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by Julie Z. Rosenberg | March 31, 2009

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The fitness results are in - check it out!

We're kicking off the New Year, with a proprietary survey on fitness in the workplace. New beginnings, new bodies - and new excuses.

Our survey respondents seem to be a rather healthy bunch. A full 74 percent of our respondents saying they belong to a health club - and a startling 95.5 percent of of these gym-goers say that exercise improves their work performance.

Statistics agree. According to the Wellness Councils of America, worksite wellness improves morale, reduces turnover, absenteeism and disability claims and, perhaps the biggest incentive of all, helps contain healthcare costs.

Employers, however, aren't necessarily leaping onto the fitness bandwagon. Sixty-eight percent of human resource managers admit their companies do not offer corporate memberships or other discounts to nearby gyms.

Employers: the proof is out of the Vault

One guy boasts that his gym habit directly translates into his perfect attendance record saying that he's "more motivated and disciplined and less likely to get sick. I haven't called in sick at all and I have been here for almost four years." Another respondent says that when he looks for a new job, access to a health club and work hour flexibility get top priority.

Types of corporate memberships offered

Fitness benefits offered by the 32 percent of firms who do encourage company fitness vary. Many companies discount the initiation fee by 50 percent or waive it altogether. Others offer 10 to 20 percent off of membership fees or a flat stipend, and some even have gyms in the building at reduced rates.

Location, location, location

Most gymrats, at 48 percent, select their workout facility by how close it is to their home, while 31 percent opt for office proximity. Fifteen percent say they chose their gym because it has excellent facilities and three percent equally say they chose their gym due to a corporate discount or because a friend or significant other also works out there.

Work out (not so) early and often

Of our respondents, 12 percent say they work out daily, 68 percent going the recommended three to five times per week, nine percent once or twice a week and 12 percent less than once a week. (This would include those well-intentioned souls who sign up with the local gym as one of their New Year's resolutions and never return.)

~The most popular time of day for their workouts is, hands-down, after work, at 54 percent. Thirty-one percent work up a sweat before work and 15 percent go during the workd ayr. One early riser says, "I eventually arrived at the conclusion that if I wanted to work out it would have to be in the early a.m. - I'll sleep later (like when I'm dead). I get up at 5:00 to run and lift for about an hour before leaving for work at 6:45."

Inherent in working out is a desire to stay lean, mean and ultimately to perform to your best ability. Twenty-eight percent of gym enthusiasts say that working out results in an overall feeling of better health, 27 percent say it improves their self-image, 22 percent say they're more alert and 16 percent say they're more relaxed.

"Fit people work with others a lot better because they feel good and have a decent attitude," says one respondent while another hypothesizes that they "care more about themselves and therefore the quality of their work." One enthusiastic respondent says fit people pay "more attention to detail and excellence!" [Note that the exclamation point was included by the survey respondent and not added by Vault editors.]

"[The fit] don't drop dead during stressful meetings," says one proponent of fit over fat. Several respondents simply need look around the conference room to substantiate their belief that optimum health leads to success. One looks to upper management for role models: "Just looking at body types of the executive level - lots of toned muscle, no bellies, good posture," was enough to convince this respondent that fit people climb the corporate ladder, probably on one of those colorful rock-climbing walls at the gym.

Pressed for time

One respondent says his motivation comes from time constraints: "You have a reason to be more efficient at work in order to have time to workout."

Friends don't let friends skip the gym

Some statistics indicate that working out with a friend or partner keeps people on track and helps improve their attendance record. In truth, having a workout buddy is a built-in motivator, whether induced by guilt, friendly competition or simply saving face. More than a quarter of respondents say people in their office work out together either in pairs or groups, ensuring that they'll feel guilty or embarrassed if they bail at the last minute.

~As for non-gym-goers, 37.5 percent say that they do exercise, just not in a gym (we believe you, really), 21 percent say membership is too expensive and 33 percent report they're just too darn busy to fit in fitness. And in light of how much society and media try to sell them otherwise, a bold eight percent assert that they are simply not interested in working out.

Lunchtime lifting, tolerable or taboo?

Thirty-six percent of respondents say it is frowned upon for employees to leave in the middle of the day for a workout. One survey respondent says that working out at lunchtime would be great if it were actually encouraged while another adds that "every company should allow workout time during the day. That way we might not be the fattest country in the world."

Fat and happy?

One respondent complains that there are "too many fat techies who smoke and eat junk food" while another laments that the "secretary spread" has taken up residence in her lower half. Despite the fact that close to 100 percent of respondents claiming workouts improve their work performance, only 37 percent agree with the statement that "fit" people are more successful at work than their "slug" counterparts. Apparently, fit and fabulous only gets you so far in the office.

But for those who are devoted to their physical fitness, health and low body fat are paramount. "I'd never sacrifice my fitness, or my life for that matter, for some job," says one respondent. "I only take jobs that will allow me freedom to live and to work out. I feel sorry for people that have to work all the time. I'd rather have a life and be in good shape than make a lot of money."

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues
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