Workplace workouts can snag on stressful corporate culture

Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:06am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As evidence mounts that fit employees are productive workers, companies have slotted into the corporate routine an array of workplace workout initiatives, from in-house gyms to lunchtime yoga.

But fitness experts say even the best-intentioned get-fit efforts can founder before the demands of a corporate culture that is stressful, sedentary and increasingly round-the-clock.

“This demand for 24/7 access, this idea that I can always access you and you should intensely, immediately respond, is a stressor, and we know from studies that chronic stress will shorten your life and ultimately kill you,” said Dr. Mary Ellen Rose, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant for workplace health promotion.

Rose believes that even the wearable fitness bands and watches meant to keep exercisers on track can be counter-productive.

“When you’re happy and healthy, you’re more productive,” she said. “But for people who are high anxiety, monitoring every little thing becomes a stressor.”

Obesity costs employers about $73 billion annually in absenteeism and medical expenses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Patrick Hitchins, co-founder of FitRankings, an Austin, Texas-based fitness tech company that ranks the fitness levels of individuals and companies, notes that most fit people in a company are usually the executives.

“For employees to perform at their best they need to be fit, yet workplaces have become anti-fit and increasingly sedentary,” he said.   Continued...