Start up health insurer PruHealth is aiming to capture at least 10% of the market in five years, according to chief executive Catherine McGrath.

The joint venture between Prudential in the UK and South African insurer Discovery will offer customers discounts on gym membership and incentives to get fit.

McGrath said: "The focus of PruHealth is that it is about helping people to improve their health."

McGrath claimed that the experience in South Africa, where Discovery has 1.5 million policyholders, showed that for 60% of customers who exercised regularly claims were significantly lower.

She said: "We will be offering incentives for people who use the gym regularly. This is something we can tell by how many times people swipe their membership cards on entry."

McGrath added that the company would be targeting the intermediary market and that while pricing and commission levels would be competitive she saw advantages in the different policy model.

She described the health insurance market as stagnant, with a small number of big players "bringing little in the way of innovation" and maintaining an outdated model. "Frankly, it is little more than motor insurance for bodies," she said.

PruHealth plans to launch at the beginning of 2005.