain cancers, and helps reduce anxiety and depression.