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Our U.S. senators and representatives in Congress continue to debate and deliberate the recent health care changes. They’re good at that.

Meanwhile, Brainerd Savings and Loan employees took matters into their own hands last year with a voluntary wellness program that yielded beneficial health results and cost savings for both the employees and the banks.

The bank employees’ proactive health and fitness regimen was chronicled in the January issue of the Brainerd Dispatch’s HealthWatch and may be read on the newspaper’s website. HealthWatch Editor Jodie Tweed detailed how the employees lost 619 pounds and walked 22,224 miles in 2010. Seventeen of the bank’s 25 employees took part in the weight loss program and 20 of 25 took part in the walking challenge. The program was so successful that it was opened up to include spouses and board members. 

Brainerd Savings and Loan provided generous incentives to spur participation and help motivate their workers. Employees who met a goal of averaging walking 7,500 steps a day or 37,500 steps per week were given $200 and a chance to qualify for a drawing for airline tickets for two to anywhere in the lower 48 states. The bank also offered weekly Weight Watchers meetings at the main Brainerd branch and paid half the membership fees. Brainerd Savings and Loan also paid half of the employees’ membership fees to a gym or fitness club.

The employees and management knew that individuals can make great health strides by restricting their diet and becoming more active. And healthy employees mean lower health care costs and a healthier bottom line for the business. The savings and loan had been experiencing increases of between 15 and 20 percent in its health insurance rates but because of the wellness program those rates dropped by 9.72 percent. 

The success experienced by the S & L employees is inspiring and further evidence that while none of us can change the health care system we can make choices in our own life that will result in better health and more money in our pockets.