Benefits of Onsite Fitness. Part 1

This study at Progressive Corp. in Ohio documents the benefits of an onsite fitness center for both the employees and the corporation.

Several studies have investigated the benefits of fitness centers, and corporate fitness programs in particular. Although results are not conclusive, evidence is mounting that corporate fitness centers provide tangible benefits, such as decreasing absenteeism and healthcare costs, aiding in employee recruitment and retention, and improving employee morale. However, establishing the financial value of the corporate fitness center continues to challenge companies with current or planned facilities. This study of the corporate fitness center at Progressive Corp. in Cleveland, Ohio, helps to document the benefits of an onsite fitness center for both employees and corporations.

A review of relevant research

Prior to conducting our study, a review of relevant research was conducted. In one recent study, employee medical costs were tracked and compared to changes in their health status.2 A strong association was demonstrated between health-risk status and medical costs. Employees who remained high-risk over a six-year period were more likely to have the highest medical costs, employees who increased their health risks were more likely to experience the largest increases in medical costs, and employees who lowered their risks saw their medical costs decrease. The lowest-cost group of employees (61 percent of the study group) were those who were initially low-risk and remained low-risk over the six-year period. This evidence points to the importance and the financial benefits of maintaining or achieving employee low-risk health status.

Several other studies have also shown that new fitness center members had fewer illness days at study baseline, and had significant decreases in absences compared with non-members. In addition, those who participated most frequently at the center showed the greatest improvements. Exercisers also have lower healthcare costs compared to non-exercisers. The differences in employees’ absences and medical costs have been attributed to characteristics of exercisers, as well as the effects of exercise.3,1 A comprehensive review of the studies showed that, although the evidence had limitations, exercise was both cost-effective and cost-beneficial, with a return on investment of $2 to $5 for every dollar invested.

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