Yes, worksite weight loss programs do work

But results might be a 'best case scenario'

If anyone questions whether your company's workplace weight loss programs are really getting workers to lose pounds, you have a ready answer in light of a new review of studies.1

Researchers looked at 11 studies published since 1994 on programs to improve diet and physical activity, most involving education and counseling. They found that participants lost an average of 2.2 pounds to almost 14 pounds, while non-participants ranged from a loss of 1.5 pounds to a gain of 1.1 pounds. Programs involving face-to-face contact more than once a month were more effective.

The findings show that these programs work modestly in the short term for those who choose to participate, says Michael Benedict, MD, one of the study's authors, and an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at University of Cincinnati (OH). However, Benedict acknowledges that the programs that were looked at might be a "best case scenario," because subjects were mainly volunteers and highly motivated. "I would anticipate less success if trying to recruit a broader group of obese employees," he says.

The research doesn't give any information on weight maintenance or return on investment for employers. "There is also not much to guide us on how to optimally set up the program, although we believe frequent contact with employees — more than once a month — may be important," says Benedict.

Reference

  1. Arterburn D, Benedict MA. Worksite-based weight loss programs: A systematic review of recent literature. Amer J Health Promot2008; 22:408-416.