A recent study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion (May 2013) found that individuals who regularly took advantage of their workplace wellness program reported an improvement in their overall quality-of-life, but non-regular users often reported no improvements in their physical quality-of-life and a decline in their mental quality-of-life.
The study, conducted by Matthew Clark, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic, focused on overall quality-of-life, not just nutrition and fitness. The study surveyed more than 1,100 employee wellness center members, whose average age was 39. Participants were split into low, below-average, above average, and high users. Low users attended less than once every two weeks and high users two or three times a week.
The percent of those in the above average user category reporting a high physical quality-of-life improved from 49.8 to 59.6 from baseline to follow-up one year later. Among high users, the percentage increased from 59.4 to 80.4 percent. There was no improvement in physical quality-of-life scores among the lowest use group, and the number of low users reporting a high mental quality of life decreased from 51.4 to 34.5 percent.
The authors suggest their findings (decline in mental quality associated with non-participation in workplace wellness programming) may be linked to the negative emotions associated with the beginning of a program being difficult and subsequent non-attendance of the program. Moreover, unrealistic expectations might play a role.
What to do? Start with realistic expectations. Know that beginning any program can be difficult not only because of the commitment it involves, but also due to time management and physical and mental demands. Go into the program with the understanding that it will get easier if you stick with it. Start with realistic expectations; remember, baby steps you can handle are much better than gigantic leaps that make you want to quit. And if you miss a wellness session, no big deal—just get to the next one!