A case study in functional fitness

The typical UPS driver works 12-hour shifts, walks for miles a day and lifts about 1-million pounds per year. The job’s physical demands make it the perfect candidate for an investment in functional fitness.

That’s exactly what a California UPS unit did in 2003.

Within one year of launching its functional fitness program, UPS had reduced injury rates by 50 percent. By year two, rates were down 85 percent, and workers’ comp premiums dropped 60 percent.

Management noticed workplace injuries were up. Predictably, so were workers’ comp premiums. So the organization went to work on a forward-thinking solution.

The process started with a thorough review of claim trends. In many cases, the data suggested awkward and improper lifting techniques, poor body mechanics, excessive reaching, forceful exertions and environmental hazards, such as excessive heat and cold, contributed to injuries.

With guidance from outside ergonomics experts, UPS built the framework for a functional fitness program. The program included one-on-one training sessions designed to improve body mechanics, strength, flexibility and core conditioning.

Training equipment ranged from the everyday – medicine balls, resistance bands, light weights – to the sophisticated – skinfold calipers, blood pressure cuffs and computerized exercise protocols.

UPS also designed a three-minute, progressive warmup drill that flowed from the neck to the feet. The drill incorporated balance, agility and weight transference.

UPS management recognized that even the most comprehensive training program will fall short if employees don’t properly fuel their bodies. So they provided healthy lunches and stressed the importance of hydration in reducing muscle fatigue and its associated injuries.

Within one year of launching its functional fitness program, UPS had reduced injury rates by 50 percent. By year two, rates were down 85 percent, and workers’ comp premiums dropped 60 percent.

How’s that for a return on investment?

Of course, many small businesses do not have the time or money to bring in experts to help them cash in on the benefits of functional fitness. Fortunately, you don’t have to.

In our next post, we’ll share a few simple tips for making functional fitness part of your integrated safety and wellness program.

Follow our series on functional fitness
This post is the third installment in our series on functional fitness. If you missed the previous installments, click on the links below:

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