Employee Fitness Programs: Their Impact on the Employee and the Organization
Author(s): Loren E. Falkenberg
Source: The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Jul., 1987), pp. 511-522
Published by: Academy of Management
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/258517
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of Management Review, 1987, Vol. 12, No. 3, 511-522.
Employee Fitness Programs:
Their Impact on the Employee
and the Organization
LOREN E. FALKENBERG
University of Calgary
Employers are investing large amounts in employee fitness programs;
unfortunately, the value of physical exercise and lifestyle piograms
has yet to be established. This paper provides a critique of the ap-
plied and experimental research related to the impact of employee
fitness programs on work-related variables and discusses future re-
will reflect the concern an organization has for
More and more companies either are plan-
its employees. Employee fitness programs also
ning or have developed physical fitness pro-
are viewed as a mechanism for recruiting and
grams for their employees. In Canada approxi-
retaining employees (Debats, 1981). The major
mately 1,000 companies are involved in employ-
increase in participation in fitness programs has
ee fitness, and in the U.S. it is estimated that
occurred among young, well-educated members
50,000 business firms promote physical activity
of the higher socioeconomic groups (Dishman,
(Cox, 1984; Driver & Ratliff, 1982). The scope
Sallis, & Orenstein, 1985; Stephens et al., 1985);
of employee fitness programs ranges from
thus, fitness programs may be important in hir-
company-paid memberships at private fitness
ing and retaining those individuals companies
clubs to complete on-site facilities; these pro-
find most desirable.
grams cost from two thousand dollars to millions.
A second rationale is that employee fitness pro-
Organizations that support these programs con-
grams may reduce the impact of stress. Corpora-
sider them an inexpensive benefit that produces
tions are becoming more concerned with stress
the following returns: (a) increased ability to at-
since it has been perceived that high stress lev-
tract competent employees; (b) improved atti-
els result in poorer work performance, lower
tudes and loyalty; (c) a reflection of the firm's
productivity, higher turnover, absenteeism, and
concern for the nonwork aspects of the employ-
ees' lives; and (d) indirectly, increased produc- accidents (Galt, 1985). Employee fitness programs
tivity (Howard & Mikalachki, 1979). are thought to reduce the impact of stress by
improving the health of the employees through
Three lines of reasoning underlie these beliefs.
higher fitness levels (Driver & Ratliff, 1982), and
First is the assumption that fitness centers are
improved health from fewer stress symptoms has
attractive to employees. It is estimated that 20
been assumed to reduce absenteeism (Perks,
percent of the North American population exer-
cise intensely and regularly enough to produce 1985).
The third line of reasoning is indirectly related
cardiovascular fitness, while another 40 percent
to the first two; that is, increasing the fitness level
exercise enough to receive at least some benefit
(Stephens, Jacobs, & White, 1985). As more indi- of employees should improve productivity. The
viduals recognize the benefits of exercise, the latter is achieved in part through reduced absen-
ability to do so during the work day will become teeism and turnover. Also, it is assumed that the
more important; thus, employee fitness centers increased capacity for physical work from im-
tion. For any given physical workload, more
proved fitness levels will transfer to an ability to
physically fit individuals demonstrate less mus-
work harder and longer in the office. This trans-
cular activity, slower respiration, a lower resting
fer from physical to mental capacity is expected
heart rate, and less accumulation of the acid
to improve an individual's ability to maintain
by-products of exercise (Ledwidge, 1980). Thus,
higher levels of concentration and mental effort.
