Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

What If: We Did Corporate Wellness FOR Our Employees, Not TO Them?

Throughout 2015, we’ll be blogging about our dreams for corporate wellness, fitness, and aging well. Some of the content will represent a gentle “poking fun” at the industry, but it’s all written to stimulate thought about what really could be if we put our heads together and started mapping out what’s possible in the realm of individual wellbeing. We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about what to write about, or by finding us on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

There is a growing swell of chatter online these days about where corporate wellness is headed. Outcomes-based programs seem to be the flavor of the day regardless of the profound lack of data about their effectiveness. Similarly, the battle of numbers continues between those who promote data about the effectiveness of wellness that is, at best, questionable, and those who strongly object to that potentially flawed data.

Underneath all of the banter is a concept, originally put forward by Al Lewis in his book, Cracking Health Care Costs, that wellness should be something done FOR employees, not TO them. I’m not going to be coy about this—we sit squarely on the side of doing wellness FOR employees. What follows are (1) my observations about common corporate wellness program elements done TO employees, along with (2) what if ideas that speak to our continued quest toward wellness that is FOR employees.

Health Risk Assessments

I have never been a fan of the much-praised Health Risk Assessment (HRA) for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the survey tool is one of many done TO the employee. There is very little personal and intrinsic value for the employee when he fills out an intrusive online survey. Sure, employers tack on financial incentives for the employee who follows their rules—and sometimes the incentive is substantial. But there isn’t really any answer for the employee’s question, “How will this help me change my health?” because an online survey (and the results) don’t move any health needle for any sustained amount of time.

What’s worse is that in some cases, flawed HRA recommendations are pointing employees toward unnecessary follow-up medical care that is in direct conflict with U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations. And let’s not discount the harmful effects of employers hacking off their employees by doing what feels like invasive questioning about personal issues, only to leave employees with yet another reminder about their likely substandard health.

Does an employer really need aggregate HRA data to learn that their employees are representative of the adult U.S. population with high rates of overweight and obesity, risk for diabetes, and heart disease, and lack of physical activity? How much did it cost the employer to administer an HRA that provided an employee health profile that was already understood?

Biometric Screenings

And then there’s the bloodletting (oops, I mean screenings). I won’t belabor the issue here because the challenges with finger stick/venipuncture screenings are much the same as what I outlined with the HRA above. When was the last time employees walked away from their screening session feeling enhanced loyalty to the employer—as if the employer was genuinely interested in their health and had their back on taking whatever steps were necessary to improve their health? (If you have that warm-and-fuzzy story, I’d love to hear it.)

The Carrot (or the Stick, Depending on Your Perspective)

carrotstick

Incentives come in carrot and stick varieties, and really, it’s just two sides of the same coin. Whether the employer is offering an incentive or a disincentive is a matter of which side of the message you’re standing on. Frankly, there is little evidence to indicate that financially prodding employees leads to any sustained behavior change. But you don’t have to take my word on this; check out this joint position paper published as a partnership among the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association. And yet, employers put piles of cash into these financial offerings.

All of these tools—if truly helpful to the employer such that they must stay in the corporate wellness toolkit—could be repackaged so as to be an actual benefit to the employee. The employer would need to send a message that clearly indicated a desire to help the individual employee improve his health, and then they would need to back that up by putting their money, policies, environment, and productivity expectations where their mouth is.

The Alternatives

In my opinion, the current wellness program pillars outlined above are flawed—very flawed. So how do we get back to this idea that wellness should be done FOR employees, not TO them? Our staff, largely practitioners through managing corporate fitness centers, took a moment to dream about the possibilities for shifting the current wellness paradigm to one that might actually support and inspire individual health. Here are some of our what ifs:

