Are Company Sponsored Fitness Programs Good or Bad?

by Evil HR Lady on September 13, 2010

A recent company initiative has me feeling a little uneasy. HR introduced a wellness program at the beginning of the year, administered by a third-party company, that gets you discounts on health insurance premiums. That’s cool. But then there have been challenges throughout the year that are administered by people in the office and are starting to seem potentially unhealthy. The latest challenge is lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. Aside from the fact that the people running this aren’t health care professionals, is it legal to offer your employees money to lose weight? Also, some recent ways to motivate yourself to exercise that were posted on the intranet were rubbing me the wrong way, like posting about weight loss on a blog, read fitness magazines, and take pictures of yourself. Some of the advice is triggering for people with eating disorders. Is it just me, or is this all weird?
Are Company Sponsored Fitness Programs Good or Bad?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Personal Trainer September 14, 2010 at 12:15 pm

hey!! you have a wonderful blog. thanks for sharing your life and experience here. keep it up and never give up. you can do it.

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Cowards Inc September 14, 2010 at 2:16 pm

What utter rubbish. I don't need to loose 10 pounds. Obviously these people must live in the outer suburbs. Have they looked around the CBD lately? Australian cities are full if beautiful women.

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Anonymous September 14, 2010 at 3:46 pm

How about anyone out there who finds that his/her job *interferes* with a healthy lifestyle? When a company has slimmed down its workforce to a skeleton crew, leading people to work 10-12 hour days and a few hours on weekends, and *then* has the gall to tell employees they need to exercise more and not be so stressed out…not cool. Not cool.

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Mike September 14, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I'm with anon!

They tried this last year and forgot to give a bunch of the lab techs full weekends. Oops.

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Anonymous September 14, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I think the intent is benevolent, but the forum my not be nonmalevolent. Promoting health to employees is appropriate by providing resources, but harassing or coercing people into participating in competitions can be harmful not only to the physical well being (eating disorders), but also the psychological wellbeing. Do you think that the 'winners' of these competitions gain (or lose) any status in the companies? Who, or what level of management, is promoting these challenges? Could I, in such an organization, create my own challenge? Who is liable, who is being held accountable for the unforeseen consequences. Yaay healh promotion, boo coercion.

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jenmaree September 14, 2010 at 4:48 pm

on a side note – congrats on Lifetime! I just hit my goal 3 weeks ago and will soon be a Lifetimer myself!

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Jamie September 14, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Anonymous 5:46 is absolutely right. I work 50-60 hours a week just doing my job – I don't work for a company where there's time for meetings about fitness levels.

The financial incentive to the companies is fine and something I understand.

But if it's about more than saving money on insurance then the time on the clock spent on lifestyle or fitness issues would be better spent, imo, by being more efficient at work so people can work normal hours and exercise (or not) as they see fit.

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Laura September 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm

I think health is important, but not everyone does so it should not be made as a bribe to receive extra money for losing weight. Some people may have health issues in which they cannot lose weight, so how is this fair to them? I think some very important points are covered in this blog. I know of a company that put a walking trail around their building so that employees could, if they chose to, walk during their break time or at their lunch break at their discretion. I see nothing wrong with this tactic, but bonus money for losing weight is just plain wrong!

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Pat September 14, 2010 at 9:14 pm

I think that everyone should be able to live a healthy life style and I know that work and costs often prevent that, so idea of offering weight loss or fitness programs is a great idea… "Idea," yes, now how it's actually executed that's a whole 'nother deal. In stead of offering rewards they should just offer it and if it's free to the employees and free for them to choose it'll probably have a decent adoption rate.

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Kat September 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Some of the comments are a little immoderate. I see nothing wrong with promoting a healthy workplace incentive, You have the CHOICE to participate. Anorexia and bulemia are complex and poorly understood psychological disorders. And seriously, I don't believe establishing a healthy workplace incentive will lead to an epidemic of eating disorders.

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Mike September 15, 2010 at 1:51 am

@Kat -

There's no such thing as choice when your superiors – the same folks that decide whether you have a job tomorrow or not – are the ones "suggesting" that you join their little contests.

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Fitness Freak September 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm

I don't think it is fair or legal to advice employees to go through some fitness program where in a certified or professional trainer is not conducting the program.

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Byron J. September 17, 2010 at 7:03 pm

I believe the intentions of the company or management were good, but the methods they chose were less than ideal. I can understand trying to put some incentives out there for people to lead a healthier lifestyle, but making sure the methonds used to attain better health are safe, well-coordinated, and monitered by a health care professional of some sort would probably net just as many people as those incentives will.

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Healthy Weight Loss Diet Plan September 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Great posts! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It means a lot to us. Hope to read more from you.

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