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The new corporate mantra

The television commercial for the Hutch Delhi Marathon announces that all of Delhi, including Pinki, Bunty and Malhotra uncle, are going to run this month. Literally. Hutch — the main sponsor of the marathon — has signed up a city-based fitness trainer to give professional fitness and long-distance running training to its employees. “About 300 Hutch employees have signed up for the training programme,” says Kiran Sawhney, proprietor, Fitnesolution, and fitness trainer for the Hutch employees.

Sawhney explains that the Hutch marathon initiative is one of the many ways in which companies in India are introducing fitness in the employee’s work life. “Companies are recognising the importance of having a physically healthy workforce,” says Sawhney.

Like Hutch, Sawhney’s South Delhi-based fitness centre has a number of corporate clients subscribing to the employee fitness package on offer. “Companies are discovering that the huge funds spent on an employee’s medical expenses can be cut by investing in corporate fitness. Physically fit employees are also more productive,” adds the fitness expert.

Fitnesolution offers a specially designed corporate fitness package that includes fitness management, de-stressing, meditation, power work, soft skill management, and — considering the ergonomic problems of the corporate workforce — a postural programme. “It’s a complete package,” says Sawhney. Fitnesolution also takes care of in-house gyms in corporate offices.

In Bangalore, FitnessOne has started a corporate fitness centre that offers fitness programmes to the city’s information technology and business process outsourcing firms. “Fitness is no longer just a fad. It’s become a necessity in today’s sedentary working conditions,” says Surja Kishore, general manager, FitnessOne. As part of its corporate fitness programme, FitnessOne offers cardio-vascular activity, strength training, stress management, weight reduction, ergonomics and physiotherapy. It also conducts fitness evaluations, holds aerobic classes and nutrition camps and workshops on yoga, stress relief, mind and body coordination and flexibility. “If organisations have the space, we help them install an in-house gym,” says Kishore.

A recent survey conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services found that 70 per cent of all illnesses in the country were due to lifestyle-related causes like obesity and physical inactivity. Kishore believes that the statistics are similar in urban India. “As long work hours, erratic food habits and endless coffee become a part of corporate work life, it’s leading to lifestyle diseases like high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and acidity,” she says. She adds that as companies start recognising the importance of employee fitness, they make exercise a part of the work curriculum.

Bangalore’s biggest IT giants, such as Infosys and Oracle, offer in-house fitness options to employees. While Oracle has an in-house gymnasium, Infosys also has an aerobic centre and a swimming pool. “Infosys has started a second gym on campus, as an increasing number of employees are opting to use the fitness facilities,” says an employee, who works out at the office gym three days a week. Smaller firms, such as Bangalore-based Aditi Technologies, have tie-ups with local gymnasiums, where employees can enrol and exercise at reduced rates.

Coimbatore-based firm Pricol has an elaborate fitness programme for employees. “We have a fully-equipped gymnasium, indoor sports facilities and weekly yoga sessions,” says M. Ramakrishnan, senior manager, human resources, Pricol. To add a touch of fun to fitness, Pricol organises an annual Fit Man and Woman contest. “Contestants are judged on various parameters, including endurance, flexibility, weight lifting and heart rate,” says Ramakrishnan. Winners are awarded shields and cash prizes at an elaborate public ceremony. The company has also tied up with the local sports college, whose trainers help Pricol employees to follow an exhaustive exercise regimen.

Ramakrishnan claims 60 per cent of Pricol’s 2,500 employees use the sports facilities on the campus. He believes this has an impact on the employee’s performance level. “There is only seven per cent absenteeism in Pricol. This, in some way, can be attributed to the fitness programme,” claims Ramakrishnan. He adds that a meditation hall is currently under construction on the Pricol campus.

Fitness is clearly becoming the new corporate mantra. FitnessOne’s Kishore claims the number of companies signing up for the corporate fitness programme is increasing by 20 per cent every year. “Enquiries are pouring in,” says Kishore. FitnessOne’s client list includes IT biggies like Yahoo, Delphi, Infineon, Sharp Software and America Online (AOL).

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