This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

June 6, 2007

The Obesity Challenge and its Solutions

Recent studies corroborate our previous Herman Trend Alerts that obese employees are more expensive than those of normal weight---in both healthcare and workers compensation costs. Not surprisingly, according to a study released by the Medstat Group in Ann Arbor, Michigan, obese workers had a substantially higher incidence of metabolic, circulatory, musculoskeletal, and respiratory disorders. Moderate to severe obesity was also associated with 21 and 75 percent annual healthcare cost increases, respectively. Those percentages translated to dollar increases of $670 and $2,441.

In another study, published by Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, obese employees had more lost workdays, higher medical costs, and more workers compensation claims than their non-obese associates. To be more specific, obese employees had more than twice the number of workers compensation claims than other workers. As a result, their medical costs were seven times higher, as well. To make matters worse for employers, obese employees were absent from work for 13 times the number of days than their trimmer counterparts.

When you consider the challenges of a tightening labor market, these data are truly eye-opening. Employers are caught in a tight spot. But just when you thought there was no hope, we have a vertical workstation that allows desk-bound employees to work and get their exercise simultaneously. Itís a workstation fixed to a treadmill; employees may walk and do their jobs at the same time.

Invented by Mayo Clinic research endocrinologist Dr. James Levine, itís a great way to get exercise and get the work done, too. The product has the reasonable price of $2000. The Mayo study found the workers burned about 100 calories an hour---twice their normal metabolic rate. In an eight-hour shift, workers could burn an extra 800 calories per day. On an annualized basis, that translates to the loss of 50 additional pounds. The small study group of 15 people had sedentary jobs and never exercised.

As futurists, we expect to see more products like this one to help obese employees and others reduce their weights and employers reduce their expenses. Whatís next? A bicycle under your desk?

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