workplace wellness performance

Workplace Wellness Programs Can Focus on Obesity to Help Improve Health, Reduce Health Costs

We have noted clear evidence of the benefits of a well-run workplace wellness program.

As the State of Obesity report headlines: “Workplace wellness programs boost employee health and productivity and reduce absenteeism.”

The report states: “Research demonstrates that multicomponent workplace wellness programs can be an important strategy in preventing and reducing obesity. A number of reviews have found these initiatives can pay for themselves by increasing productivity and reducing absenteeism. They also have been shown to reduce weight, body fat and BMI, and increase physical activity. Many state health departments have developed resources to assist employers in creating effective wellness programs, such as the Work Well Texas program discussed in a subsequent section.”

Indeed, the authors write: “Business investments are also needed to create healthier communities. There need to be increased investments and incentives for the food industry to build supermarkets and set up farmers’ markets in low-income communities. Examples of business initiatives include incentivizing fitness companies to develop gyms and other recreation facilities in underserved neighborhoods; supporting transportation initiatives to work with government on all levels to plan and build communities that encourage walking, biking and taking public transportation; and engaging the healthcare industry to support a broad range of community programs.”

But how can one maintain a health body weight?

The New York Times has created an excellent guide 7 Habits for a Healthy Heart. It states: “Excess body fat isn’t just dead weight. Fat cells release many substances that increase inflammation, promote insulin resistance and contribute to atherosclerosis, the hardening of arteries. So it should be no surprise that obesity is among the leading causes of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. That is especially the case for people who have a lot of visceral fat, the type that accumulates deep inside your abdomen around your internal organs.”

The report continues: “Visceral fat is much more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, the kind that resides just below your skin (you can pinch your subcutaneous fat with your fingers). It’s not entirely clear why but visceral fat is far more toxic to your body and especially to your cardiovascular system.”

The Harvard Medical School explains things further and offers suggestions on how to measure fat in its post Abdominal obesity and your health, which emphasizes the focus on abdominal fat:

“Excess body fat has serious consequences for health. It’ associated with high levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides and low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. It impairs the body’s responsiveness to insulin, raising blood sugar and insulin levels. Excess body fat contributes to major causes of death and disability, including heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, fatty liver, and depression.”

“Faced with these risks, it’s no wonder that you want to know how much you should weigh. But this common and important question is actually the wrong question. For health, the issue is not how much you weigh, but how much abdominal fat you have.”