The National Business Group on Health estimates that the corporate wellness market will grow 18% over the next 5 years. This puts the fitness industry in a perfect-storm position to create or embrace the opportunity. The major factors catalyzing this storm are rising disease and disability among Americans and relentless annual increases in healthcare costs.

More emphasis on prevention and effective disease management is essential, not only to improve American health, but also to reduce costs to governments, businesses and individuals. Fitness professionals are poised with the training and skill to help make these changes happen.

Confronting Medical Costs

Worksite health management and promotion programs are in demand because employers are highly motivated to contain healthcare costs. Managing healthcare expenses is even more challenging and costly for smaller companies than it is for larger ones. “The small employer is the least served. Economies of scale work against [small companies],” said Tom Sabia, vice president of products, services and business development at MediFit in Norwalk, Connecticut. “We need to find better ways to serve them.”

How You Can Tap the Trend

If, as a fitness professional, you want to get in on the growing workplace wellness trend, you will need to be educated and credentialed in health promotion and in the components of wellness, behavior change, health coaching, psychology and communications.

Experts agree that the demand will be for a more highly trained professional with fitness certification/education as a baseline and additional training in health promotion, behavioral medicine and/or chronic disease management. Specificity is key. Evaluate your skill set in terms of delivering needs-based outcomes within an integrated approach. Understand that resources exist to treat different people differently. Think through what it means to deliver a specific program for arthritis or diabetes.

“When working in wellness, you have two clients—the individual with whom you work and the organization. The goal of corporate wellness programs is to maximize employee satisfaction and engagement, while managing costs associated with health plans, workers’ compensation, productivity, etc. It’s essential to provide programs that help employers meet their targets and help employees meet their personal health goals, which go beyond fitness,” said Andrea Krakower, MS, program manager for wellness development and promotion at Scripps Health in San Diego.

Future Wellness Opportunities

Workplace wellness programs have broad diversity, from size of role (part-time to executive) to choice of location (small-, medium- or large-sized company) to type of industry (sedentary, active, youthful or older population, or a combination of all). Almost three-fourths of the employers offering health benefits provide at least one of the following programs: weight loss, gym membership discounts or onsite exercise facilities, smoking cessation, personal health coaching, nutrition or healthy-living classes, Web-based resources for healthy living, or a wellness newsletter.

Other experts point out that more small- and medium-sized companies are seeking physical activity programming that does not require an onsite facility and that uses few resources—for example, walking programs, or movement activities like Pilates or yoga that can be held in a conference room.

The workplace is a powerful location for delivering tools and support to reach people who may not otherwise learn about and experience health improvement. While a discussion of workplace wellness may involve a dry analysis of cost factors and measurable outcomes, the underlying goal is the same: saving and improving lives. Fitness professionals are uniquely positioned to build transformational relationships between people and their jobs.

For a more information, please see the complete article, “Health Is Wealth: The Rise of Workplace Wellness” in the online IDEA Library or in the May 2012 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.