  • What if the five-minute walk break throughout the day was supported, encouraged, team-driven, even required? We’ve been beaten about the head with the research that shows the harmful effects of sitting. But now, new research from Indiana University has demonstrated that walking as little as five minutes on three different occasions during a three-hour sitting period can reverse some of the harmful effects of prolonged sitting.
  • What if there were no unhealthy options available in your vending machine or cafeteria? Is this the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction? Most of the clients we work with have shifted to healthful subsidized options with unhealthy choices at full cost. I can’t think of a client who has made a 100% change in their worksite food/snack option, though.
  • What if management at ALL levels in the organization supported employees working out during the day? There are a lot of corporate policies that keep employees in their seats, and even for those with more flexible schedules, there is a pervasive management message that work comes first and there is not time for a workout, a walk, a mental health break, etc.
  • What if paid-time-off policies provided bonus time off based on the number of minutes an employee spends exercising in the company fitness center? In a similar vein, what if employees who choose to spend their 30-minute lunch break exercising could be given another 30 minutes to still eat lunch, away from their desk? (Gasp…compensated workout time!)

None of these ideas is a complete pie-in-the-sky kind of concept. And just like outcomes-based wellness programs, none of these ideas has been tested for long-term effectiveness (or harm), validated, or assigned an ROI that means anything. They do, however, require a shift in workplace policy, and they require fresh thinking about how organizational wellness money is allocated. These what ifs fit squarely into the “doing FOR employees” camp, and I’m sure there are many more ideas like this out there. Comment below on your own “FOR employees” what ifs or share your successes with these and other ideas. 

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Topics: corporate wellness employee health corporate fitness employee wellness exercise in the workplace corporate wellness success what if

NIFS: How a simple squat challenge helped corporate fitness metrics

squat_challengeWhen our members talk, we listen.  Sometimes we get good old fashioned direct, face-to-face feedback about what’s working and what isn’t, and sometimes they tell us what’s working by their participation.  Such was the case with a recent squat challenge we ran at one of our corporate sites.  In fact, the simple challenge was so effective, we’ve proceeded to design more programming around the same concept. 

Here’s a little of the history and data on the original corporate fitness center program:

The 30 Day Squat Challenge was designed to help our members get up from their desks and choose to be active during the long and busy work days in August.  The challenge ran the duration of August and we established a set number of daily squats the participants needed to complete, with every third day being a rest day. The participants could do the squats where ever they wanted (though we love when they come to the fitness center to do them) and they had all day to complete them, but they had to log their efforts at the Wellness Center.

On the first day of the challenge, the expectation was for participants to complete 50 squats, and by the end of the challenge, successful participants completed 250 squats!  We would never advocate performing 250 squats in a row (or even 50 in a row, for that matter), so allowing participants all day to complete the squats was a must.

I loved hearing the stories about when and where participants were squatting and who they were convincing to participate with them. A lot of members got their kids and spouses involved, making it a family affair. We had a bulletin board in the fitness center with squat variations and modifications for members to follow and we integrated the squats into our group fitness classes to keep the participants motivated.  It was really fun seeing everyone squatting in the fitness center; it really turned out to be a group effort.

When we mapped out this program, we set three goals we hoped to achieve by running the Squat Challenge:

  1. We wanted to increase visits to the fitness center by three percent compared to August 2013.  This is a tough month for us to draw our members in because many of the employees are sneaking in final summer vacation time before their kids head off to school.
  2. For those members who participated in the challenge, we wanted them to increase their total time spent being active through the day by 10 minutes each day.  We know how important even short, 10 minute bouts of physical activity can be for an individual’s health and we wanted to see if this program provided a means of stimulating more movement in our employee population.
  3. Finally, we set a goal to achieve a 50% completion rate.  We’re constantly trying to determine what’s most effective at helping our members stick with a program, and we hoped to learn a little more about how small exercise goals might influence success rates.

The Squat Challenge was very successful with 50% completion rate.  We also met our fitness center visit goal (increased by three percent) for August, 2014, and half of the program participants reported that that increased their total active minutes per day by at least 10 minutes.  On top of the great numbers we also fielded some positive feedback.  One member said, “Loved this Challenge!  [It] made my legs so much stronger, [I] love when you can honestly feel results in a short amount of time.”  Another program participant said, “I started Roller Derby and if I hadn't done the squat challenge, I seriously would not have made it thru the 1st practice. So thank you Squat Challenge!” 

