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."