Exercise Programs Lead to Better Work Productivity, Study Finds

September 2, 2011

Taking time out of the work week for an employee exercise program may lead to increased productivity — despite the reduction in work hours, reports a new study.

The new study, published in the August Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), suggest that reducing work hours for exercise or other health promotion doesn’t decrease productivity, but instead could increase work productivity.

In the study, one group of employees at a large Swedish public dental health organization was assigned to a mandatory exercise program carried out during regular work hours: 2.5 hours per week. Another group received the same reduction in work hours, but no exercise program. (A third group worked regular hours with no exercise program.)

Employees assigned to the exercise program also had significant increases in self-rated measures of productivity: they felt more productive while on the job and had a reduced rate of work absences due to illness.

The productivity gains seem to result from higher output during work hours and fewer missed work day, according to researchers Ulrica von Thiele Schwarz, Ph.D., and Henna Hasson, Ph.D., of Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.

Drs. von Thiele Schwarz and Hasson conclude, “Work hours may be used for health promotion activities with sustained or improved production levels, since the same, or higher, production level can be achieved with lesser resources.”

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