Exercise good for firms' wealth

Prevention is not just better than cure, it is also cheaper when it comes to treating the problems caused by working days lost through sickness.

In Britain days off through sickness cost employers pounds 533 per employee last year according to the CBI, a 20 per cent rise in just two years. In the US, medical costs quadrupled in 20 years to more than $1 000bn (pounds 625bn) and employers paid an estimated 30-40 per cent of the bills.

The answer, according to David Giampaolo, managing director of Forza group, which makes fitness equipment for health clubs and gyms, is healthy exercise encouraged by employers.

Employers can save money through reduced insurance premiums on group medical schemes for employees as well as by reducing days lost to illness.

Forza has sponsored a report on the economic benefits of regular exercise. It claims that 70 per cent of all illnesses are linked to the lifestyle of the individual, and half of all medical costs are attributable to illnesses that could be prevented.

It concludes that companies can save substantial sums by investing in healthcare schemes which pay back in improved productivity, higher morale, lower healthcare costs and reduced staff turnover.

Health clubs patrons are off work for an average of 2.11 days a year compared with 3.06 days for inactive employees.