Up next is an Ab Challenge.  We can’t wait to see how the members do and what we can achieve for participation and completion goals. 

If you’d like to learn more about NIFS best in class programming for corporate fitness centers, sign up for our best practice series. 

NIFS Best Practices Corporate

 

 

Topics: corporate fitness fitness programming

Corporate Fitness: How to make fitness fun with pumpkins

anna_cherelle

We are always looking for ways to keep workouts fresh and members engaged. Holidays are a great time to play off of the holiday theme and create unique workouts. Although some may think of them as cheesy, once they get into the workout they realize we haven’t forgotten what they came for – a challenge! Each year around Halloween we plan a pumpkin workout for our corporate fitness members. Why pumpkins? They are everywhere this time of year; why not include them in a workout? The pumpkins act as weights and props. They are less expensive than most gym equipment and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, allowing for a variety of fitness levels to participate.

Around this time each year we start brainstorming how/when we will do our annual pumpkin workout. Once a date and time are picked, we send out a registration link to our members as a “special invitation” to join us. The link also helps us keep track of how many people we will have participating, so we know how many pumpkins to purchase. Through word of mouth, a few flyers, and emails, we’ll typically have a group of 20-30 people!

Planning the workout is where our creativity is put to the test. We try to incorporate the pumpkin as much as possible while making sure the exercises are safe and effective. A few things to consider:

  1. Weight - Each of the pumpkins will be a different weight, so make sure the exercises can be performed with a variety of weights. (Medicine or Dynamax ball are good to have on hand for a quick swap when the pumpkin is not the appropriate weight.)
  2. Shape - All of the pumpkins will have a different shape (some round, some more oval). Take this into consideration when incorporating certain exercises.  

cherelleThere are endless exercises that can be performed with the pumpkin. Start by thinking of go-to exercises that you would incorporate into one of your group fitness classes (pushups, squats, lunges, etc.). Now, think about how a “weight” or pumpkin can be added. For example, hold the pumpkin at your chest while performing a squat, put one hand on the pumpkin for an added challenge during a set of pushups, or push the pumpkin overhead after performing a lunge. Structure your workout so every major muscle group is targeted by the end. Also, throw in some cardio bursts, such as running with the pumpkin, bear crawling while rolling the pumpkin along at your side, or performing mountain climbers with your hands grasping the pumpkin. Add some core exercises as well (planks with a pumpkin roll, Russian twists, sit-up with a press, single leg v-ups).  Think about the amount of space that you have and plan accordingly.

AnnaSo, now you’ve secured participants and planned the exercises; don’t forget about one of the most important parts – pumpkin preparation! In the past, we’ve purchased our pumpkins a few different ways. A visit to the local supermarket allowed us to hand-pick the pumpkins sizes, but you’ll need some muscle power and a large car.  We’ve also gotten our pumpkins from a distributor – this proved to require less hassle as the pumpkins were delivered right to our door, but also resulted in less variety in sizes.

Depending on the condition of your pumpkins, they may need a quick cleaning to remove dirt and in most cases will need their stems cut so that no sharp edges remain.  A basic saw or knife works well for this – just don’t wait until the last minute to make sure your pumpkins are ready to go! We advertise that pumpkin selection for the participants is first come, first served, but as mentioned above, we have extra medicine balls on hand if someone needs to switch out. 

Now, you’re ready to give your participants a SPOOK-tacular experience with a souvenir pumpkin to remember it by! Looking for other ways to make fitness festive this October?  Check out NIFS Fitness Management's Best Practice: SKELETONE!

NIFS Best Practices Corporate

Topics: employee health corporate fitness

Corporate Fitness: 5 Tips for Staying Motivated

couple_working_outWe all know that exercising is good for us.  It keeps us full of energy, lowers our risk for disease and helps us look our best.  For some people, these reasons alone are enough to keep them going and motivated to stay on track with their fitness goals.  On the other hand, we all know somebody who struggles to stay motivated enough to adhere to, or even begin a fitness regimen.  Maybe this person is a family member, a friend, a co-worker or even yourself!  Whatever the case may be, I am here to offer five tips that can help even the most unmotivated individual get going. 