physical training may help to reduce extreme
Since the value of implementing fitness pro-
activation both during physical activity and
grams has not yet been established, these large
stressful situations (Michael, 1957; Selye, 1975;
investments are being made on the basis of lim-
ited research. The experimental and applied re-
Both exercise 'and reactions to physiological/
search on physical exercise and work-related
psychological stressors also involve increased se-
variables suffers from poor design and method-
cretion of catecholamines. Edington and Edger-
ology; therefore, results are inconclusive (How-
ton (1976) hypothesized that extending the capac-
ard & Mikalachki, 1979; Hughes, 1984). The re-
ity of the adrenal medulla to generate catechola-
search used to support the models primarily has
mines through exercise may help to reduce the
been taken from physical fitness research; no
experience of stress. Specifically, it appears that
attempts have been made to integrate related
an increased hormonal response capacity is as-
variables from the stress, cognitive processes,
sociated with a calmer, more stress tolerant hu-
and organizational behavior research domains.
man temperament (Dienstbier et al., 1981). In
This lack of appropriately designed research has
support of this hypothesis, Frankenhaeuser (1979)
limited the development of scientifically based
found that more emotionally stable and conser-
models upon which a focused research pattern
vative school children demonstrated higher lev-
can proceed: Without reliable results, many fit-
els of catecholamines in response to classroom
ness programs may be based on erroneous
challenges than less emotionally stable class-
assumptions, leading to poorly designed pro-
grams and undesired outcomes. mates.
The second action is that aerobic or anaerobic
Exercise and the Individual exercise during a stressful event may reduce the
physiological severity of the immediate stress
Relationship Between Stress and Exercise
response. Both during or immediately after stress,
Exercise has been viewed as a coping mecha- exercise will metabolize the fatty acids released
nism which may be employed prior to or during into the blood stream; in general, it will discharge
a stressful situation (Gal & Lazarus, 1975; Mobily, the physical excitation built up in a reaction to a
1982). As a coping mechanism it is theorized to stressor (Everly & Rosenfield, 1981). Although this
reduce the physiological consequences of stress- potential action has not received as much atten-
ful situations through one of three actions. The tion as the first, it may play a more critical role in
first action is that long-term aerobic exercise may reducing the negative consequences of stress.
decrease the level of physiological arousal that The physiological changes that occur during
normally occurs during stressful situations. The stressful situations bring about a rapid mobiliza-
physiological response to stressful situations in- tion of energy, that in previous time periods
volves increased muscle tension, increased res- would have allowed an individual to respond to
piration rate, sympathetic stimulation of sweat- the threat physically. Today, however, most
ing, increased heart rate, dilation of blood ves- stressful situations do not involve a physical
sels and coronaries of the heart, and release of response; thus, an individual under stress mobi-
glucose by the liver. The physiological changes lizes his/her system for physical effort, but does
that develop with long-term aerobic exercise oc- not expend the built up energy. Physical exer-
cur in the same systems that are activated dur- cise may be a vehicle by which the mobilized
ing a physiological/psychological stressful situa- energy either can be discharged or, at least,
cally fit demonstrated greater emotional stability
can be more evenly dispersed among body sys-
and security than those who were less physi-
tems (Selye, 1975).
The third action is that either after or during a
Also, long-term exercise has been found to be
stressful experience, exercise (aerobic or anaer-
associated with decreases in trait (general dis-
obic) may bring about a state of relaxation. This
position across situations) depression and anxie-
hypothesis is based on a study by deVries and
ty. Kavanagh and Shephard (1973) found signifi-
Adams (1972) which compared the effects tran-
cant decreases in depression in subjects who
quilizers and exercise had on anxiety. They found
continued to exercise four years after complet-
that if an individual engaged in 15 minutes of
ing a formal exercise program. In another study,
walking, at a heart rate of 100 beats per minute,
highly trained (physically fit) individuals had sig-
there was a significant decrease in the electro-
nificantly lower levels of anxiety and depres-
myographic activity in the muscles (their mea-
sion than nontrained subjects (Tharp & Schlegel-
sure of anxiety) while tranquilizers did not ap-
mich, 1977). Testing on a short-term orientation
pear to have an effect on anxiety/tension.
of five or six months, however, did not produce
Relationship Between Mental Health and differences in anxiety levels (Morgan & Pollock,
1978; Stern & Cleary, 1982).
