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A Publication of WTVP

As business owners or managers, it's important to remember our most important assets are our employees. We want our employees to enjoy their work environment and bring the best of themselves to their jobs every day. Encouraging our employees to embrace fitness as a lifestyle pays off in numerous ways.

The fact that fit and healthy employees save companies money is well documented. Specifically, they have less illness, lower absenteeism, less turnover, a better attitude toward their jobs, and better relationships with co-workers. In addition, a recent study in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine showed people who engaged in exercise have higher work quality and better job performance than those who lead sedentary lifestyles. Therefore, it's not surprising that investing time and energy in establishing an employee fitness program is worth the payoff.

A corporate employee health and fitness program typically costs 1 to 2 percent of a company's health care expenses. While an on-site, state-of-the-art corporate health club facility is the ideal, smaller companies can find creative ways to promote exercise and wellbeing among employees. A popular idea is to subsidize memberships in a local health club. They can also bring in consultants to educate their employees. For example, a company can offer its employees health screenings and provide classes on nutrition, stress management, and other health-related topics. Believe it or not, some companies are beginning to pay their employees to stay healthy. One example of this would be providing cash incentives for wearing seat belts, maintaining low cholesterol counts, good blood pressure, not smoking or chewing tobacco, and participating in a documented regular exercise program.

More and more research supports why some health care organizations are starting to sponsor fitness programs. According to Dr. Brian Martinson of the HealthPartners Research Foundation, "Employers are just starting to realize the financial benefits of encouraging physical fitness among their workers." In addition, studies have shown increasing exercise to even moderate levels is associated with declines in annual health care charges of $2,000 per employee, on average. A bonus from the scientific literature also indicates significant reductions in frequency and seriousness of workplace injuries among those who participate in a health and fitness program. This correlates with a decrease in workman's compensation claims and the amount of money spent on injuries when they do occur.

The days of thinking about employees as work machines are over. Now, wise employers not only show an interest in the health and fitness of their workers, but support their employees in staying healthy as well. When you take care of your employees, they take care of you. It just makes good business sense to invest in your employees' wellbeing. IBI

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