Evidence from the experts

Evidence and research

If you had any doubts, there's a multitude of research papers regarding the affect of physical fitness on workplace health, employee productivity, bottom-line costs and overall benefits.

Almost to a tee they all clearly connect improved physical health and fitness of those employees who have access to a fitness program to increased job satisfaction and commitment, improved productivity, less absenteeism (sick days), less presenteeism, greater efficiency, improved cognition, greater memory retention and problem-solving skills, more self-confidence and social connection, significant mental health benefits including psycho-social well-being and stress improvements, plus increased ability to attract and retain talent, all with a positive ROI.

One study summed it up perfectly:

“As such, in every possible way, employee physical fitness programs can enhance an individual as well as reduce the extra expenditures undertaken by the organization in managing ill health and lower productivity at work” (Wattles and Harris)

And now, it’s extremely easy and inexpensive to implement a fitness platform for your employees, with The Fit and Wellness Hub. Let’s take a look at the evidence and how we can help your workplace…

Physical Health reduces Absenteeism

Sick leave is a direct cost to a company, that’s a fact.

The Australian Government estimated the average cost at $350 per day, and depending on the individual job and industry, it can be a lot higher.

The truth is, physically inactive employees are more likely to require sick leave, which directly increases healthcare expenditures for businesses.

One of many examples is research by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which shows that employees who get at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week miss an average of 4.1 fewer days of work per year.

At $350 per day, that’s a significant direct cost to business.They found In total, physical inactivity was responsible for 11.1% of all healthcare expenditures, representing a significant cost for businesses and health alike.
Moreover, Christie et al. (2010) explained that obesity could predict sick leave in the long term, so less obesity by means of more physical activity can minimize sick leave. Pronk and Kottke (2009) stated that vigorous physical activity positively impacts sick leave. Hutchinson and Wilson (2011) mentioned that improved physical activity can result in decreased sick leave rates.

A Medibank Private report concluded that employees with poor overall health status take up to nine times more sick leave than their healthy colleagues. And a study by Jacobson and Aldana (2001) revealed a significant relation between weekly exercise days and annual absenteeism with lower exercise rates being associated with higher rates of annual absenteeism. Moreover, it appeared that non-exercisers were more likely to be absent for more than 7 days when compared to those exercising at least once per week.

If we can help to reduce sick leave by just one day per year for employees who use the Fit and Wellness Hub, the savings to your company will be significant.

Physical Health reduces Presenteeism

Presenteeism refers to being physically present at work, regardless of weak health level and thus performing below par (Brown et al., 2011). It is a relatively new concept, which quantifies how the current health conditions of employees can limit their work performance, and shows it has a negative impact on organizational productivity as well (Ackland et al., 2005).

One current investigation demonstrated that losses for presentism in workplaces were between 1.9 to 5.1 times higher than the incurred costs from absenteeism. And the fact that related costs to presentism were more than those direct costs of health in many cases because of the decline in productivity (Brown et al., 2011).

The bottom line is clear - the productivity of your workforce is dramatically affected by it’s physical health. Any improvement in physical fitness can add substantial value and cost savings.

Physical Health increases job satisfaction

When companies demonstrate a genuine concern for the well-being of their employees, they feel valued and appreciated, leading to higher job satisfaction, increased ability to attract talent, and increased retention rates.

On study that dissected multiple other studies said: All of the reviews systematically demonstrate that the initiatives of health promotion in the workplace that attempt to improve fitness and physical activity result in more employee commitment and finally improve job satisfaction (Barr-Anderson et al., 2011).

Another found: Based on the achieved outcomes, implementing both activities of physical fitness and health programs will improve work context in many different ways, such as increasing job satisfaction, more employee commitment and less job stress of employees (Ackland et al., 2005).

That goes towards becoming an ‘Employer of Choice’...

Physical Fitness programs help to Attract and Retain Staff

A recent report "What Workers Want: The Future of Work" by PWC, revealed that 22% of employees value support of their wellbeing over ALL other factors. It is their 2nd highest priority behind pay.

So not only does creating a culture of health in the workplace improve “the bottom line,” by encouraging and supporting healthy behaviors like physical activity you help attract and retain high quality employees.  By attracting high quality employees and helping those employees remain healthy and productive, physical activity programs can yield a wide range of significant business benefits.

A Virgin Pulse and Workforce study of 361 companies and 3,822 employees found nearly 90% of employees consider health and wellness paramount, and are happier at a company that promotes a healthy work culture.

