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As employees and employers face higher health care costs, worksite wellness centers becoming increasingly more important to help control the costs of health care and encourage healthy lifestyle behaviors among the workforce, a Mayo Clinic study says. Research published this month in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine shows that members of Mayo Clinic’s employee wellness center, the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center (DAHLC), who regularly participated in wellness activities, experienced significant weight loss and health care costs savings.


“A well-planned comprehensive wellness center can engage and retain members, which can ultimately lead to important savings in health care costs and reductions in BMI,” says lead researcher Bijan Borah, Ph.D.


For the study, the researchers used data from 3,199 members who were continuously enrolled in the DAHLC for three years and their attendance was categorized by number of visits to the fitness center.


Important results from the study include:


Compared to members who visited the DAHLC 1–60 times in the three-year period, members with 181–360 visits were 46 percent more likely to have weight loss, while the individuals with the most visits (more than 360) were 72 percent more likely to have weight loss.


Compared with the mean annual health care cost of $13,267 for 1–60 visits, the mean for subjects with 61–180 visits, 181–360 visits, and more than 360 visits had significantly lower costs at $9,538, $9,332 and $8,293, respectively. “The significant association between health care costs and the frequency of wellness center visits, implying an average cost difference of $4,974 between the top and bottom quartiles of the DAHLC users, is too strong to ignore,” says Dr. Borah. “While the use of DAHLC is unlikely the only mediator of either weight control or health care costs, workplaces that are able to offer comprehensive wellness facilities may be capable of achieving similar gains irrespective of individuals’ activity pursuits at the facility.”


HealthEase offers this takeaway: More companies should offer onsite fitness centers to improve employee wellness and lower health care costs. Employees who have access to an onsite fitness center should use it regularly – several times a week – to get the most health and fitness benefits!