One of the main excuses for not staying with a fitness goal or resolution is also one of the easiest to address: time. With work, family, and other obligations pulling on all 24 hours of the day, it can be difficult to find time before or after work to sneak in fitness. This is why many companies are now participating in workplace wellness programs.

These programs are becoming increasingly common. Approximately 90% of companies with 50,000 or more employees have them in place, and 50% of small companies (fewer than 50 employees) offer some form of a workplace wellness program.

Workers may benefit from a workplace wellness program, but the company does not always profit. A large-scale study of a major employer, PepsiCo, found that for every $1 invested in a workplace wellness program, the program saved participants $3.78 in healthcare expenses but were not cheap for the company itself. Lifestyle management programs in particular were costly for the company, but there was a slight drop in absenteeism during the time of the study. The disease management program reduced hospital admissions by 29% and saved participants over $1,600 annually.

Over the seven years of the study, Dr. Soeren Mattke, the study’s senior author and a senior natural scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization, found that:

“The PepsiCo program provides a substantial return for the investment made in helping employees manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, but the lifestyle management component of the program — while delivering benefits — did not provide more savings than it cost to offer.”

Earlier studies contradict this finding. A small Midwestern utility company examined their workplace wellness program and found that they saved $4.8 million in employee health and absenteeism over nine years. Dee Edington, director of the U-M Health Management Research Center and principal investigator had this to say about studying employee workplace wellness programs long term:

“One of the advantages of the study is it shows that a sustainable program will give you savings. Previous studies looked at programs that are short and intense and cover the same people.”

Still other studies indicate that offering financial incentives for participating in workplace wellness programs increase participation by as much as 33 times. One such study was presented on November 7, 2014 at the Obesity Society annual meeting in Boston. Just over 16,000 people were offered financial incentives to utilize the services of a telephone health coach, while another 975,000 were simply offered access to the coach. Ten percent of those incentivized financially took advantage of the coach, but only 0.3% of the non-incentivized employees did so.

Eric Finkelstein, PhD, MHA, an associate research professor in the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University believes that:

“The idea of using employer incentives to participate in health coaching is relatively new. This research gives us a solid foundation to build upon. The next step is to measure changes in these participants’ health behaviors, and identify long-term success.”

You don’t have to wait for your employer to decide whether or not a workplace wellness program is worth their budget dollars. You spend more waking hours at work than you do at home, and it just makes sense to figure out a way to incorporate exercise during your work day.

Find a cause

Every city and town has a cause worth walking for. Find a cause your company can get behind, form a team, design a t-shirt or a crazy outfit, and then set your schedule for training. For many companies, especially those in small towns or cities, these walks can be good advertising in the community. For that reason, they are often supportive of training during office hours and may even donate to help the cause along.

Bring fitness to you

Many personal trainers will teach private group classes, designing them for age, physical condition, and personal goals. Find a group of friends and bring the trainer to work for a half hour energy blast during lunch, or a half hour after work.

Start a friendly competition

If weight loss is the goal for your office, start a friendly competition. Have each participant contribute a set amount of money (something reasonable for your office), then have each participant weigh themselves. Set a period of time that is not too long (not more than three months), and let the weight loss begin! You can have separate categories for men and women (men of a certain age tend to lose weight faster), and you can also measure not only straight weight loss but also percentage of body weight lost. This gives a little motivation to those who have less to lose but still want to participate. At the end of the set period, whomever has lost the highest percentage of bodyweight wins the money.

Pair up exercise buddies

Don’t want to compete? Grab a friend and commit to changing your level of fitness and health by walking during lunch, packing each other a healthy lunch, and swapping recipes (or even cooking for the week at each other’s house). The social aspect of fitness and health cannot be underestimated. Emotional wellness is at the heart of any long-term change, and a support system built in to your work day can give you the help you need to stay on track.

Sponsor a team

Check with your employers to see if they would be willing to sponsor a local Little League or pee-wee soccer team, then get out there and practice with the kids. While this is not necessarily strenuous exercise for weight loss or increasing your level of fitness, being in the community and giving back also fill the need for emotional wellness and connection that is vital to your well-being.

If your workplace does not have a wellness program, maybe it’s just because no one has the time to research starting one. The Affordable Care Act offers incentives for starting workplace wellness programs, and it may be worthwhile to put together a plan for your employer to look over.

How do you incorporate fitness into your work day?

Image by Ms. Phoenix via Flickr


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