Change your Perspective!

Look at your time exercising as your time away from all other distractions.  This is a time that you have set aside for your own personal gain and shouldn’t be spent stressing or worrying about daily issues!  Allow this time be a highlight of your day and use different means to find something that works for you!

Use Your Pets

One of the easiest ways to stay motivated to get some extra activity in is to use your dog!  They will always be a friendly reminder of when nature calls and this can be a cue for you to get up and take a walk around the neighborhood.  This is a great way to get going and enjoy time with your pet while keeping the intensity low and being able to enjoy the outdoors.

Grab a Buddy

Sometimes all you need is that little nudge to get you going.  Get with a friend or co-worker to help keep you honest and agree on a weekly exercise schedule and hold each other accountable!  Support each other on walks or jogs, play a sport or game, or head to the corporate fitness center together to work out and encourage one another.  Work together to make it fun!

Grab Some Headphones/Find a book!

Music is a great motivational tool to finish that cardio session or to finish that last repetition.  Pick some music you can enjoy with a higher tempo you can follow along with.  Are you the type who would rather be swept up in a good story?  Pick up a couple audio books by your favorite author and make a goal to listen to so many chapters during your session.

Be an Inspiration!

Maybe you have children, family members, or friends that would also benefit from developing positive health choices and fitness routines.  Seeing you succeed and commit to a regular exercise routine could be all that a loved one needs to also make a positive change in their lives as well!  What is better than being someone else’s inspiration!

I encourage you to be a motivator, grab fellow employees and go for a walk at lunch, or head to your corporate fitness center to make today your day to live a healthier lifestyle. 

Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers

Topics: corporate fitness employee health and fitness

NIFS: Lifting weights will make you bulky... MYTH

woman lifting weight resized 600To my knowledge, I don’t think there’s ever been a survey taken regarding this issue but personally, this is one of the most frustrating things to hear as a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, fitness manager, fitness specialist…fitness ANYTHING! So let me be clear right from the beginning. Lifting weights will NOT make you bulky.

The origins of this myth may never truly be known but I think we can all agree that females (and males for that matter) generally associate lifting weights with big muscle-bound bodybuilders. Although this may be true for some, the majority of us (exercisers and non-exercisers alike) lift weights and will never look like big, bulky bodybuilders. I’d even go as far as to say that the “bulk-factor” only applies to approximately 10% of exercisers, which does not even include the non-exercisers which would bring that percentage down. There are quite a few reasons that support this theory. Here are a couple:

Time – This applies to a couple aspects of life. First of all, do you realize the amount of time these muscle-bound men are putting in at the gym? We’re talking two+ hours in the morning and two+ hours in the evening…at a minimum! Most likely they may be getting in an afternoon session as well. Possibly even a little cardio at some point in the day. And to be specific, each two+ hour session is most likely focused on one muscle (i.e. chest day, leg day, arm day, etc.). Chances are you are working out one hour per day at most and doing a full body workout. There is not a chance you will get bulky exercising in this fashion.

Diet – This is the second aspect of time consumption. The planning that goes into each and every meal throughout the day and throughout the week is staggering. 6 meals a day; no cheat meals; getting a well-balanced diet throughout each day (i.e. getting enough protein, natural vitamins, water, etc.); and staying on schedule with each meal and/or snack. This takes A LOT of time. But it’s for good reason. A great workout plan is not much without a clean diet. These big guys need enough nutrients for their muscles to grow. They cannot have little cheats here and there…a candy bar in the afternoon for a pick-me-up, an alcoholic beverage while relaxing with friends, any sort of pastry to eat while they drive b/c they are late for work. No. They are very strict with their clean diet. Can you honestly say you are that strict with yours?

