How to Link Heart Health to Insurance

Life and critical illness products protect policyholders from financial loss but until now have helped little on safeguarding customers’ health.

Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is a measure of the body’s ability to supply oxygen to muscles, including the heart, during sustained levels of exercise. Whether you believe the hype that just sitting around poses a significant health risk, the truth is that most people could do with exercising more. An inverse association between CRF and mortality is well-established. A recent study of the long-term mortality of physically active adults found the benefit of increased CRF is independent of age, sex, race/ethnicity and comorbidities. Exercise provides numerous health benefits, including reduction in coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke and cancer. The same study confirms that the greatest chance for survival is associated with the highest aerobic fitness, debunking the notion that exercise benefits plateau quickly or even result in harm. So there really is no excuse for running a bath instead of a mile, or indeed for avoiding any exercise you fancy that increases resting heart rate. This is good news. But as everyone’s level of cardio-fitness is different, the correct dose of exercise needed to confer any real benefit is less obvious. That gap in accessible knowledge is why it’s also good news that there has been such progress with Personalized Activity Intelligence (PAI), a health score that measures cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). PAI helps add years of healthy life through personalized activity engagement and has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and early death. PAI provides individual guidance on the most beneficial exercise dose by measuring heart beat data and translating it to a PAI Score. See also: New Efficiencies in Life Insurance   PAI takes account of resting and maximum heart rates adjusted for exercise intensity and collected over a seven-day rolling period to encourage consistent exercise behavior. Any activity that increases the heart rate above a threshold and into the CRF training zone may generate points, meaning people of all fitness levels can score points from activities they enjoy; whether that’s kayaking down rapids, mowing the lawn or running after the grandkids. Physical activity can be measured simplistically but without much insight into the physical workload achieved. PAI, however, measures heart rate and uses an algorithm that calibrates to an individual’s heart effort and is helpful in creating personalized programs for sustained physical activity. PAI has shown the positive impact that sustained physical activity has on heart health and represents a more effective and realistic approach than setting daily step or exercise targets. The guidance indicates when the intensity of exercise does not contribute to increased levels of CRF or when fitter people with higher heart rate reserve (the difference between resting heart rate and maximum heart rate, which is used to calculate the optimal cardiorespiratory fitness level in aerobic exercise) need to challenge themselves more. Life and critical illness products do an amazing job protecting policyholders from financial loss but until now have provided little practical help in safeguarding customers’ health. We believe PAI has the potential to motivate behavioral change, helping policyholders to become more physically active and stick to it, while reducing their risk of disease and premature death. As insurance seeks to shift its emphasis from protection to prevention, this winning formula is possibly some of the best news yet. See also: Intersection of Tech and Holistic Health   Hear more about the science behind PAI from inventor Ulrik Wisløff, professor at NTNU and head of the Cardiac Exercise Research Group, in this short interview: To find out more, contact Ross Campbell.

Ross Campbell

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Ross Campbell

Ross Campbell is chief underwriter, research and development, based in Gen Re’s London office.


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