Over 88% of surveyed employees claimed access to wellness programs weigh heavily in their decision to join and remain at a company.

The Health and Productivity Institute of Australia (HAPIA) found organizations that don’t promote health and wellness are four times more likely to lose talent in the next 12 months. The Australian Government’s Comcare Benefits to Business: The Evidence for Investing in Worker Health and Wellbeing report found that when employee health and wellness is managed well, the percentage of engaged employees increases from 7% to 55%. This research also found self-reported creativity and innovation increases from 20% to 72%.

Demonstrating a sense of corporate social responsibility can improve your organisation’s image with the public, help to attract the best talent, and then retain that talent through becoming a company that people want to work at.

Physical Health helps Mental Health

There are mulitple studies proving the connection between physical exercise and mental health.

Literature review demonstrated that 27% of individuals who have depression have serious issues in both the home and work life and within 3 months, they will lose an average of 4.8 working days and suffer 11.5 reduced productivity days (CDC, 2011).

Some studies revealed that physical activity is related to a minimized risk of developing clinical depression (Bingham, 2009). Such conclusions are supported by a review in 2007, which revealed that exercise protects people against depression and it is an adjunctive and effective intervention to treat depression from mild to moderate levels (Donaghy, 2007).

Based on previous studies, the necessity of physical fitness to productivity and company performance can be investigated based on increased job performance and productivity, return on investment/cost effectiveness, decrease in presentism/absenteeism, sick leave, turnover, compensation of workers and disability.

A comprehensive analytical study revealed that weekly interventions of moderate-to high-intensity exercises for 90 min significantly alleviated psychiatric symptoms. Donaghy (2007) reviewed 11 prospective longitudinal studies and revealed that exercise training is an effective intervention strategy to mitigate depression. In addition, exercise is a complementary treatment strategy for mild and moderate depression and can serve as a nonpharmacological treatment method to enhance cognitive functioning.

Most studies have supported that exercise training enhances cognitive function and alleviates depressive psychiatric symptoms. (Yu-Chi Kuo, Dan-Yan Chang, Yui-Hung Liao, 2021) An article in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2023) from the above authors said exercise improves the individual's competence to manage daily stress without using substances. It can also serve as a healthy substitute behavior that maintains individuals' temperament, character, and self-control by regularly shifting their attention to pleasurable physical and mental habits.

Furthermore, exercise-induced satisfaction of the individuals' three basic needs becomes appealing to them, i.e., autonomy (the need to organize their behavior as they choose and regulate their actions), adequacy (the need to feel effective in what they strive for), and social relationships (the desire for relationships with others, care, and coexistence). This satisfaction acts as a reward that strongly activates the midbrain DA system.

The study concluded: It is clear that employees with mental health issues benefit from physical exercise programs if they are given the appropriate opportunity to participate in physical exercise. They receive satisfaction from exercise, adopt healthy behaviors, and are accompanied by the subsequent activation of internal mechanisms that mobilize and motivate individuals to exercise more often. This eventually contributes to an active everyday life with rewarding benefits to their physical and mental health.

We know physical health affects health, and vica-versa. If you can improve the physical health side of your workforce, it can go a long way towards reducing mental health and associated costs.

Physical Fitness improves Productivity and Job Performance

Fitness promotes job performance. Some examples:

The Medibank Private report The health of Australia’s Workforce revealed the healthiest employees are almost three times more effective than the least healthy, with the healthiest employees working approximately 143 effective hours per month compared to 49 effective hours per month by the least healthy.

A topical example is a study of commercial real estate brokers, who participated in an aerobics training program (walking and/or running three times a week, for 12 weeks). Those that participated earned greater sales commissions during and after the training program than brokers who did not participate.

Workers from a hospital equipment firm who participated in a similar aerobics training program (walking, running, swimming and bicycling four times a week, for 24 weeks), enjoyed greater productivity and job satisfaction than workers who did not participate in the fitness program. The study concluded that participating in fitness programs creates greater sales and productivity and it causes job satisfaction among the workers. (Shephard 1999)

Findings from Mills et al (2007) indicate that applying health promotion for the physical fitness and performance of the firm purpose of increasing the fitness level of participators makes distinct differences in productivity and health risks. As such, a fitness program has positive effect on work performance and productivity.

