Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Corporate Wellness: Of the People, By the People, and For the People

What’s happening in corporate wellness programs right now could be characterized as something of a revolt. Well, revolt might be a little dramatic (don’t think Arab Spring), but perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that those who are the target of carrot/stick employee wellness strategies are pushing back.

They’re pushing back on what has been conventional wisdom for a while: that health-risk assessments and biometric screenings are central (dare I say foundational?) to a sound, data-driven corporate wellness initiative. Employees are pushing back on penalties for not playing, and they’re pushing back on programs that brand failure for anyone who doesn’t achieve arbitrarily selected thresholds for biometric markers. They’re growing intolerant of workplace cultural norms that scream hypocrisy in the face of company wellness policies.  

As someone involved in the world of corporate health, you’d think I would land squarely on the side of gathering the data and using it to capture ROI. But I don’t; it’s just not that black and white.

Why All the Numbers All of the Time?

What I’m seeing in the industry is that corporate wellness providers bow to the number-focus of the CFO or the CEO and communicate in ROI-speak that uses words and phrases like engagement and human capital. To the untrained eye, you’d think “engagement” and “human capital” would have something to do with…well, humans. But it turns out, most of the time they have more to do with participation quotas, biometric thresholds, and productivity benchmarks than with the actual people who need tools, resources, and support to make healthier choices.

Wellness vendors position and market themselves by spouting figures and “facts” (and I use that word loosely), quoting studies and experts (should I use that word loosely, too?). They put into print ridiculous statistics that have ridiculous consequences—all in the name of numbers, data, and ROI.

Raise Your Hand If You Launched a Career in Corporate Wellness to Calculate ROI.

Accountants are passionate about numbers. Fitness specialists are passionate about people. Seriously, most of us got into this business because we were passionate about forming relationships with people so that they would trust we had their best interest in mind when we suggested resources that would help them make healthier choices. As an industry, we’ve largely forgotten our roots, which grew from wanting to help people.

So who’s to blame? Maybe this isn’t the CEO’s fault; maybe it’s just the way of the world. Maybe it’s the almighty dollar we should be blaming. (I predict a comment that blames the government.) Who knows, maybe it’s my fault. I don’t know where the blame goes, but I don’t think it really matters at this point. We’ve simply swung the pendulum too far onto the numbers side of the equation and we forgot about the people.

You know, the people—the individuals who have complicated, busy, overwhelming and typically unhealthy lives. Like the 56-year-old woman with high blood pressure and back pain who is raising her grandchildren and who has no time to take care of herself. Or the single working parent who works by day, goes to school by night, and who is doing everything he can to ensure his daughter has a better life. He struggles to find time to grocery shop, not to mention cook a meal. And then there’s the hourly call center employee who feels hovered-over by her supervisor, who smokes (though she wants to quit but isn’t sure where to start), and who is pregnant with her first child.

These Employees Need Our Help.

They need a relationship with a wellness professional who cares more about the individual accomplishments of the few than the participation quota of the company. They need someone to stand up and say, “I care about you, and I am here to listen to you, to help you find the tools and resources you need. I’m here to help you celebrate your successes and pick you up when you falter on your path to better health.”

Because at the end of the day, if we don’t move the needle on the health of the individuals, then the corporate strategy means nothing. If the only behavior we incentivize is for people to go get their wellness forms signed so they can “get cash for doing it,” we’ve missed an opportunity.

what's wrong with wellness

Topics: corporate wellness employee wellness employee health and wellness ROI data collection corporate fitness centers; return on investement businesses demanding work schedule

When Upper Management Exercises in the Corporate Fitness Center

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

workplace fitnessWe’ve all learned that exercise can play an enormous role in lowering one’s stress level and boosting a person’s mood. Supervisors in the workforce are no different—regular exercise has been shown to help those in management roles more effectively cope with their stressors.

This article writes that, unfortunately, when supervisors become overwhelmed with workplace pressures, their direct subordinates are the ones who become victims of the supervisors’ venting, hostile behavior, or negative comments. Therefore, regular exercise routines can not only enhance the physical and mental health of the supervisors, but also the wellbeing of the employees working for them.

Another reason why supervisors, especially those in a company’s upper management, should exercise is to lead by example. When you talk to an average new employee about exercising at the worksite, one of their fears is that their boss might view them as slacking off or just looking for ways to get out of work. When supervisors make exercising in their corporate fitness centers a priority, it shows to their subordinates that taking time for one’s own health is important and acceptable, provided that work duties and deadlines are still being met.

On a larger scale, when upper management, including CEOs and vice presidents, make fitness a priority, it sets a healthy climate for the entire company.

If you are a supervisor of even one individual, consider how your healthy—or unhealthy—choices can impact those around you. Set the standard in your work environment by becoming a leader in health.

Topics: stress corporate fitness centers productivity businesses corporate rewards Fitness Center health culture

The Organizational “Body”: Improved Employee Health

This blog was written by Bethany Garrity. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

leadership, corporate wellness, worksite wellnessWhen was the last time you did an organizational health checkup? If your organization were one body, what would its state of health be? How would you read its vital signs? Permit me this analogy for a moment: The CEO is the head, the brain, the vision. Your employees are the rest of the body: limbs, skin, muscles, organs, and senses.

Brain directs and body makes it go.

Your organizational body is only as effective, healthy, and vital as its weakest part. If some parts are ailing or unfit, all are affected. From hangnails to heart attacks, the effects can be minor or devastating, but they cannot be denied.

What are you doing to help your corporate body stay healthy and fit in every part?

Usually there are two reasons your employee body may not prioritize a health-preserving/enhancing lifestyle choice. Either they just don't know how, or there's an obstacle.

Ignorance can be overcome by education―a connection with a knowledgeable staff member at your corporate fitness center, for example. And most often, an early encouraging outcome will spur your worker into action toward greater goals.

Obstacles can be many, and some of those are well beyond the organization. But with employees spending more than half of their waking hours at work, the employer has a prime opportunity to effect healthy change for its employees. 

Support is mission-critical. At the right place and time, it makes all the difference.

Topics: corporate wellness employee health corporate fitness control healthcare costs productivity businesses

Office Exercise: Good for Employee Health and Good for the Company

This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

take the stairs resized 600With more and more studies indicating just how dangerous to health sitting at a desk can be, incorporating small bouts of physical activity throughout the workday is as important as ever.

For the employee, taking breaks stimulates both the mind and body, combats stress, and helps ward off the monotony that can permeate a workday. In turn, the company is rewarded with healthy workers who earn and save them money through increased productivity and reduced health care costs!

Take a look at some of the following suggestions for quick ways to add exercise in the office:


  • Walk at any opportunity. Take the stairs, visit a coworker, or go for a walk on a lunch break.
  • Instead of a desk chair, try a stability ball! Your core and posture will thank you.
  • Perform short bouts of stationary movement (jumping jacks, marches, jump-rope simulation, lunges, etc.).


  • Stand at any opportunity. Pace while on a phone call. If your company provides workstations that allow employees to stand or even walk on a treadmill while working, take advantage!
  • Think about how you can turn your office into your own mini-gym. Perform chair squats and desk presses (similar to a push-up, with hands on the edge of the desk), chair triceps dips, and shoulder and arm exercises (shoulder presses, bicep curls) with anything heavy.  


  • Without even having to move from the chair, stretch and take some deep breaths to relieve tension. Focus on all major muscle groups.
  • Contract, hold, and relax different muscle groups, such as the abdominals and glutes.

Which of these exercises would mesh best with your schedule?  

Topics: exercise at work employee health businesses exercies at your desk