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Benefits associated with exercising during work hours prove positive

Running and Fitness
Saturday, August 18, 2018

I still like using newspapers and magazines better than using cell phones and iPads for the latest news.  One thing that I enjoy with newspapers is that there is a section on sports and another for comics. Comics are often a subtle way of keeping up to date with what is happening today.  One week I found close to a dozen comic strips that related to fitness and exercise. Since people today are getting fatter and going from overweight to obese, some of the comics do point out the seriousness of this problem in a humorous way.  Last week Dilbert had a strip where the pointy haired boss said that the employees were getting too fat and out of shape. He suggested that the company start a fitness program.

Studies on the benefit of fitness programs in companies show that even a company as small as 10 employees can gain benefits that more than offset the cost of equipment and space for workouts. Examples include Northern Gas who found that employees in a fitness program had 80 percent fewer missed days of work. Coca-Cola saved $500 per employee in health claims. General Electric saw a 27 percent drop in medical claims for employees that worked out. Companies that allowed an extra hour in a work day for employees to participate in a fitness program found that production did not decrease, and in fact often increased, even though the employees had a seven hour work day versus an eight hour work day.  The companies found that fit employees were more focused and energetic and accomplished more productive work than unfit employees.  In this case Dilbert’s boss had the right idea.

While the benefits seem to be all positive there are some problems associated with putting in a fitness programs for employees. At Texas State University a few years back the physical education department offered a fitness program for employees. The department had classes in aerobic dance, yoga, fitness classes and weight lifting.  The administration allowed employees one hour a day to take part in the program.  After being presented with the benefits of fit employees in terms of missed days of work, lower medical costs, etc. it seemed like a good idea.  The problem was that there are those employees that try to take advantage of the extra hour off.  After signing up for the fitness classes they instead used the hour to go shopping, or to catch up on the afternoon TV programs. While the employees that did participate saw no decrease in work production and enjoyed improvements in health, those that took the hour for other endeavors did not improve in fitness.  These employees had a decrease in work production since they only worked seven hours instead of eight hours with no change in work ability. Once the university saw that too many employees were taking advantage of the fitness hour they canceled the program.  

Many job descriptions for companies involve sitting at a desk with a computer or reading reports. One study found that sitting for 60 – 90 minutes at a time is bad news for health. One study found that people that sat for long periods of time during the work day had a 7 percent cause of all deaths in adults from the age of 45 years and over.  This was true even for individual that worked out.

With the information of the detrimental effects of sitting for long hours companies began to look for possible solutions to the problem. Creative individuals have come up with a number of products to sell companies to give the employees a relief from hours of sitting. One of the first products was the treadmill that the worker would put under the desk and would walk while working. The worker could walk as many hours of the day as they saw fit and between a sitting and walking workday improvements became evident. The elevated desk is also another product being used. This allows the worker to stand instead of sitting and can be adjusted up or down to alternate between sitting and standing.  

The latest product mentioned in Bottom Line Health magazine helps sedentary workers burn calories by increasing movement while sitting down.  It is called by an acronym HOVR. HOVR is a movable foot rest installed on the underside of the desk and allows the worker to swing or twist their legs while working.  Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that the HOVR raised the metabolic rate (how fast the body burns calories) by 17 percent compared to the 7 percent of those standing at the desk. While the HOVR probably burns less calories than the under the desk Exercycle or treadmill it may be less distracting.

Companies that find improved production and lower medical costs are starting to realize that fit employees are a benefit to the company.  Programs that address helping employees stop smoking, or consuming too much alcohol, and losing weight, are also seeing the efforts pay off.  

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666