A new study has found that people who used a workplace wellness center on frequent basis reported an improvement in their overall quality-of-life, while those that used the center less often reported no improvements in their physical quality-of-life and a decline in their mental quality-of-life.
Declines in mental health reported by people who did not use workplace wellness centers may be attributed to unrealistic expectations and people becoming discouraged when not reaching their health goals, the researchers said.
Previous studies have explored health-specific benefits of workplace wellness centers, such as weight loss and fitness, yet other quality-of-life benefits associated with participating in these programs have not been well documented.
"While fitness is a key domain of wellness, wellness is also relationships, spirituality, quality of life, nutrition, resiliency, stress management and financial well-being," said lead author Matthew Clark, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic.
"To examine wellness we need to include more domains than just fitness," he added.
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 1 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.
"Quality of life is typically measured by having participants answer questions-it's self-reported," said Joel Hughes, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
"This is a bit harder than measuring weight loss but it is possible to measure a lot of non-physical attributes with great confidence," Hughes added.
The authors suggest that one way to improve the quality-of-life benefits of wellness programs might be to provide a wider range of features, such as those that reduce stress.
Furthermore, they noted that, participants in wellness programs often have unrealistic expectations and become discouraged when they don't immediately reach their goals. If participants understand that motivation can fluctuate due to life circumstances, it could help.
"When life is super stressful, the motivation for wellness probably takes a big hit," said Clark. He added that it's important to learn not to engage in negative self-talk.
The study appeared in the American Journal of Health Promotion.