It appears that the effects of physical exercise Studies examining state (situational experi-
on mental health are dependent on the duration ences) depression and anxiety levels before and
of participation. Long-term participation has after exercise have produced equivocal results,
been found to change personality traits, while both within studies as well as across studies. In
short-term participation affects mood states (Folk- two of the studies, subjects reported the exercise
ins, Lynch, & Gardner, 1972; Lichtman & Poser, sessions to be exhilarating; however, the state
1983; Young & Ismail, 1977). Much of the re- depression and anxiety measures did not differ
search, though, has been limited by poorly de- prior to or after the exercise sessions (Bahkre &
signed methodologies. In their review, Folkins Morgan, 1978; Morgan, Roberts, & Feinerman,
and Sime (1981) found that only 15 percent of the 1971). Part of the inconsistency in results between
studies qualified as true experiments, and most studies may be related to the type of exercise
were on clinical populations. used in the studies. After reviewing a series of
The impact that long-term exercise has on per- studies, Dishman (1982) concluded that reduc-
sonality traits was examined by Young and tions in state anxiety are associated most consis-
Ismail, who tested subjects during a four-year tently with jogging and/or vigorous exercise.
period (Ismail & Young, 1973, 1976; Young & When highly trained subjects were tested, lev-
Ismail, 1976a, 1976b, 1977). Their subjects were els of anxiety and depression were found to be
classified according to exercise converts (those lower after exercise periods (Greenberg, cited in
who did not exercise prior to the formal program, Lichtman & Poser, 1983; Dienstbier et al., 1981).
but continued after the program), and long-term In particular, Dienstbier et al. compared highly
exercisers (those who regularly exercised prior to trained subjects' reactions to stressors on exer-
the formal program). In the initial testing, prior cise and nonexercise days; they found subjects
to the formal exercise program, the exercise con- demonstrated lower anxiety scores on exercise
verts demonstrated a more conservative tem- days. These results indicated that even when
perament than the long-term exercisers; however, subjects are highly trained, physiccal exercise can
this difference ceased after four years, with the further reduce anxiety levels.
exercise converts demonstrating a less extreme It has been noted that the level of fitness, at
score. In addition, those who were more physi- least in short-term measures of mood, may not
be as important as engaging in the physical ac- generally accepted that complex motor and/or
cognitive tasks are best performed under low
tivity itself (Dishman, 1982; Heaps, 1978; Killip,
arousal levels. Thus, a more physically fit per-
1985). Killip (1985) observed that engaging in
physical exercise (aerobic or anaerobic) may be son should be able to perform better on complex
perceived as a fitness endeavor and it may stim- mental tasks, particularly when working under
ulate positive feelings about one's self: Move- stressful conditions (Weingarten, 1973).
ment may bring about feelings of muscular en- This theory has been investigated through two
durance and increased physiological arousal. different research designs. One design tested
In support of this premise, Killip found a stronger subjects prior to and immediately after physical
relationship between physical activity level, exercise under the assumption that short-term
rather than cardiovascular fitness, and psycho- physical activity should improve an individual's
logical variables. Lichtman and Poser's (1983) arousal levels in relation to the work being
results also support this premise: Subjects who performed. Zuercher (1965) examined perfor-
had engaged in physical activity, regardless of mance on a vigilance task after subjects engaged
their fitness level, felt more exhilarated and re- in either stretching exercises or a conversation,
laxed than subjects who participated in a hobby during a five-minute break: He found that either
class. exercise or conversation improved performance.
Lichtman and Poser (1983) required subjects to
Relationships Among Exercise, Cognitive
complete a demanding cognitive task prior to
Functioning. and Performance and after either vigorous exercise or a hobby
Generally, it is assumed that productivity will class. These researchers found that only exercise
increase when individuals are involved in fit- produced a significant improvement in the per-
ness programs, because more physically fit indi- formance on the cognitive task.
