There is often debate on whether or not wellness works. But the truth of the matter is, with no set definition of what wellness is – how can there be a blanket statement about its effectiveness?
We have seen the positive results of a wellness program. What has really worked for engaging employees in healthier choices and providing improved health outcomes?
It boils down to a comprehensive physical activity program.
How did we come to this conclusion? For us it is all about evidence.
First and foremost, scientific evidence. The literature from leading organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization, (1, 2) proves that physical activity is extremely effective for treating disease. One of the many supporting studies in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, who found data to support prescribing exercise for 26 different chronic conditions including metabolic diseases, neurological diseases, cardiovascular diseases and even psychiatric diseases and cancer. (3) With exercise as powerful as medicine in treating diseases, no wellness program can be effective in improving health outcomes without it.
Second, corporations put a lot of effort into their pharmacy benefits and compliance programs for disease treatment and prevention, but prescriptions only have an effect for the disease that they are indicated for. Exercise can be just as powerful and certainly a more cost-effective way to treat disease than medicines, while also providing a broader improvement in health beyond the diagnosis. In fact, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, from the University in Ontario goes as far as saying: “If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.” (4)
Third, many wellness programs focus on identifying employees with disease and then managing those disease states, but what about preventing the disease in the first place? Improving the health of a population means more than just treating those with diseases. It also means keeping the healthy people in healthy ranges.
The evidence for the power of prevention with physical activity is no less than it is for exercise as medicine. A large meta-analysis published online in BMJ found that “a structured exercise program may be as good or better than frequently prescribed drugs for common cardiovascular ailments.” With a good physical activity program there is no need to segment your employees into risk categories with expensive biometric testing to know what to initiative to offer – get the population moving and it will help everyone despite risk category.
Beyond disease prevention and treatment, strong data exists for the impact that exercise has on energy levels (5), stress (6), fatigue (7), and can improve mood in as fast as 5 minutes. (8) Furthermore, a study in the British Journal of Health Psychology showed more active people have improved will-power and:
· Saved more money
· Procrastinated less
· Reduced smoking, alcohol, and caffeine intake
· Felt more in control of their emotions
· Ate less junk food
· Watched less tv
· Began eating a healthier diet
· Spent more time studying
· Splurged on impulse purchases less
All this data boils down to one thing: getting physically active can and will positively impact the health of your employees. So for wellness programs to really change behavior, it needs to include methods to improving physical activity.
Has the data have you convinced? Ready to know HOW to implement a successful activity-focused program?
You can learn more about how to use wearables to achieve population health by watching our on-demand webinar co-hosted with industry leader, Garmin.