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Making Fitness Convenient continued...

Not all companies can afford a full-service fitness center, but that doesn't mean they're not providing some fitness options. At Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, Elaine Coll, professor emeritus of physical education, organized a faculty-staff noontime workout called "Ultimate Fitness." The idea originally started with a volleyball coach who began the program for physical education students. When the coach moved away, a number of faculty and staff who had been "auditing" the program were left, well, a bit less fit.

So Coll stepped up to the plate. She leads Ripon faculty and staff in an exercise routine that includes a 5-minute warm-up and then a circuit of ten to 12 stations, each of which focuses on an upper- or lower-body exercise or an aerobic exercise. After each station, the workers run one lap around the gym to the next station, and so on, until all stations have been visited. This is followed by a 10-minute stretch-and-cool-down period.

All this goes on to some "really ghastly music," says Coll, "but we have a great time."

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.

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