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Author: Andy Goldstein, NASBA Electronic Media Specialist and Webmaster
Posted: January 11, 2012

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States during the past 20 years, and rates remain high. About one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents from the ages of 2 to 19 are obese. The CDC also stated that in 2010, no state had an obesity level of less than 20 percent, with 36 states indicating levels above 25 percent.

It's frightening statistics like these that drive many people to make New Year's resolutions to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles. There are many ways to start this journey, but you may be surprised that the biggest ally to turn your resolution into reality this year may be your employer.

Corporate wellness programs are part of a growing trend to fight not only obesity in the U.S., but the skyrocketing cost of medical care and insurance premiums. According to an article from the "American Institute for Preventative Medicine," 91 percent of organizations now have some type of health promotion program in place, versus only 78 percent a decade ago.

Statistics have routinely shown that employers who utilize corporate wellness programs have decreased absenteeism, reduced health care expenses and increased productivity among employees. Even beer companies are reaping the benefits! Coors Brewing Company's wellness statistics show an average company medical insurance savings of $5.50 per $1 spent on fitness facilities and equipment. It also reports an 18 percent drop in absenteeism for employees participating in its corporate wellness program.

In 2010, NASBA launched its "Healthy 4 Life" initiative, a three-month contest designed to promote better health and wellness practices among employees. Individuals were grouped into teams and given guidelines and fitness and dietary goals to meet. Participation was not required, but strongly encouraged – and NASBA boasted a whopping 91 percent participation among employees! An overwhelming factor NASBA attributes to this high percentage is the level of support its executive team offered in the creation of the program.

"The wellness program not only raised awareness about healthier lifestyles but provided opportunities to achieve personal growth," said Michael Bryant, NASBA Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. "Many employees, with the support of their H4L teams, used this opportunity to commit to achieve a long-held goal (including creative activities and spiritual interests). This fostered improved relationships across the organization and confidence in team capabilities to make changes together."

Since the conclusion of the H4L contest, NASBA has maintained its commitment to employee health and wellness. From monthly fitness point contests/drawings to Lunch ‘n Learns from health educators, NASBA offers and rewards employees who commit to getting and staying healthy.

So, what are companies committing to in 2012 to help ensure employee health? According to its 2012 trend report on corporate wellness, the Spencer Institute expects an increase in:

  • Employee committees focused on wellness issues
  • Group wellness coaching in corporate settings
  • Wellness education within companies
  • Specialization for coaches in the corporate wellness world
  • Focus on finding unique ways to fund corporate wellness programs and drive higher engagement with visible support and rewards for participation

Creating and implementing a wellness program, however, does not always mean an expensive investment for the company. Little changes can go a long way. For example, replacing chips and candy in vending machines in favor of fresh fruits and vegetables in the break room, or offering on-site flu and B-12 shots are both cost-effective ways for companies to take major strides in improving the health of its employees.

A good wellness program does, however, require solid planning and incentive. One of the most important facets of a successful wellness program is maintaining ongoing knowledge about safety and wellness techniques. Many times, companies can find organizations to provide these resources at little-to-no-cost; however, it does take organization from the company's perspective to research and cultivate the relationship with these organizations. Additionally, rewards programs are also gaining popularity as companies incentivize its employees with prizes or other benefits to quit using tobacco, eat healthier meals or complete a certain amount of cardiovascular exercise per week. As with the Coors Brewing Company example above, companies are seeing these investments pay off big time when it comes to the bottom line.

It's no surprise then that comprehensive health promotion programming at the worksite is predicted as the 12th most popular fitness trend in 2012 (according to a worldwide survey by the American College of Sports Medicine). If you would like to be part of this growing trend and want to know more, is a great resource for more information about starting a corporate wellness program, benefits, implementation, evaluating success and more. Just download its "Guide to Worksite Wellness Programs" and you're ready to tackle 2012 and make a difference in your organization!

"U.S. Obesity Trends" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 06/21/11
"Characteristics of Successfull Wellness Programs" American Institute for Preventive Medicine, Don R. Powell 01/09/12
"The Spencer Institute Offers 2012 Trend Report on Corporate Wellness" Spencer Institute 01/02/12
"Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2012" Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., ACSM Health & Fitness Journal 12/16/11 "Workplace Wellness: Healthy Workforce Equals Healthy Business" GSerrano 03/06/09
"Benefits of Implementing a Workplace Wellness Program" Natural Healthcare Canada 01/10/12

Other Suggested Reading

Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2012

Why Some Companies Pay Employees To Get Fit

Working For Wellness