Health promotion in the workplace can positively affect the bottom line for companies — and the waistline for employees, according to Brigham Young University researchers.

Their new study published in the latest issue of Preventive Medicine explains that employees who participate in workplace health promotion programs miss fewer workdays than those who choose not to participate, with the decrease in absenteeism translating into a cost savings of nearly $16 for each dollar spent on the program: a savings of $3 million.

"This is just another reason companies should offer and encourage participation in wellness programs," said Steven Aldana, director of the research team and professor of exercise science at BYU.

Depending on a company's size, between 2.5 percent and 4.5 percent of the money spent on salaries goes to absent employees. By implementing wellness programs, Dr. Aldana estimates other companies can also save millions of dollars annually.

The study examined the health claims costs and absenteeism of 6,246 employees and retirees from the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nev., over six years.

"The findings are important because, although investment in health promotion is not large, it has a large payback for organizations," said Dr. Nico Pronk, vice president of the HealthPartners Center for Health Promotion in Minneapolis. "Perhaps more importantly, it shows that such programs are able to keep people more functional and on-the-job. Although this is certainly important from an employer's perspective, the ultimate winner is the individual who enjoys better health on a daily basis."