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Working Out at Work.

Working Out at Work

Participation Is Key

Workplace exercise and health programs may seem like a great benefit, but do they really work? Apparently the jury's still out.

According to Roy Shephard, PhD, professor emeritus of applied physiology on the University of Toronto's faculty of physical education and health, work-site exercise and health programs are widely believed to be a way to keep employees healthy, thereby increasing a company's productivity while controlling health insurance costs.

Participation in work-site wellness programs can yield a variety of health benefits, Shephard writes in a February 1999 article, "Do Work-Site Exercise and Health Programs Work?" (published in the journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine): The potential benefits include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased cardiovascular health
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved mood
  • Lower medical insurance claims

But Shephard, who is also a past president of the ACSM, also reports that "few, if any, programs have delivered all of the expected benefits." The reason, according to his research, is that most employees don't join them.

That certainly doesn't seem to be the case at CDW Computer Centers, however, where about 1,000 of the company's main-campus 1,800 employees (there are another 900 in other locations) take advantage of CDW's on-site fitness center.

"Our co-workers love it," says Friedson. "It gives them the opportunity to get together in a relaxed setting." An added bonus, says Friedson, is that working out is becoming "contagious."

Friedson is well aware that company-sponsored fitness programs are thought to contain medical costs by keeping employees healthy and fit, but he himself has no measurable figures to back that up. It doesn't really matter to him though. "We're really more interested in keeping our co-workers engaged, motivated, and happy. We don't focus on whether we're saving a dollar or two per person on sick time."

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Reviewed on October 04, 2002

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