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Exercising at Work

Finding time is always a challenge. It's just gotten easier.


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 Persuasion.)

When health-conscious employers install an on-site fitness center, it's an enormous plus for employees. Shaver, for instance, says that having the gym right there in the building even improves his commute time. "I don't have to sit in traffic to get to the gym," he says. "Instead, I spend time in the gym and then zip home to my family. When I get there, I don't need to set aside time to relax because I just did, by working out."

For Shaver, just a few months of effort have paid off with some great numbers of his own: his cholesterol has dropped into the healthy range and he's sloughed off over 20 pounds. He's even got a new identity: "S-H-A-V-E-R," he jokes, "like shaving off the pounds." he says.

Elizabeth B. Krieger is an associate editor for WebMD.



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