Corporate wellness professionals can have a difficult time impressing the benefits of exercise on executives. Here’s another study to add to the growing arsenal of reasons why employers should increase focus on employee wellness pursuits. According to researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, workers who receive time off specifically for exercise may be more productive.

The yearlong study, published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (2011; 53 [8], 838–44), included 177 employees from six dental healthcare organizations who were divided into three categories: a 2.5-hour per week work reduction with mandatory physical activity; a 2.5-hour per week work reduction without physical activity; and no work reduction with no exercise program.

Employees self-rated their productivity; workplace production levels were also measured objectively. During the study year, all three groups treated more dental patients than they had done previously. By this standard, the biggest increase was in the group that worked less but was not required to exercise. However, the physical activity group “showed significant increases in self-rated productivity; that is, increased quantity of work and work-ability and decreased sickness absence.”

The authors concluded, “A reduction in work hours may be used for health promotion activities with sustained or improved production levels, suggesting an increased productivity since the same, or higher, production level can be achieved with lesser resources.”