As I previously stated, these are only a couple of the reasons you will NOT get bulky simply by lifting weights. Unless you are purposefully trying to get bulky and basing your lifestyle around it, you don’t stand a chance to do so. On a positive note though, lifting weights will definitely help you target those trouble spots you’ve been trying to get rid of…the back of the arm, your lower back, your thighs. The next time you give yourself a goal of losing 10lbs, I challenge you to accomplish this feat through lifting weights, not by jumping on a treadmill for 30 min. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  Connect with your corporate wellness staff to help you get started.  They can set you up with a plan to meet your goals.

 So get out there and start lifting to NOT get bulky!

Topics: corporate fitness nifs fitness management fitness weight lifting

Corporate Fitness Program Spotlight: Club PED

Club PedAt our client sites, we’ve been offering walking initiatives for years. After all, it’s kind of the original fitness opportunity at worksites, right? They’re super-simple, generally easy access for participants, and most people can participate. For better or worse, we’ve steered clear of linking the program with pedometers, but we do get a lot of really useful self-report data from participants for the program.

The Basics of Club PED

It’s a mileage-driven walking and running program, and with some of our clients, we run this initiative annually. It’s become such a staple in our program planning that associates ask about it, wanting to be sure they don’t miss the registration.

Participants self-select into their desired weekly mileage goal: 5 miles per week, 10 miles per week, or 15 miles per week. They can complete their mileage anywhere, including walking the halls at work, in the corporate fitness center, or on vacation at the beach! The goal is to maintain their chosen goal mileage each week for the duration of the program. We allow a few “off” weeks (you know how life gets in the way), so participants must maintain a minimum of their goal mileage for 8 of the 10 weeks of the program.

We’ve witnessed participants start out lacking confidence that they can finish 5 miles per week for 12 weeks, and by the time the next year rolls around, they have a 5K or 10K under their belts with an eye toward upping their Club PED mileage goal.

The Data from Club PED

As I mentioned, we’ve been running this program for years. But in the last two years, we have seen some important jumps in participation and completion rates.

In 2012 and 2013, we averaged 59 miles per participant, which means that a typical Club PED member walked 7.4 miles per week beyond his or her normal daily activity. This represents a 34% increase over the average miles per participant for the preceding three years. Another positive trend in the last two years is our finisher rate. Our staff saw an average of 44.6% of Club PED participants successfully meet their weekly mileage goal for the duration of the program. From 2009 to 2011, we achieved a completion rate of 30%.

I know our staff are really proud of how hard their members worked to meet or exceed their mileage goals during the most recent Club PED offering, and I’m excited about the positive improvements the staff have worked hard to achieve.

The Feedback from Club PED

We get positive feedback from this program each time we run it. I don’t know if it’s our staff, the program’s simplicity, the low threshold for entry, the easy-to-use online portal, or a combination of those factors. Regardless, we’re always honored by the unsolicited compliments we receive. Here are a few examples of the ways this simple initiative has helped to improve members’ lives:

Thank you so much for the program. Because of it, I bought a Fitbit and continue to wear it daily. Can’t say I move as much as when I’ve had jobs out of the house, but I am [more] aware of my steps and take more breaks to move around.

—Dana, Ohio

 

I have been faithful to my walking, getting 4 to 5 miles per week. This Club PED program really helps me focus on my health and on keeping my blood pressure down. Staying healthy is my life change.

—Latongi, Georgia

 

To learn more about Club PED or other programming that our corporate fitness management staff can bring to your worksite, contact me.

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness program corporate fitness walking employee health and fitness data

The Alternative to Personal Training in Corporate Fitness

personal trainingLet me start by saying I’m not here to dog personal training. There is absolutely a niche for that fee-based service, and there is clearly a clientele for it. It should definitely remain an option in fitness centers.

But sometimes, there are people in corporate fitness client settings who simply cannot afford the service. And the real rub is that often, the people who can’t afford it are the ones who would benefit the most from it. If you’re a trainer, you know what I’m talking about.

If you’re charged with overseeing outcomes from your corporate fitness program, you may be pulling out your hair trying to figure out how to get more people exercising on a regular basis. Personal training could help, but again, you're stuck with that price point issue that makes the service out of reach for many.  

The research is clear: moving more is good for your health and sitting is WAY worse than we thought.  