A variation of the above methodology has been
viduals are capable of working harder on cogni-
to manipulate both the fitness level of the subject
tive tasks. However, the research that has ex-
and the activity (rest or varying intensities of
amined the potential improvements of cognitive
functioning through exercise has produced mixed exercise) performed prior to the criterion task.
The rationale behind this variation is that exer-
results. This inconsistency may be related to at
least three factors: (a) many experiments were cise prior to the task acts as a stressor, and the
more physically fit individual should be better
poorly designed; (b) different definitions of fitness
able to perform a cognitive task after a stressor.
were employed, for example, physiological mea-
sures of fitness versus activity inventories; and Butler (1969) and Gutin (1966) found a positive
(c) different dependent variables were used, such relationship between the degree of improvement
in physical fitness and the degree of improve-
as the impact of long-term physical exercise ver-
sus activity immediately prior to or during a cog- ment in ability to perform complex mental tasks.
nitive task. However, neither investigator found a difference
in performance between subjects who had rested
Impact of Fitness on Performance. The ratio-
nale for fitness affecting performance stems from and those who had engaged in physical exer-
the interaction between the state of the physio- cise prior to the mental task. Weingarten (1973),
and Gutin and DiGennaro (1968) found that dif-
logical system and the specific task requirements.
Specifically, the physiological arousal of a more ferences between trained (fit) and untrained
fit individual is substantially less, for a given groups occurred after vigorous exercise but did
not appear under more relaxed conditions. The
physical workload, than that of a less fit individ-
ual. Transferring this to mental work, the physio- combined results of these studies suggest that
logical arousal of a more fit individual should be physical fitness becomes a factor only under
substantially less for a given cognitive load. It is quot;more stressfulquot; conditions, with more physically
fit individuals performing better after a stressful Employee Fitness Programs
condition (vigorous exercise). and Work-Related Factors
Impact of Fitness on Cognitive Functioning.
Studies designed to test the effects of physical
fitness on cognitive functioning manipulated fit-
In all of the studies reviewed, subjects claimed
ness levels but not activity prior to the test periods.
they could work harder mentally and their work
The rationale for this design is that more physi-
performance improved after participating in an
cally fit individuals should perform better on de-
employee fitness program (Durbeck et al., 1972;
manding cognitive tasks (Cox, Evans, & Jamie-
Heinzelman & Bagley, 1970; Rhodes & Dun-
son, 1979; Hollander & Seraganian, 1984; Keller
woody, 1980; Rossman, 1983; Yarvote, McDon-
& Seraganian, 1984; Sinyor, Schwartz, Peronnet,
agh, Goldman, & Zuckerman, 1974).Unfortunate-
Brisson, & Seraganian, 1983). Although these
ly, the majority of these studies used subjective
studies did not find a difference in cognitive per-
comments, rather than objective measures, to
formance between fit and less fit subjects, they
determine improvements in productivity. In a
did indicate that the fit subjects recovered faster
more controlled study, Bernacki and Baun (1984)
from cognitive work. Specifically, Keller and
found a strong association (Z = 2.47, p< .01) be-
Seraganian (1984) found that as fitness level im-
tween the proportion of individuals with above
proved there was a corresponding faster recov-
average performance and adherence to a fit-
One criticism of the reviewed studies is that
the experimental conditions involved expending
cognitive effort over a short time period, twenty
minutes to one hour. Since during a normal work- The only reviewed study to measure absentee-
ism objectively found that high level participants
day individuals may be involved in demanding
in a fitness program had a significantly lower
cognitive tasks for eight to ten hours, these experi-
rate of absenteeism (22 percent less) than either
mental situations may not represent the typical
low level participants or nonparticipants (Cox,
cognitive workload. Two studies have examined
Shephard, & Corey, 1981; Shephard, Cox, &
the cost of doing mental work over a minimum
Corey, 1981). No explanation for the reduced ab-
eight-hour period. Frankenhaeuser and Johans-
senteeism rate was provided.