Physical activity has significant influence on mental performance. Information processing in active people is faster than inactive people. Lupinacci et al (2016)

Fitness has a direct effect on the work performance, productivity, job satisfaction and absenteeism. (Wattles and Harris 1997)

This study by Pelletier et al. (2004) calculated that employers who have health programs reduce absenteeism, improve presenteeism and increase productivity.

Der Karabetian et al suggested that every company should focus on employee fitness, since it reduces absenteeism and increases employee productivity.

Trost et al. 2002  showed that physical activity in the workplace increased employee performance and self-esteem, goal setting and self-efficacy, while (Conn et al. 2009) showed that stress was significantly lower and job satisfaction increased after physical activity, and (Ackland et al. 2005) showed that physical activity program increased job satisfaction, improved the work commitment of employees and reduced job stress.

There’s no doubt - fitness promotes job performance and satisfaction, and that's why you should promote it within your workforce.

Physical Health with a Positive ROI

When we consider costs of sick leave, absenteeism, injuries, disability and health care, it is obvious that physical inactivity is an influence on obesity of employees and can be a critical driver of costs in the work context (Anderson et al., 2009).

One mixed-method research demonstrated that implementing physical activity, workplace health and fitness initiatives has many economic benefits for the organization such as cost improvements to benefit ratio (Ackland et al., 2005). Another study demonstrated that there is $1.59 USD return for each dollar invested in physical activity programs in the workplace, and cost effectiveness in three separate studies varied from a cost benefit of $1.44 to $4.16 USD for each pound of body weight loss (just under half a kilo)(Anderson et al., 2009).

A study by Dr Pronk from Harvard School of Public Health showed one company, TURCK, was able to show their physical fitness program linked to about eight percent profit from operations, Pronk said, adding, “that’s a huge impact for this company.” Among other things, TURCK has an employee turnover rate of about one percent in an industry where the average turnover is about 13 percent, Dr Pronk said.

A study of General Motors employees found that moderately active (exercising 1 to 2 times per week) and very active (exercising 3+ times per week) employees had approximately $250 lower annual paid health care costs than inactive employees, regardless of weight or BMI. When the researchers examined the obese subpopulation specifically, the savings rose to $450. The researchers determined that up to 1.5% of total health care costs could be saved if all obese sedentary employees became physically active.

An analysis of O’Neal Industries, a collection of family-owned metal service centers headquartered in Birmingham, AL found that after 3 years of introducing an employee health and fitness program, over 400 of their 3,000 employees had initiated or improved their exercise levels, contributing to an overall net cost savings of $556,100 for the business and producing a return on investment of $1.52 for every dollar spent on health care alone.                        

After AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company began its WellBody Program for employees, the high levels of physical activity contributed to an overall health risk reduction of 9 percent, and an estimated return on investment of $1.70 for every dollar spent.

DHS's 2016 Absence Management Survey found that on average employees took nine sick days per annum, and that the total cost per employee was roughly $3,608. For highly paid employees or those essential to the functioning of your business, this figure could be considerably higher.

The Integrated Benefits Institute found illness-related absences which led to "lost productivity" totaled almost 1.5 billion days annually for all employees, the study found, and cost employers $3,900 per employee.

For instance, one meta-evaluation by The Health & Productivity Institute of Australia (HAPIA) looked at the economic return of worksite health promotion programs. They found on average these programs:

- decrease sick leave absenteeism by 25.3%
- decrease workers compensation costs by 40.7%
- decrease disability management costs by 24.2%; and
- save $5.81 for every $1 invested in employee health and wellbeing

A scientific review of 28 studies that examined physical activity in the workplace found that comprehensive, multicomponent worksite health promotion programs with physical activity components result in positive effects, including significant improvements in health outcomes, reduced absenteeism, reductions in sick leave, and positive returns on investments.

In other words, implementing a focus on physical health doesn't cost you money, it saves you money!

The last word...

And finally, let's leave it to Ackland et al., to summarize from their comprehensive study of previous investigations, which demonstrated that "implementing physical activity initiatives and workplace health programs could lead to improved outcomes of human resource and in developing a positive corporate image.

Such results can empower total performance in the workplace such as improved motivation, more loyalty and enhanced employee morale, better recruitment, good working atmosphere, improved teamwork and communication and finally retention of qualified employees. In general, relevant studies explain that staffs can benefit in different ways by creating opportunities for activities of physical fitness at the workplace".

Contact us today to find out how easy it is to implement a world-class fitness platform to your employees, and start reaping the benefits immediately!