Column: A healthy investment

As an added bonus, this means watching your employees improve their productivity and your bottom line.

In a world where health care costs are taking a huge bite out of company profits and making it very difficult for small businesses to survive, implementation of programs that yield a proven reduction or containment in costs are no longer elective. Rather, these programs are necessary to a financially prudent organization. 

The end result of any health and fitness program should include increased employee productivity, improved employee morale, decreased utilization of employer subsidized health benefits and decreased absenteeism due to health-related causes. An improvement in any of these will have a positive impact on the financial status of your organization. The benefit from the employee’s standpoint is improved health and energy levels, decreased body fat and a more youthful appearance.

The most productive way to achieve the goals of both employees and management is a program that provides staff members with an awareness of their current physical condition, the benefits of a fit lifestyle and a plan that permits them to improve their physical condition – one they can readily apply in the context of their life.

The volume of data to support the benefits with respect to organizations that have initiated corporate fitness programs is overwhelming. Here are just a few examples:

  • Reduced absenteeism – DuPont reduced absenteeism by 47.5 percent over six years among corporate fitness program participants.
  • Reduced health care costs – medical claims at Steelcase were 55 percent lower in cost among corporate fitness program participants than non-participants over a six-year period.
  • Reduced turnover – the Canadian Life Assurance Company found turnover among fitness program participants was 32.4 percent lower than non-participants over a seven-year period.
  • Positive return on investment – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana found its corporate fitness program had a 250 percent return-on-investment over a five- year period.
  • Sick leave use reduced – the Travelers Corporation reported its health promotion yielded a 19 percent reduction in sick leave use over four years with a $3.40 return for every dollar spent.
  • Lower health care expenditures- Superior Coffee and Foods, a subsidiary of Sara Lee, saw a 40 percent decrease in long-term employee disability costs among its wellness program participants.

Many companies are creative in encouraging their employees to get active. Some host a fitness or weight-loss challenge, awarding points that are redeemable for prizes to employees who take the stairs, eat nutritiously, exercise and practice stress-related behaviors. Others provide a fitness facility, offer regular fitness classes for their staff or simply arrange for a corporate fitness membership at a local gym (these memberships may be subsidized by the company or are available at a reduced cost). 

A healthy team creates a healthy work environment and a healthy business – fiscally and in terms of employee morale.

Sherri McMillan is the owner of Northwest Personal Training. You can reach her at