Corporate America's investments in fitness programs for workersare beginning to pay some dividends, according to a poll of largeemployers conducted by the National Business Group on Health.

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“More and more employers are seeing the value of helping theirworkers become and stay fit and trim,” said Helen Darling, thegroup's president. “Over the past few years, we have seen a growingnumber of companies implementing various fitness programs aimed athelping workers lose weight, eat healthy, and create an overallhealthy lifestyle.”

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Of the companies responding to the poll, 56 percent reportedincreased morale among their workforces as a result of theirfitness programs and initiatives. Other benefits included reducedhealth-care costs, according to 27 percent, and 20 percentexperienced increased worker productivity and decreasedabsenteeism.

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The most prevalent fitness amenities offered by employers areon-site fitness centers (77 percent) and on-site fitness programs(69 percent), while 67 percent sponsor fitness programs. Employersalso are providing access to fitness information, with 60 percentoffering materials on local programs and 38 percent supplyingweb-based tools for tracking and information.

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One of the biggest challenges facing companies, however, isgetting more employees to take advantage of their fitness programs,said Darling. About two-thirds of the companies reported that fewerthan 25 percent of their workers participate in their fitnessprograms. At three out of ten, between 25 and 50 percent of workersparticipate, while only two percent said that more than half oftheir workforce takes advantage of these programs.

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