More Personal Attention Without a Personal Trainer

But let’s face it, for someone who is new to exercise or who, for whatever reason, is intimidated by the gym, a little hand-holding from a compassionate and capable professional can go a long way toward boosting the confidence of an unsure individual. The struggle is how to create opportunities for that hand-holding that don’t cross the line into fee-based personal training.

Fortunately, we’ve landed on a service that has proven to be a major value-add both for our clients and for their employees. Personal Fitness Quest, NIFS’s alternative to personal training, was born out of our staff routinely encountering the challenge of trying to invite more members to exercise regularly as a way to improve their health, and knocking up against people who needed more than a little instruction. Here are a few snippets of success stories from the service.

Corporate Fitness Success Profiles

Joyce’s Story: In January 2011 I started working out consistently. After working out with Adrienne through my Personal Fitness Quest, I started to feel more confident. I later joined Weight Watchers and almost three years later, I’m 80 pounds lighter, off my blood pressure meds, and feeling great!

Jen’s Story: When I started my first Personal Fitness Quest, I was walking for exercise. My NIFS staff trainer whipped me into shape and in that first six weeks I lost 11 pounds and seven inches. Since then, I’ve completed two more Personal Fitness Quests with the NIFS staff as well as started other healthy behaviors. As of July 2013, I had lost 115 pounds.

Julie’s Story: In August 2012, I started my first Personal Fitness Quest with Anne. She had me do things I didn’t think I could or wouldn’t try. I complained and whined but she said I’m the only person who smiled the entire time. After a year and a half, I’ve learned a whole new way to exercise and I’m thrilled to say I’ve lost more than 60 pounds and almost 40 inches.

Learn how you can implement a personal fitness quest program at your corporate fitness center by signing up for NIFS best practice series.  

Topics: corporate fitness program corporate fitness weight loss NIFS corporate fitness centers corporate fitness managment best practices Fitness Center personal trainers CORP Programs and Services

NIFS Fitness Management: 12 Days of Wellness

December calendarThe holidays are in full swing and everyone is singing about jingling bells, and Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen,  Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blizten, and Rudolph of course.  Another reoccurring song or tradition that has become a part of our culture in various ways is the 12 Days of Christmas.  We see it on TV with 12 Days of Giveaways, our staff did 12 Days of Fitness via Instagram, and all over Facebook there have been 12 days of something or another where companies thank you for supporting them by offering contests throughout the 12 days. 

This got me thinking about how we jump on that wagon, easy enough… we are going to offer the 12 Days of Wellness.  So I set out to ask around the office, when do the 12 Days of Christmas occur?  Most people, including myself thought “around the 13th or 14th?”, 12 days out from Christmas.   Doh, I’ll just google it. Here I thought I’d engage people, because that’s what we are good at, engaging your residents in your senior living communities or your corporate wellness members and strike up a conversation.   I could have gotten the answer right away if I just Googled it. 

If you haven’t Googled it yourself, in general you would find that the 12 Days of Christmas actually begins on Christmas and carries on for 12 days ending on January 5.  If you need a more detailed explanation, I recommend you Google it for yourself as it does vary between beliefs.

Back to me jumping on the band wagon to celebrate 12 days…  Join us via our Facebook page or Twitter for the 12 Days of Wellness starting tomorrow.  As we head into the New Year and establish those dreadful resolutions, take into account more than just the typical exercise more, lose 10 pounds, eat better.  There are more aspects to your overall wellness that will help you lead a healthier life.  Subscribe to our blog, we have some new authors from our staff in 2014 along with some great programs to share with you in our NIFS Best Practices series where we will feature some of our most successful programs in both Corporate Fitness settings and Active Aging communities.

Enjoy the holiday season and our 12 Days of Wellness!

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Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness active aging nifs fitness management senior living community 12 Days of Christmas 12 Days of Wellness

Why Capturing Corporate Fitness Center ROI Is Like Spotting a Unicorn

unicornFact:

Generating reliable and accurate ROI on a corporate wellness program (I mean the whole thing--biometric screenings, absenteeism, presenteeism, HRA, wellness programming/activities, EAP, etc.) is really, really, really challenging. It requires lots of money, and lots of really smart people who’ve done that kind of work more than once or twice.

