Fit for work: healthy employees get more done

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There are lots of personal reasons for working out and eating well, but there are also professional ones. A new study shows a strong link between fitness and productivity.

Employees who are eating well and exercising three times a week have a higher job performance, and lower rates of absenteeism, according to research by the Health Enhancement Research Organisation (HERO), Brigham Young University, and the Centre for Health Research at Healthways.

According to the findings, health can indeed have a similarly healthy effect on the organisation’s performance. Workers who eat healthy the entire day are 25% more likely to have better job performance; employees who exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week are 15% more likely to have better job performance; and job performance is 11% higher among those who are not obese.

"The latest study investigating the link between employee health, performance, and productivity reinforces the business case for employers to provide comprehensive, evidence-based health management programs for their workforce," Jerry Noyce, president and CEO of HERO, said.

Published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the study also shows the flipsides of employee’s poor health on job performance. Obese workers have recurring absenteeism due to chronic diseases and other weight-related conditions. These rates of absenteeism rank higher than other health-related issues, like depression or other health conditions unrelated to weight.

According to Dr Arya Sharma, scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network, it’s important to encourage lifestyle changes, rather than focusing on weight.

“If the scales don’t change it doesn’t matter, the focus really should be on trying to promote healthy behaviors; taking a break for lunch, not eating at your desk, providing healthy snacks, stress management and creating a culture around taking the time to eat healthy,” he said.

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