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Working Out in the Workplace

Tom Brook exercises five days a week. As a newspaper reporter he has a tight schedule, although Tom says it's not that difficult for him to make time for a workout.

"It is great. It is right here where we work,” says Tom. “So everybody gets a chance to use it whenever they want to. I have lost weight and never been in better shape."

"I think it is really great release,” adds Allie Carroll. “If you are kind of stressed out in the work day sitting at a computer for seven to eight hours a day, it's really great to be able to come down here get a quick workout."

Allie and Tom work at Gannett/USA Today, a nationwide newspaper company based in Virginia. In an on-site fitness center in the headquarters complex, employees work out at their convenience.

Thomas Chapple is the senior vice president. "It's really important to us -- employee fitness is --because medical costs are going up like crazy. This company spends more than $200 million a year on medical costs for its employees around the country. The best thing we have seen as a way to control the medical cost is individual fitness."

With some experts predicting yet another year of big increases in health insurance costs in the U.S., many companies of all sizes are trying to cut costs through similar programs to improve employees' health. A recent survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a New York-based consulting firm, found that 62 percent of 365 large companies operate wellness programs and 33 percent are considering doing so.

Shawn Flaherty is director of public relations for Freddie Mac, a corporation that provides homeowners and renters with lower housing costs.

"We have a fitness center,” in the headquarters in McLean Virginia. “We have a wellness center and we have a health benefits plan that encourages people to workout three times a week, get cholesterol checks, as well as ‘do not smoke.’ If they do that, it will cost them less for the health benefits."

While on-site fitness centers are popular, some companies subsidize membership fees at local gyms for employees. The companies also offer classes such as cardio boxing, yoga, Pilates and dancing. Employees see those health programs as a valuable benefit.

Rachelle Clark works for Freddie Mac. "I feel great. You know the benefit is rewarding. I like to look good, feel healthy. I am just fortunate that I work for the company that provides some type of facility for the employees and have that benefit."

For McKinley Davis at USA Today, even a bad day is better with a little workout. "I feel better about myself once I get my workout here. Really, I really do. It is invigorating. Gives me a lot more inspiration to do more for the day. Gives me extra energy."

The programs may not be a magic cure for rising health costs, but they seem to have a positive impact on both employers and employees.