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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Working Out “On the Clock”

Published June 30, 2010 8:31 AM by Cheryl McEvoy
 

Drive to work, punch in and...hit the gym? For physical therapists, sure, but for anyone outside the therapy realm, working out on the job is an unusual concept. Not so at Volkswagen's new U.S. plant, where exercise is a required part of orientation. The German automaker plans to manufacture a mid-sized sedan at the Chattanooga, TN site, and it's launched a fitness program to keep employees on the production line and off workers' comp.

VW's "training academy" includes daily two-hour workouts led by Progressive Health Rehabilitation Services, according to the Associated Press. Employees stretch, jog, push and pull to reduce the odds of injury at the plant. An onsite fitness center is also in the plans, and would be accessible to employees' family members.

Employees suffered through the first weeks, but there's an incentive: According to the AP, the workouts are "on-the-clock," so employees are cashing in on the pain. After a few sessions, they're seeing physical results, too; several employees have lost weight, and many are eating healthier.

Plenty of companies have adopted wellness programs, but few conduct fitness class during work hours or require employees to participate. Even VW said the U.S. program is "unique" to its global enterprise.

So why the regimen? Well, as the article points out, the new plant is smack dab in an area struggling with obesity and poor health. Employees may be prone to injury or heart attack, which would only be exacerbated by the heavy lifting and moving involved in automobile production. By requiring the staff to get in shape, VW will probably save on workers' comp and cut productivity losses that occur when workers are injured. It's a harsh directive, and perhaps one VW doesn't have the right to impose, but it's all for the bettering of employee performance and overall health.

What do you think about VW's "on-the-clock" fitness program? Is it a good way to help industrial sites avoid workplace injuries?

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