son (1982) found that women who were engaged
It generally is assumed that absenteeism rates
in attention-demanding but boring tasks (data
will drop with increased physical fitness levels
entry) demonstrated more signs of psychological
stress than women whose jobs required a vari- because: (a) increased fitness levels lead to im-
ety of tasks. Rissler (cited in Frankenhaeuser & proved health, and (b) healthier employees are
Johansson, 1982) found that a group of women less likely to be absent. This assumption, how-
who worked overtime for an extended period of ever, only relates to absences due to medical
time had higher adrenaline levels and heart rates reasons; yet, employees stay away from work
in the evenings and expressed feelings of irrita- for more reasons than simply health problems.
bility and fatigue. Thus, there appears to be a Johns and Nicholson (1982) hypothesized that ab-
sence is a dynamic temporal behavior through
gap in the literature, since many jobs require
mental effort over eight-hour periods, but no re- which organizational members attempt to de-
search has analyzed the impact of physical exer- rive the most benefit from their allocation of work
cise on cognitive effort extended over this type of and nonwork time. Youngblood (1984) expanded
time period. this premise by suggesting that the degree of
mitment is the extent to which an organization is
attachment to work and nonwork will affect the
seen as dependable in carrying out its commit-
allocation of time to each. Given this hypothesis,
ment to employees. It is more likely that an orga-
employee fitness programs should reduce ab-
nization will be perceived as concerned about
sences for individuals who: (a) place a higher
value on participating in physical exercise (non- employees' welfare if the organization supports
work) than work, and (b) highly value both work an identifiable activity that is related more di-
and exercise. Those employees who place a rectly to employee goals rather than company
higher value on physical exercise than on work goals. As noted in the introduction, given the
derive more benefit by going to work because rising participation in physical activity, employee
they also can exercise while there. Those em- exercise programs address the personal needs
ployees who hold similar values for work and of many employees. Thus by supporting an em-
exercise would have more flexibility in allocat- ployee fitness program, a company can demon-
ing their time between two valued activites, thus strate concern for employees' health and non-
deriving a higher benefit by going to work. work needs.
Another consequence of increased flexibility Employee fitness programs also may have a
in scheduling may be a reduction in lateness. direct impact on turnover. Mobley, Griffeth,
Although this potential outcome was not re- Hand, and Meglino (1979) suggested that it is not
viewed in the literature, there is an inherent logic merely the visibility of alternatives that increases
to it. Employees who exercise before work, at the intent to leave, but also it is the attraction of
lunch, or at sites other than the workplace, need the alternatives. If there are similar opportuni-
extra travel time which either extends into their ties in other companies, the differentiating fac-
exercise time or their work time. By reducing tors in the decision process will not be the job
travel time, it is more likely that employees will characteristics, but the attractiveness of the work-
be punctual for work since they have more time ing conditions. Individuals who participate in em-
to exercise. ployee fitness programs may realize there are
This relationship between employee fitness similar opportunities, but may be motivated to
programs and absenteeism is one of the more stay with their current company because of the
tenuous hypotheses. An alternative outcome to attractiveness of the fitness program/facilities.
this relationship is that employees who place a Only one study analyzed employee turnover
higher value on exercise than work may choose (Cox, Shepard, & Corey, 1981). When compari-
not to come to work because of limited facilities sons were made between groups, both low and
and/or lack of adequate time to get a good high adherents to fitness had significantly less
workout. The presence of an exercise facility at turnover than nonparticipants; the participant
the workplace may tempt the individual to spend turnover rate was 1.5 percent while the nonpar-
more of the workday in the gym than desired. ticipant turnover rate was 15 percent. This find-
ing is limited because Cox, Shephard, and Corey
Commitment and Turnover
did not adequately control for long-term employ-
Very little attention has been given to what ees versus short-term employees.
