Awareness of the World's Greatest Creation
"The Human Body"
Imagine 50% of your current sedentary and overweight employees with ongoing health and weight problems successfully engaging in a fitness program. Imagine the positive impact on productivity and lower health care costs from this type of healthy success. The sedentary lifestyle is a primary risk factor for heart disease and numerous other serious pathologies. It is well known that fitness has uniquely positive effects on mental, physical, and social health. Despite this well-established knowledge, over 64% of Americans are not active enough to gain real health benefits from exercise.
I believe an employer has a responsibility to increase awareness of health, since people spend about half their waking hours at work. If more incentive is needed, it has also been shown that about three-quarters of health and medical claims come from a select few categories of illness and that the risk factors for these are all modifiable by exercise and healthy lifestyle.
Taking a proactive approach to health care is still a new idea for some companies. I know that healthy employees make healthier companies, and that unhealthy employees subtract from the bottom line. Stress-related illnesses cost employers untold sums in increased absenteeism, more serious medical claims, and decreased insurance availability. All top-performing companies offer health insurance and benefits packages, but such “safety nets” only provide help once employees have already fallen ill and productivity has been impaired. The way of the present and future is preventive – stopping ill health before it happens and impacts operations.
There’s a reason why corporate fitness and wellness programs are a growing trend. Pretty soon companies won’t be able to afford not to invest in such programs. The sooner your company establishes a health and wellness program, the sooner you will see a return on this investment. You will see research-supported benefits, such as:
Reduced employee absenteeism - Work absences are increasing for health-related reasons and disabilities. There is an inverse relationship between employee fitness and absenteeism. Over a six-year period, DuPont saw a 47.5 percent reduction in absenteeism among participants in its corporate fitness program. (Edington, DW. Health Behavior, March 1992)
Companies everywhere are experiencing the benefits of using corporate fitness programs by seeing lower health care costs and improved employee attitudes around the office.
• Medical claim costs were 55% lower among corporate fitness program participants than non-participants over a six year period- an average of $478.61 for participants, versus $869.98 for non-participants at Steelcase Corporation.
Source: The American Journal of Health Promotion, September/October 1991.
• On average, health care claim costs for IBM employees who exercise 1-2 times a week are $350 a year less than those who don’t exercise at all.
Source: BenefitNews.com, March 2006.
• Over five years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana realized a 250% return on its corporate fitness program investment—$2.51 for every $1 invested. Between 1990 and 2004, the number of obese adults in Massachusetts rose 80%. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts found that with every 1% increase in body mass index, an individual's annual health care costs goes up $120.
Source: Boston Globe, March 22, 2006.