The Fittest Companies in America

Time. It’s the biggest hurdle to staying fit for most guys toiling the 9-to-5. And with ever-increasing pressures on the job site, “work” can cast an even bigger cloud over our personal lives. Simply finding a gig that won’t sabotage your exercise regime can be a major challenge. But it’s not impossible. What if you could work for a company that values fitness just as much as the bottom line? Envision a workplace that offers employees state-of-the-art gyms and athletic facilities, rewards for being in shape, cafeterias stocked with healthy snacks, preventive medical care so you can monitor your cholesterol and blood-pressure levels along with other hidden health hazards— plus assistance for losing weight or quitting smoking.

Guess what? Such companies do exist—and we’ve found them. These are businesses that know personal fitness isn’t just good for an individual’s well-being but also for the bottom line. Study after study shows workplace fitness helps decrease absenteeism, increases productivity, reduces turnover, and ultimately produces a healthier workforce that requires significantly lower medical costs. One caveat: We tried to stay away from companies based in the athletic or fitness industries. That would be too easy. It would be news if these organizations didn’t help their employees stay fit. So you won’t find many fitness centers or sporting-goods makers on the MF Fit 15. (The few exceptions were just too good to ignore.) Instead, think of this list as the most surprisingly fit companies—companies large and small that are typically not in the fitness business but seem to know how to keep their employees lean and ripped anyway. In other words, the MF Fit 15 are the companies that truly get the MF way of life—and would be just plain cool to work for too.

GOOGLE (12,200 employees worldwide)
Mountain View, Calif.

It isn’t just the crazy stock prices that make Google so impressive. No, the company’s headquarters is more like a playground than what you would expect from a multibillion-dollar industry leader: Exercise balls and lava lamps are a staple throughout the hallways. Google’s top-notch complimentary fitness center features free weights, a rowing machine, and a lap pool, plus the campus has a climbing wall and a beach volleyball court. Employees enjoy roller hockey games on company grounds twice a week. To keep their fuel tanks full, the food in all 11 of the company’s gourmet cafeterias is free. That’s right, free.

WHEELER INTERESTS (19 employees)
Virginia Beach, Va.

When this real estate development firm was ready for new headquarters, CEO John Wheeler—a self-proclaimed fitness junkie—decided to design the facility himself, with the goal of creating a space that could foster better health for his employees. The layout of the new building, which opened last fall, spread necessary facilities as far apart as possible, forcing employees to walk as much as possible. An on-site, state-of-the-art gym, not typical for a company this small, was also a vital part of the design. The fitness center is free for employees and offers complimentary yoga, massages, physical therapy, and personaland performance-training sessions from two on-staff trainers. Even more impressive: The building was built on a Lynnhaven River tributary, giving employees access to kayaking, canoes, and other water sports.

SAS INSTITUTE (10,000 employees)
Cary, N.C.

Designing computer-program languages can be dry. Perhaps that’s why this privately owned company does everything it can to keep its workers happy. For starters, the company’s headquarters offers a 58,000-square-foot fitness center equipped with a full weight room, Nautilus equipment, cardio and aerobics rooms, racquetball courts, a swimming pool, and pool tables. Outside, the campus also houses soccer, softball, and Frisbee fields; tennis courts; jogging and biking trails (where the company hosts its own version of Tour de France, dubbed the Tour de SAS); plus a putting green, a track, and horseshoe pits. For participating in one of the company’s many fitness programs, employees can earn gifts ranging from exercise equipment to movie passes— ensuring that some 70% of the SAS workforce uses the fitness center regularly. The company also sponsors employee whitewater- rafting trips, a fishing rodeo, a golf tourney, and ski trips (to get slope-ready, there’s on-site ski conditioning and ski-training workshops at lunchtime). If that weren’t enough, break rooms are always well-stocked with snacks, and the company is well-known for perks like “Free Fruit Mondays,” “M&M Wednesdays,” and “Free Breakfast Fridays.”


