Wearable technology exercise

Toronto-based Manulife Financial Corp. will begin offering group benefits employees access to Vitality, a program that rewards healthy living tracked through a wearable device, the company announced Tuesday.

“Vitality is a technology-based platform, which integrates with almost every wearable device — such as smartwatches or fitness bracelets — and inspires and motivates people to make healthy choices,” Manulife says in a news release.

The aim of the platform is to help prevent chronic diseases, which account for almost nine in 10 deaths in Canada (88%).

Vitality was already available to Manulife’s retail insurance customers. Now that it will be offered as part of group benefits programs, more than 1.4 million Canadians will have access, Manulife says.

“We believe this program will help to revolutionize the way employees experience benefits in Canada,” says Donna Carbell, senior vice president, group benefits, in a statement. “We also know that having healthy employees matters to employers. It drives higher engagement, productivity and better overall organizational health.”

The causes of chronic disease (including respiratory disease, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease) include four important lifestyle factors: physical inactivity, smoking, poor eating habits and excessive consumption of alcohol. Four in five Canadian adults get less than the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week, according to 2017 data from Statistics Canada.

Vitality uses “meaningful actions, personal goals and science-based motivation techniques” so that “the healthiest choices become the easiest choices,” Manulife says. Users are also rewarded through discounts and gift cards.