Companies are taking employee wellness more seriously now. They are truly trying to figure out the right solution to combat rising health issues and healthcare costs. Unfortunately, too many companies are trying to implement wellness programs with little to no experience or game plan for success. As a result, more programs fail than succeed.

The real problem? Corporate wellness cannot be treated as a band-aid, and you definitely won't be able to find it in a fitness app. Engagement, motivation, support and strategy are the keys to a successful program. If employees are not involved in the solution, it's difficult to succeed. Preventable wellness is a complete lifestyle and behavior change and change takes time and commitment.

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)

Decreased employee turnover - The Canadian Life Assurance Company found turnover among its fitness program participants to be 34.4 percent lower over a seven-year period, compared with non-participants during that same time.  (Leatt, P. Canadian Journal of Public Health, Jan/Feb 1988)
Recruiting and retaining employees - Companies that offer corporate fitness and wellness programs are displaying their positive values, values that help to retain employees and build their commitment.
Reduced health care costs and medical claims - Medical claim costs at Steelcase Corporation were 55 percent 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.  (Yen, LT-C. American Journal of Health Promotion, Sept/Oct. 1991)
Increased employee morale - 60% of employees surveyed in a study of job satisfaction consider wellness offerings an incentive to remain with their current employer.  Simpson, 2003) - Employees who feel they are being allowed to improve their health and well-being take more pride in their work.
Increased productivity - 80 percent of Union Pacific Railroad's employees believed their exercise program was helping them become more productive at work, and 75 percent thought regular exercise was helping them achieve higher levels of relaxation and concentration.  (Leutzinger, J, Blanke, D. Health Values, Sept/Oct 1991) - Less work time is lost, as physically fit employees are less fatigued, make fewer errors, and can deal with stress more efficiently.  
Corporate Fitness Case Studies

Companies everywhere are experiencing the benefits of using corporate fitness programs by seeing lower health care costs and improved employee attitudes around the office.

Case Studies
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:, 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.