Exercising at Work
Finding time is always a challenge. It's just gotten easier.
Why put the onus on the workplace? "People spend more time at work than
they do anywhere else," says Yvonne Ingram-Rankin, president of the
Association for Worksite Health Promotion (AWHP), based in Northbrook, Ill.
Indeed, she and other exercise experts say that corporate fitness programs are
tailor-made for the reality of working Americans' lives.
"By far, the number one reason people give for not exercising is that
they don't have enough time," says Richard Cotton, PhD, exercise
physiologist and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. "To get
someone to exercise, we've got to help them carve out the time. Having a gym at
your fingertips does just that."
In fact, more and more companies these days are jumping on the fitness
bandwagon. According to the Wellness Councils of America (WCA) based in Omaha,
Neb., more than 81% of businesses with more than 50 employees now have some
sort of health program. Such programs usually involve exercise promotion,
though only small proportions include corporate gyms.
There's more in it for the employer than simply warm fuzzies. The cumulative
benefit has been estimated at $500 to $700 per worker per year, according to an
article published in the February 1999 issue of the journal The Physician
and Sportsmedicine -- an amount that would certainly cover the cost of an
in-house wellness program. A few private companies have reported similar
benefits. In the early 1990s General Electric found that fitness program
members reduced their health care costs by 38% in an 18-month period. DuPont
Co. reported that each dollar invested in workplace health promotion yielded
$1.42 over two years in lower absenteeism costs. And the Traveler's Corporation
claimed a $3.40 return for every dollar invested in health promotion, amounting
to a savings of $146 million in benefit costs.
In the current tight labor market, gyms and wellness programs also help
attract and keep good employees, says Kurt Atherton, vice president of
corporate operations at Club One in Santa Clara, Calif.; his company sets up
fitness facilities and wellness programs. "To be considered a world-class
employer, you have to compete. Having some kind of wellness facility is a
valued amenity." (For more on how to convince your employer to promote
workplace workouts, see Friendly