Fit employees aren't necessarily happier employees

You can lead an employee to a fitness center, but you can't make them fit — either mentally or physically.

That's the takeaway from recently published research in the American Journal of Health Promotion. Authors writing for the journal, in two separate studies, looked at whether fitness center use supported by an employer makes people happier and healthier, and what motivates them to continue with a certain fitness activity.

Those who use fitness centers the most become more fit, Mayo Clinic researchers found. No surprise there. But what was somewhat puzzling was that they did not necessarily show improved mental health.

Whatever happened to all those studies about endorphins being released, the post-workout high, and shedding anxiety during working out? Oh well …

In any case, those who use fitness centers more often are healthier, if not happier. But what motivates an employee to stick with a certain “health intervention” or regimen, suggested by the employer for a specific health improvement goal?

Another research team found that the following, when included in a health-targeted workout, caused people to stick with something longer:

  • Adding a pedometer to the workout;
     
  • applying an internet-based approach;
     
  • being thoughtful about making the experience more social and comfortable;
     
  • making sure the intervention is described as being six months or less in duration.

But there’s still no guarantee you’ll improve workplace morale by encouraging your team to work out.

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