Monthly Archives: June 2010

Corporate Wellness Strategies

At the IHRSA convention earlier this year, I spoke about compelling strategies for corporate wellness. The goal of the workshop was to examine how we as an industry can better attract, engage and retain corporate clients. If you missed it and would like the session handouts, please feel free to contact me through this site and I will forward them to you. You can purchase an MP3 of the session here. You can purchase a DVD of the session here.

A few session highlights:

1) In the United States, the majority of adults do not exercise regularly. In 1991, John McCarthy, former executive director of IHRSA, produced the following graph in an industry trade publication:

Fitness Consciousness Among U.S. Adults

According to McCarthy’s chart, only 15% of the U.S. adult population exercised regularly. 64% of Americans could be classified as “uninitiated believers”—they recognized the value of exercise, they knew they should be exercising, but for one reason or another, they were not. Sadly, these statistics have remained virtually unchanged for the last 20 years.

It is this “interested deconditioned” segment of the population that can reap the most benefits from beginning a regular exercise program. If we as club owners and operators can better motivate this segment of the population to get moving, we might begin to combat the prevalence of many lifestyle-related diseases and cut associated health care costs dramatically.

2) Why wellness at work? Figures produced by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2007 estimated that for every 100 employees:

  • 44 suffer from stress
  • 38 are overweight
  • 31 use alcohol excessively
  • 30 have high cholesterol
  • 26 have high blood pressure
  • 24 don’t exercise
  • 25 have cardiovascular disease
  • 21 smoke
  • 20 don’t wear seatbelts
  • 12 have asthma
  • 6 are diabetic

On average, working adults spend 7.5 hours, or about one-half of their waking hours, on the job. This makes the workplace an incredibly useful and practical setting for introducing health and wellness-related initiatives. Position your club as the leading provider of fitness and wellness services, and reach out to offer solutions to companies in your community.

3) How many trainers does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but that light bulb really has to want to change! Think of corporate programming in terms of readiness to change. A lot of traditional corporate programs appeal primarily to the people in the company who are already exercising! Focus on breaking down barriers and converting the inactive individuals in a company’s workforce. Organize your programming on three different levels:

  • Awareness: educate the workforce and give them the basic knowledge they need to want to change. Lunch and learn workshops. E-newsletters. Humorous “ads” or announcements posted in the bathroom stalls or in the break room that promote health and fitness topics and program offerings. These efforts will begin to attract the attention of those who might be ready to think about making a change. They know what they SHOULD do. They just can’t seem to do it. Raise their awareness and get them interested.
  • Action: offer opportunities to try exercise that don’t come with a high price tag or a long commitment. Group class sampler sessions. Active “recess” breaks during the workday. A “celebrity” cycle class with the CEO or local celebrity. Keep the emphasis on having fun!
  • Outcomes: offer structured programs that target specific lifestyle behaviors: weight loss, nutrition, exercise, smoking cessation. We know that new members are most successful when they define clear, measurable goals and action plans. The same holds true for a corporate wellness program. There must be a plan in order for employees to succeed. Encourage employees to take small, realistic steps. Did you know that if employees just stay the same—meaning that their health neither improves nor worsens—their health care costs will “zero trend”? What a great message to share! The act of taking control and not losing any more ground can keep costs at bay. So rather than setting a goal of losing 10 pounds right off the bat, make the goal to not gain weight for a month. Ramp up gradually. Track a variety of outcomes and behaviors, whether it is blood pressure, attendance and/or attitudes toward exercise, so that you can document progress for the employees and the company.

4) My place or yours? Develop a menu of on-site, off-site & our-site programs. Many clubs struggle with how much of their corporate wellness programs should happen on-site at the client company vs. at the gym. While on-site is not as cost-effective for the club, programs may reach a wider audience if they are conducted in the workplace. On the other hand, in-club programming typically provides more exercise options and support. One way to bridge the gap is to develop virtual “our-site” programs. For example, you could develop a specially branded company wellness website, deliver webinars, offer phone coaching and/or develop a podcast resource library.

5) We’re all on the same team! Collaborating with local organizations and entities invested in health and wellness can broaden your program’s appeal and strengthen its delivery. For example, my club offers a physician referred exercise program (PREP). Nearly 1,600 doctors have referred patients to the PREP program in the clubs’ communities, resulting in more than 9,000 participants to date. At the IHRSA convention, my colleague Amanda Harris, ACAC owner Phil Wendel and Dr. Eddie Phillips of Harvard Medical School’s Institute of Lifestyle Medicine presented a session specifically about physician referral programs. They covered successful medical referral strategies for everything from programming to tracking to outreach. If you’d like to learn more about engaging the medical community, the MP3 of that session is available for purchase here.

If you have other best practices about corporate wellness or medical referral, please share! Contact