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All-round game

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Shaun Matisonn The Expert
It is finally summer and we have actually had some good weather too. Who would have thought that Wimbledon's equivalent of a giant umbrella, constructed with the sole purpose of protecting its centre court from the elements, would have been used so little? Or that it would be so hot that the weather would come with its own health warning?

What really is wonderful though are all the extra daylight hours. There is actually time before and after work to be outside and active without having to use night-vision goggles or dress up like the Michelin man in order to do so. It is easier to want to be more fit and healthy in the summer - who wants to go outside and play football when it's cold and wet? If you have children - or even if you don't, in fact - the abundance of open spaces in the UK makes outdoor activities an easy, appealing and most important, free way to expend energy and get some exercise, assuming everyone in the vicinity does not feel the same way and you still have the space to move around.

Late last year, the first PruHealth Vitality Index found that the main barriers to living a healthy lifestyle were cost, time and a lack of motivation. The summer months certainly help with the latter two barriers when it comes to exercise but living a healthy lifestyle does not refer to exercise alone.

The basics we all know: exercising, eating a balanced diet, not smoking, drinking less. Essentially, we need to stay on top of our health and wellbeing in a number of ways.

In the same way that cycling may be a great cardiovascular workout, builds up muscles in the legs, but ignores muscles in the upper body, simply exercising without eating well and continuing to indulge in other vices, is a good start but there is definitely room for improvement.

The point really is to take a balanced approach to health and wellbeing. If you strive to exercise, eat healthily, do not smoke and drink less, then you are on the right track. But this may well be easier said than done.

For PMI providers, we have our own balancing act to contend with - keeping PMI premiums down without compromising the provision of first-class cover to policyholders. In a market where treating customers fairly is now firmly embedded, and meeting customer needs is essential in guaranteeing the future health of the market, our own research shows that 81 per cent of consumers think it is important that health insurers help their customers to manage and improve their health.

The trick is to get our collective goals in sync. Consumers want more help to make the health and wellbeing decisions that we know we should all be making and we want to provide this help in a way that appeals to them.

Lowering the barriers to living a healthy lifestyle works for consumers and providers because it keeps the product relevant all year round rather than just at the point of claim. Ideally, private medical insurance should be like the roof over Wimbledon's centre court - very rarely used but there if you need it.

Shaun Matisonn is CEO of PruHealth

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