Taking time out of the work week for an employee exercise program may lead to increased productivity — despite the reduction in work hours, reports a study in thetreadmillAugust issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

 In the study, one group of employees at a large Swedish public dental health organization was assigned to a mandatory exercise program carried out during regular work hours: 2½ hours per week. Another group received the same reduction in work hours, but no exercise program. (A third group worked regular hours with no exercise program.) The researchers were Ulrica von Thiele Schwarz, PhD, and Henna Hasson, PhD, of Karolinska Institute, Stockholm. 

Employees assigned to the exercise program also had significant increases in self-rated measures of productivity: they felt more productive while on the job and had a reduced rate of work absences due to illness. 

The results suggest that reducing work hours for exercise or other health promotion doesn’t necessarily lead to decreased productivity – and may even lead to increased productivity. The productivity gains seem to result from higher output during work hours and fewer missed work day. Drs. von Thiele Schwarz and Hasson conclude, “Work hours may be used for health promotion activities with sustained or improved production levels, since the same, or higher, production level can be achieved with lesser resources.”