After the American Heart Association challenged corporate America to get its employees moving, company-sponsored walking programs became all the rage. But the law firm of Fowler White Boggs Banker took things a step further—several steps, in fact. First, it armed each employee with a custom-built pedometer emblazoned with the firm’s name. Then, it challenged them to take at least 1,084 steps every day (one for each of the miles between the firm’s eight Florida offices). Today, more than half of the company’s employees are participating in its Start! Walking program, with each office competing to outstep the other.

ASTRAZENECA (13,000 U.S. employees)
Wilmington, Del.

Inspired to make a beneficial change in its employees’ lives, this pharmaceutical giant decided to roll out a unique incentive program. Workers can earn points for everything from going to the gym to attending online health seminars on topics such as stress management, nutrition, and fitness. Those points can then be used for running shoes and treadmills—even massage chairs, plasma TVs, and vacation packages. So far, an impressive 65% of employees have enrolled in the program. To ensure that fitness stays a part of the workday, the company also recently created indoor walking paths throughout its mile-long headquarters, so employees can still get power walks in during inclement weather. “We are now a company where you see everyone in running shoes,” says executive health and safety director Joe Henry. Next up: Having already revamped vending machines to include more healthy food choices, the company is working on the cafeteria, trying to draft a sliding price scale for food, with the healthiest options also being the cheapest (a salad, for instance, would cost less than that bacon cheeseburger and fries).

GENENTECH (10,890 employees)
 South San Francisco

From the moment you walk onto the grounds, the Genentech headquarters feels like a bucolic college campus, complete with employees bicycling between the company’s buildings. And like any good college, it also has a grand legacy. Rumor has it that the Genentech campus, with its concierge services and its weekly Friday afternoon party, was the inspiration for other employee-friendly companies in the Silicon Valley to start creating workplaces that emphasize fitness and happiness. Genentech is also an innovator when it comes to healthy dining, employing a team of nutritionists who are constantly working to refine the quality and healthiness of the gourmet fare offered to workers each day.

San Diego

You’d expect that a company known for designing corporate wellness programs would get it right when it comes to a healthy workplace. American Specialty does not disappoint. Think of its wellness program as a model of what can be done at any company. ASH headquarters is a junk-food-free zone. Two years ago the company removed all junk food from vending machines, replacing the contents with healthy snacks, including dried fruits, nuts, and whole-grain energy bars. Complimentary fresh fruit is always available, and employees can opt to sit on Swiss balls at their computers (improving their posture and core strength while they work). An exercise rewards system provides cash back for working out, either in the on-site gym or at an outside facility. A team of registered dietitians, nurses, and certified fitness trainers serve as telephone-based health coaches to create personalized healthy-living plans for employees. And each year, the employee who makes the biggest overall lifestyle and health improvements even wins an award for his or her efforts.

Birmingham, Ala.

If you think it’s hard to keep office workers fit, just try it in a factory: Two-thirds of the employees working for this family-owned plumbing-supply manufacturer are plant workers. Yet despite having strenuous physical jobs, they still find plenty of time for fitness. One possible reason: ACIPCO has an extensive incentive program that encourages working out, better nutrition, and healthy living. The company is also trying to slim down together. Its yearly Belly Busters competition pits about 30 teams against each other to shed pounds. During the holiday season, members make it a goal to maintain weight rather than gain it, doing weekly team weigh-ins to ensure that everyone stays on track. In the program’s first year, 90 people lost a collective 300 pounds. This year, 120 employees signed up. The company’s wellness-center programs are also available to employees’ families, and employees can continue with them after retirement.

HERBALIFE (3,800 employees)
Los Angeles

Herbalife proves that given the right support, anyone can get fit. A big sponsor of triathlons, the herbal supplement company also offers on-site triathlon training— including swimming clinics—and time for its employees to train during the day. This emphasis has so far convinced more than 2,000 employees to complete a triathlon, many of whom had never done anything requiring that level of fitness.

