Celebrate Employee Health and Fitness Month with a fitness challenge!

Celebrate Employee Health and Fitness Month with a fitness challenge, like these U.S. Embassy employees did in May 2015. (Photo via U.S. Embassy, Flickr)

May is Employee Health and Fitness Month. Now’s the time to revitalize and recommit to workplace wellness goals!
Until six years ago, it was known as Employee Health and Fitness Day and observed the third Wednesday in May. From 1989 to 2010, tens of thousands of employees nationwide engaged in health and fitness activities on that day.
But in 2011, the nonprofit National Association for Health and Fitness (NAHF) decided to expand it to a full month.
Their reasoning? Developing health habits takes longer than one day.
“It is clear that healthy behavior changes take time to develop into lifestyle habits. Recognizing the potential for making healthy habits, NAHF decided that in 2011 a full month — and an international focus — would lead to healthier lifestyles and sustainable behavior change worldwide,”.
When companies first started investing in workplace wellness, the aim was simple: to reduce employee healthcare costs.
But what they got in return was even better.
Now we know employee wellness is one of the smartest investments you can make for a happier, more productive workplace. If Employee Health and Fitness Month isn’t observed in your workplace, it should be! Read on to find out how a fitness challenge for Employee Health and Fitness Month lays the groundwork for something much bigger.

The ROI on Employee Wellness

“Wellness programs have often been viewed as a nice extra, not a strategic imperative. Newer evidence tells a different story,” write researchers Leonard L. Berry, Ann M. Mirabito and William B. Baun in their Harvard Business Review article, “What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?”
In one study, every dollar invested in a workplace cardiac rehabilitation and exercise training yielded $6 in healthcare savings.
But the benefits of employer investment in employee wellness go beyond reduced healthcare costs. Another study found that it also boosts retention.
At a tourism company the authors studied, the turnover rate shrank from 19 percent in 2005 to just 9 percent in 2009. The company’s director of benefits and compensation attributes this directly to a successful employee wellness program: “Employees who participate in our wellness programs do not leave.”
Wellness programs also boost the “employee positivity factor,” according to SHRM’s Susan Wells and her article “Finding Wellness’s Return on Investment.”

“Consider the difference between an employee who rolls out of bed and drags in to work versus an employee who exercises before coming to work. Exercise produces natural opiates or endorphins, which increase energy, enhance mood and promote overall wellness. The result? The employee who is exercising, and typically healthier as a result, will likely show up to work with more energy and enhanced positivity.”

That boosted positivity has real benefits on the job, including: better customer service, better sales, more positive co-worker interactions and increased focus and creativity.

How to Get Started: Employee Health and Fitness Month

The best employee wellness programs are hands-on and participatory, from the C-Suite on down.
“Passes to fitness clubs and nutrition information in the cafeteria are not enough,” according to the Harvard Business Review article. Employees thrive on the social support, camaraderie and recognition that participating in group wellness goals brings.
That’s why it’s so vital to engage employees with Employee Health and Fitness Month! NAHF has lots of resources to get you started, including a toolkit, ready-to-go guidelines to share with your department heads and ready-to-print posters to hang around your workplace.
Companies across the world are registering their Employee Health and Fitness Month challenges and activities with the NAHF, so get inspired by browsing the official list.
Your fitness challenge this month will have lasting benefits all year because it encourages and helps employees to develop habits that will continue even after the challenge is over!

Want to Engage Employees Every Day of the Year?

Download our FREE Day-to-Day Celebration Calendar for expert tips to engaging, recognizing and building a happy and loyal workplace. This one-of-a-kind eBook will help you build everyday workplace spirit with month-by-month guides, case studies, research highlights, how-to recognition advice and celebration ideas for specific holidays and anytime.

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