If your office offered aerobics after hours, would you join in?
Company-sponsored fitness programs are not new. What is changing - and you surely have noticed if your workplace offers workouts - is the attitude of upper management about the benefits of those activities.
Traditionally, exclusive gymnasiums and glamorous health club memberships were reserved for top executives. But as businesses take a more active role in worksite wellness programs, including smoking-cessation classes or weight-control courses, the advantages of physical-fitness programs for all workers is being recognized across the country.
Today, an estimated 12,000 companies have some form of fitness program for employees. In 1974, a tiny 30 firms in the nation offered these programs, reports Harv Ebel, executive director of the Association for Fitness in Business.
Findings from the first national survey of health promotion activities in the workplace were released two weeks ago by the Office of Disease Prevention in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the report: 66 percent of all worksites with 50 or more employees offer some form of health promotion and activity.
Of the national sample, 22 percent provide specific exercise or fitness activities. What's more, the majority of large worksites, consisting of 750 or more employees, provide physical-fitness programs.
Offering a physical-fitness program, however, does not necessarily mean that these companies are paying for millions of dollars of expensive equipment or sophisticated machines.
``While the number of companies instituting or continuing physical-fitness programs is increasing, the majority are not building elaborate facilities,'' notes Ruth Behrens, a senior consultant with the Washington Business Group on Health.
Instead, employees are providing such alternatives as hiring an expert from the local ``Y'' to teach an exercise class in the cafeteria; organizing jogging clubs; arranging discounts for workers at a nearby health club. These are all popular options.
Although employees report the major motivation in offering these programs is improving employee health, more studies are emphasizing how health-promotion activities affect the bottom line. …