impact employee fitness programs have on com-
Limitations of the Studies
mitment and turnover. A negative relationship
between commitment and turnover (high levels With the exception of the Cox, Shephard, and
of commitment are associated with lower rates Corey (1981) study, the major methodological
of turnover) has occurred consistently (Clegg, weakness was the measurement of the psycho-
1983; Michaels & Spector, 1982; Porter, Steers, logical/emotional factors. The questionnaires em-
Mowday, & Boulian, 1974; Steers, 1977). One fac- ployed did not control for reliability and validity.
tor which has been identified as influencing com- Single questions, rather than scales, were used
in the analysis, preventing reliability analysis. A Model
The majority of the conclusions were based on
comments by participants with little reference to On the basis of the reviewed literature, the
comments by control subjects. following model of the relationships among physi-
The problems associated with a lack of control cal fitness, physical activity, and employee fit-
for reliability and validity are highlighted in the ness programs including work and individual
Cox, Shephard, and Corey (1981) study. Job sat- variables was developed (see Figure 1). A criti-
isfaction was measured with a previously pub- cal feature of this model is the separate delinea-
lished scale (Job Description Index, Smith, Ken- tion of the benefits of exercise at the individual
dall, & Hulin, 1969), and it was found that this employee level and the advantages for the orga-
index did not differ before and after the program. nization of supporting employee fitness pro-
After the program, however, the participants grams. If an employee exercises on his/her own
stated that they experienced greater feelings of (outside any organization facility or without fi-
satisfaction with work. The inconsistency of these nancial assistance), both the individual and the
results, even with the use of a published scale, organization derive the benefits of the first com-
demonstrates the problems involved in accu- ponent of the model. The benefits delineated in
rately interpreting responses to questionnaire the second part of the model are additional to
items. Complicating this issue is the probability those that develop from having physically fit
of a halo effect since the majority of the question- employees. That is, an organization supporting
naires were administered either during the pro- employee fitness programs receives the advan-
gram or immediately after it. Participants may tages of having physically fit employees, as well
have felt positively about the program and the as the short-term consequences arising from ex-
attention they received from the researchers, and ercise and the long-term benefits arising from
may have transferred these feelings to their greater commitment and increased flexibility in
comments. scheduling activities. Thus, to maximize benefits
Other limitations of these studies were the lack in-house programs should be initiated.
of control groups and the nonrandom assign- The first component of this model outlines the
ment of subjects to control and experimental short- and long-term consequences of individu-
groups. Unfortunately, the lack of appropriate als engaging in physical activity. The immedi-
control groups, with the exception of the Cox, ate consequences of participation in physical ac-
Shephard, and Corey study (1981), precludes the tivity are an improved mobilization of fatty acids
use of regression or analysis of variance tech- generated during demanding cognitive work, en-
niques. Correlations and t-tests, which do not hanced relaxation, and lower levels of anxiety
allow any inferences about cause and effect, and depression, which should lead to a reduc-
were the only statistical techniques employed. tion in the stress symptoms experienced. Another
Although most of the identified studies were consequence of engaging in physical activity
constrained by methodological limitations, they during a work period is that it may produce more
have produced similar results, giving some va- appropriate arousal levels for cognitive work,
lidity to their findings. It appears that partici- thus improving short-term productivity.
pants of employee fitness programs felt these pro- In terms of long-term participation in physical
grams had a positive impact on their attitudes exercise, individuals have demonstrated: (a)
and work behaviors. Also, the results of the most greater emotional stability, (b) enhanced feel-
controlled study indicate that an employee fit- ings of security, (c) lower levels of depression,
ness program does reduce turnover and absen- and (d) lower levels of anxiety. These conse-
teeism. quences lead to conditions of positive mental
SITUATION VARIABLES OUTCOMES
-improved mobilizationof fatty |
acids generated during demand- smtm
ing cognitive work
_-lower levels of depression (state)imrvdena
-lower levels of anxiety (state) state
-more appropriate arousal
levels for cognitive work productivity
-greater emotional stability
-enhanced feelings of securityimrvdena
-lower levels of depression (trait) health
-lower levels of anxiety (trait)
-increased ability to
dissipate tension after work resistance
-more appropriate arousal levels improved long-term
for demanding cognitive work productivity
-facilitates employees exercising
during demanding work periods symptoms
-employees are better able to absenteeism
schedule work and nonwork
activities reduced lateness
-organization is able to demon-
strate concern for employees
Figure 1. Model of the relationships among physical fitness, physical activity, and employee fitness
programs including individual and organizational factors.
