By Jon Zerden
It’s the time of year when holiday decorations go up, temperatures drop, and people huddle indoors and gather for feasts of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie and much more.
But when the feasting comes to an end, people begin to think of their New Year’s resolutions. In addition to the occasional over indulgence in holiday comfort foods, people are more wary than ever of the risks associated with a lack of exercise.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the annual estimated medical expense associated with obesity in the United States is $61 billion. Diabetes costs $116 billion, while cardiovascular disease and strokes amount to $313.8 billion in expenditures.
With healthcare costs rising exponentially, companies are looking for ways to make wellness a competitive advantage, and lower costs at the same time. In addition to lowering costs, having a fitness center at your company can help reduce sick days by 13 percent and turnover by as much as 250 percent.
But just building a fitness center isn’t the answer. It’s getting employees to actually use it. As it turns out, “if you build it, they will come” is true, but only when you harness the power of technology to give people the support, tools and experience they need to start – and stick with – a workout program.
Athletes Performance’s heritage as a company is in elite athlete training. We have spent over a decade evolving our approach to National Football League (NFL) Combine training, supporting five of the last six number one overall NFL Draft selections, along with members of theUnited Statesmilitary, Major League Baseball All-Stars, the German National Soccer Team and dozens of Olympians from China in this year’s Games.
What does elite athlete training have to do with the rest of us?
As it turns out, when most of us do cardiovascular training we hop on a bike, treadmill or elliptical machine, and then read a magazine, listen to music or chat with our friends. With this knowledge, we saw a huge market opportunity in creating effective, efficient cardiovascular training that takes the thinking out of exercising while still delivering maximum impact.
However, one question still remained: how could we scale an experience typically reserved for the world’s best athletes and bring it to life for employees at companies like Intel and Walgreens?
We quickly realized that bringing to life our professional athlete’s training program – the Core Performance Energy Systems Development (CPESD) – required smart technology and impactful programming. The solution was to find a way to take years of research and turn that into usable code. By achieving this, we were able to harness the expertise of our coaching staff, use data that was typically relegated to spreadsheets, and create training logic rules to make our vision a reality.
IBM WebSphere ILOG JRules helped us to automate 35,000 rules and launch the Core Performance Prescription Engine. This tool takes data from an individual employee, along with decades of knowledge and experience from our coaches, and uses it to automatically generate a personalized workout based on an individual’s goals, current fitness level and how many times per week they plan to train with us. By integrating the Prescription Engine into both our strength and cardiovascular equipment, we not only saw incredible usage rates and retention, but also huge biometric outcomes.
Participants in a study at Intel saw a 6.08 percent drop in body fat percentage in just 14 weeks, along with a 19.6 percent increase in theirpeak oxygen uptake, a key indicator of cardiovascular fitness. In addition, the average employee lowered their cholesterol by 5.74 percent and improved their functional movement by 23 percent. When you consider that reducing just one health risk factor for one employee can save a company $420 per year, that’s a significant impact on both wellness and savings.
IBM’s software allowed us to take the highest level of prescriptive programming – typically accessible only to elite athletes and teams due to price point and labor inputs required – and bring it to the corporate wellness market. This revolutionized what’s possible in terms of both engagement and results for non-athletes and those that need the extra help to get a fitness regimen going.
In addition to the programming, we also added interactive features, such as allowing employees to complete “Challenges of the Week” or share their workout on Facebook and Twitter.
The results: smarter fitness centers that take the thinking out of working out and make your company a healthier and happier place to work.