CHICK-FIL-A (1,700 employees)

Who says fast food is bad for your health? Chick-fil-A encourages healthy living from the top down. A favorite topic for President Dan Cathy is fitness and health. A marathon runner himself, Cathy constantly challenges those working for him to embrace a fit lifestyle. He believes a successful leader has to make his or her own health a priority and challenge those he or she leads to do the same. To that end, the company has a 15,000-square-foot on-site fitness center, which is huge considering that only 500 of its 1,700 employees work in the corporate office. The fitness center gets more than 200 visits a day, all the more impressive considering that across corporate America, only 15% of employees use their company gyms. For employees who spend their workdays on the road, Chick-fil-A has even created a business traveler’s exercise kit, which includes an exercise band and a manual of exercises that are easy to do in hotel rooms. In addition to regular 5K and one-mile races within the company, last year Cathy challenged employees to join him in running the Disney marathon in Orlando, offering free employee training for six months. Two hundred workers took him up on the offer.

PEPSICO (4,200 employees)
Purchase, N.Y.

The corporate parent of Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Tropicana, and Quaker Oats, Pepsico offers a fitness program driven by the belief that “healthier employees are more productive and satisfied,” says Lynn Markley, head of company wellness. To get employees on board, the company’s 12,000-square-foot fitness center is open 24-7 and offers everything from Pilates and yoga to specialty fare like tango, in-line skating, and tae kwon do. Towel and laundry service for exercise clothes is available to make working out between meetings easier. Facilities also include sand volleyball, tennis and basketball courts, a lap pool, racquetball/squash courts, an outdoor running course and a softtrack. At lunch, a recurring seminar series emphasizes a holistic approach toward health with sessions on herbal remedies, anti-stress techniques, acupuncture, and other forms of Chinese medicine.

VERIZON WIRELESS (65,000 employees)
 Basking Ridge, N.J.

This cell phone company knows what it means to surround its employees with healthy-living choices—offering 28 on-site health and wellness centers in its various offices across the U.S. Each of those gyms contains cardio and strength-training equipment; spinning studios; group exercise classes that offer aerobics, Pilates, outdoor boot camp, and kickboxing, plus massage-therapy facilities. Oneon- one personal training and individual nutrition counseling from on-staff fitness coaches are also available. The Verizon Wireless intramural league includes softball, volleyball, soccer, biking, running, and walking teams. “Helping our employees get fit and healthy is a competitive advantage,” says Martha Delehanty, vice president of human resources. “It reduces our absenteeism rate as well as our presenteesim—our employees are more engaged when they are at work because their bodies feel good.”

SABRE HOLDINGS (4,200 employees in the U.S.)

Last year Sabre, which counts Travelocity among its brands, saw its health-care costs increase only 1% (the nationwide average was 9%). Its secret? A companywide health-and-wellness program, in which more than 80% of its U.S. employees participate. The program started in 2004 and includes fitness, nutrition, stress relief,and weight-loss challenges, all of which have created a noticeable shift in attitude among workers. “It’s wild. I walk around here, and people are thinner,” says benefits manager Matt Robbins, who oversees the wellness program but has yet to tire ofthe “you changed my life” e-mails from employees. “Everyone is looking more healthy,” he says. Online surveys track employee habits, determine where their biggest risks healthwise are, and offer recommendations on specific company wellness offerings. (One popular option: Active Release Techniques, twice-weekly sessions with a chiropractor to treat soft tissue damage.) Aggregate results of those surveys allow the company to determine which areas its employees need help in and then tailor programs accordingly. For instance, the surveys found that there are fewer smokers at Sabre than at other companies and nationally, but extra pounds were a particular problem. Rather than pouring its resources into smokingcessation programs, Sabre now concentrates on weight-loss efforts.

TEC LABORATORIES (42 employees)
Albany, Ore.

If you want face time with the CEO of this midsize pharmaceutical company—and possibly the chance to put your career on the fast track—you’d better pull on your running shoes. Tec boss Steve Smith is an avid outdoorsman and marathon runner and welcomes employees at any level of the organization to join him for his regular run on Tec’s campus trails during lunch. When the company built the new headquarters a few years ago, it included on-site basketball courts after finding out that one-third of its employees play the game. Now, during lunchtime, “Got Next” is the company chant.

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