Fact:

Piecing out the impact of your corporate fitness center as a standalone element and then determining reliable and accurate ROI from that single piece of your overall strategy is, well, about as likely as spotting a unicorn.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But wait…I just saw an article on ROI for corporate fitness and that said 3:1 or 5:1 or 7:1 returns were possible. What’s with the unicorns and the impossibility of calculating ROI for corporate fitness?” It’s true that there is a continuous stream of articles about wellness ROI, and I suspect that there are business development teams for corporate wellness vendors who are armed to the gills with literature that “proves” why their service/product generates the best ROI for said client.

You see, there’s a lot of posturing in the corporate wellness market. The industry boasts some very powerful vendors--some of whom have the money and smarts to do the work required in order to generate reliable and accurate ROI. The industry also has a lot of other vendors who don’t have those tools, but who are still competing against those who do. Of this second group, there are two types: the vendor who reports ROI that is neither reliable nor accurate (unicorn anyone?), and the vendor who doesn’t report ROI.

Honestly, it’s time for employers to stop beating the ROI drum. (And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Read this article, or this one, or this one.)

ROI is hard to capture because corporate wellness is complex. There are a lot of moving parts, and to date, the industry has not been able to come together on metrics that are consistent. While this is true for most of the agreed-upon elements of a corporate wellness strategy, let’s just pull out corporate fitness to get a sense of the level of complexity we’re dealing with overall.

There are a variety of data points that can be captured for corporate fitness programs:

Membership:

Any vendor worth its salt will have some kind of prescreening process in place that, once completed, will allow the employee to join the fitness center. (Don’t just take my word for it; check out the standards provided by the American College of Sports Medicine in its Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines text.) Some vendors skip this process and everyone is instantly a member because they are employees. So the organization with this process instantly reports higher membership (100%!) than the vendor who requires a responsible process be completed prior to gaining membership.

Fitness assessments:

Field tests to assess the fitness level of a participant are highly variable and the chosen tests can sway the results depending on the population. It’s the nature of a field test; they aren’t as accurate as in the lab.

Visit data:

By now, software to track utilization is widely available at fairly minimal cost. However, if the business isn’t willing to pay for the software, fitness staff are left to track visit data with a manual tally. In either case, software or sign-in sheets, there are issues that can result in significant errors in data collection. Even if we forgive those errors or find a way to account for them, vendors count visit groups differently. “Frequent visitors” might be represented by members with at least one visit per month for vendor A, but vendor B may determine that at least one visit per week is required to achieve “frequent visitor” status.

Mixing those variables quickly creates a lot of inconsistency from one program to the next, making it exceptionally hard to compare apples to apples. Then you have other related data to consider—like gym membership subsidy and how to count employee-users of that benefit against or with your corporate fitness center users. Similarly, how do you capture the value, health benefits, and cost of employees who never step foot in the corporate fitness center but maintain their own exercise regimen at home?

So if your CFO isn’t going to sniff out ROI on your corporate wellness strategy or any of the individual elements like your worksite fitness center, what should you be looking to for data and outcomes you can believe? Rest assured, I’m not suggesting we revert back to all fluff and feel-good for employee wellness. As an alternative to traditional ROI, consider shifting your thinking toward value. To find out more about what I mean, check a two-part blog I wrote about a year ago where I outlined some ways to think about value from your corporate fitness center. You can read part one here and part two here.

If you're looking for how to build the very best corporate fitness center you can for your employees, consider our short webinar series:  The Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers.

Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers
Topics: corporate fitness corporate fitness centers corporate fitness managment ROI data collection corporate fitness centers; return on investement data

NIFS Fitness Management: Fitness Tricks and Treats

Fitness Tricks and Treats

Curious how many steps you need to take to burn off that Halloween candy?

Check out this Halloween Treat Calorie Counter

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Topics: corporate fitness nifs fitness management NIFS corporate fitness managment health and wellness