on the relationship between physical fitness and
health. Also, physically fit individuals have dem-
the ability to maintain high levels of cognitive func-
onstrated a more rapid dissipation of the physio-
tioning during an eight-hour day. Also, the im-
logical indices of tension after demanding cogni-
mediate effects of physical exercise on mood,
tive work, and they may have more appropriate
attitudes, and the ability to relax, particularly af-
arousal levels (lower than the less fit individual)
ter cognitive work, should be examined. Applied
for complex cognitive tasks. These conditions
research should be directed at analyzing differ-
should lead to increased stress resistance and
ences in stress symptoms, absenteeism, and pro-
ductivity between fit and nonfit individuals, and
Within the model, the only intermediary vari-
the impact employee fitness programs have on
ables which would require long-term aerobic,
commitment, turnover, and absenteeism should
as opposed to anaerobic exercise, are an in-
be examined, specifically.
creased ability to dissipate tension after work
It is suggested that future research should inte-
and more appropriate arousal levels for demand-
grate the following criteria: (a) using standard-
ing cognitive work. Both of these changes in-
ized measures of psychological constructs, or re-
volve a more efficient cardiovascular system
porting the reliability analysis of questionnaire
which is best developed through aerobic exer-
data; (b) using a within subject design that tests
cise. Currently, there is not a sufficient research
psychological constructs prior to and after the
base to distinguish whether the other intermedi-
ary variables would occur with only aerobic or exercise period to analyze short-term conse-
anaerobic exercise. quences; (c) gathering subjective data two to
The second component of this model delineates three months after a -fitness program in order to
the intermediary consequences and final out- reduce the possibility of a halo effect; and (d)
comes that may occur with employee fitness designing studies to test specifically for the short-
programs. The availability of fitness facilities at and/or long-term impact of exercise. Although it
work provides the opportunity for employees to is difficult to overcome the nonrandomization of
take an exercise break during periods of de- subjects given the limitations associated with hu-
manding cognitive work. This exercise break man rights and the assumption that employee
would produce the short-term effects of physical fitness programs are for all employees, per-
activity leading to reduced stress symptoms and haps potential changes may be better measured
greater productivity. Employees who want to ex- through a within subject design.
ercise also will have greater flexibility in sched- Organizations generally are concerned with
uling work and nonwork activities, leading to identifiable returns such as lower absenteeism
reduced absenteeism and lateness. and turnover when they support employee fit-
In relation to long-term outcomes, employee ness programs. There is relatively little informa-
fitness programs provide an opportunity for or- tion available as to whether employee fitness
ganizations to demonstrate concern for employ- programs produce these returns although more
ees. If employees perceive the organization is substantial, though not conclusive information,
concerned about their welfare, they may develop in support of exercise and the returns for individ-
more loyalty to the company, indirectly leading ual employees (i.e., better mental health, im-
to reduced turnover. proved stress resistance) is available. It is the
author's view that if organizations and research-
ers want to improve the quality of work life, these
returns should be expected. The returns of in-
The model presented here provides a frame- creased productivity and commitment, and de-
work upon which to generate future research. In creased absenteeism and turnover should be
particular, more experimental research is needed quot;additional icing on the cake.quot;
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Loren Falkenberg (Ph.D., University of Illinois) is an
Assistant Professor in the Department of Management
in Organization and Human Resources, University of
Calgary. Correspondence regarding this article may
be sent to her at: Faculty of Management, University
of Calgary, 2500 Alberta Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta,
Canada T2N 1N4.
This research was conducted partly while the author
was at Concordia University in Montreal.