Your workplace may not be on your list of the most likely places to find weight-loss success. After all, donuts and birthday cakes appear year round, co-workers keep candy jars on their desks, and the vending machine is so convenient when a craving strikes. But maybe the workplace should be on your list.
Weight-loss programs at work can be successful helping people both lose weight and keep it off. In fact, workplaces seeking to reduce workers' medical expenses may find cash is a great incentive.
Spending on corporate wellness increased from $460 per employee in 2011 to $521 in 2012.
A study by researchers at Tufts University has found that workplace-based weight-loss programs are a good way to help people lose weight. In the Tufts study, overweight and obese employees at four companies volunteered to enroll in a free weight-loss program.
Six months later not only had the participants lost weight, 18 pounds on average, but they had lower cholesterol and glucose levels, as well as lower blood pressure, compared to the employees who did not participate in the program. Given the option to continue in a six-month maintenance program, about half of the participants did so, and they successfully kept the lost weight at bay.
Researchers made an effort to reach all employees during the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, not just those who enrolled in the program, by sending newsletters and holding monthly seminars on health-related topics. Even employees who did not enroll in the program benefited from the presence of it in the office culture — they lost as much as three pounds.
What about the two companies who did not take part in the program? Their employees gained an average of nearly two pounds.
In another weight-loss study appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, obese employees were offered a program with a cash incentive for meeting weight-loss goals. They were randomly assigned to one of three weight-loss groups.
After 24 weeks, those in the third (group incentive) group lost on average seven pounds more than those in the second (individual incentive) group, and an average of nearly 10 pounds more than those in the first (control) group.
The authors believe that the team approach may have been more effective for several reasons. Certainly one was the possibility of earning a larger than $100 reward, but the motivation of competition and an aversion to losing out were factors as well. However, this was not part of the study and employees were not asked about their motivators.
Because of the high cost of health insurance and the dent it makes in corporate profits, many companies are now involved in efforts to improve the health of their employees in order to keep the cost of insurance down. The National Business Group on Health says that spending on corporate wellness increased from $460 per employee in 2011 to $521 in 2012.