To explore the benefits physical activity can have on employee well-being as well as an employers’ bottom line, we posed a series of questions to Dom DiLuigi, M.A., a training expert and innovator in functional health.

You use the term “functional health” when describing healthy lifestyle goals. Can you please define the concept for us?

DiLuigi: “Applied Health,” or “Functional Health,” in a nutshell means the utilization of both the mind and body to everyday tasks rather than relying on technology or the path of least resistance to get through one’s day.

There is an application for ‘Societal Tools,’ but when a person becomes dependent on them rather them using them as needed, he or she can slip into a dependence situation quickly, not unlike using medications when one needs them vs. being a hypochondriac.

It’s important to use and challenge both the mind and body daily in order to keep them in tune and nimble. In a society where most people under 30 can no longer drive a manual transmission car or do math in their head, we have a problem.

Use it or lose it!

What are some of the benefits for businesses when employees are physically active?

It depends on the starting point of each person. Today, here in ‘economically developed’ nations, people seem to come in one of two flavors, hypo- or hyper-active. Those that park up close as they can in a parking lot to get to the building in the least number of steps and go home, and those that do the same thing at health clubs, only to get on the first cardio machine and sit on it for an hour plus.

I don’t separate mental activity from physical activity, so I’d have to say, mental stimulation would come first, and physical, second. Both are relative to a person’s background, general profile and lifelong habits.

In a generic sense, there’s been much research already done on the matter. What I would say is that everything should be promoted in moderation, balance and nothing to excess.

The immediate benefits of a flexible, mental, or physical activity session at work (or before and after) include effectively staying off stagnation throughout the body, thus helping to maintain balance, which is the key to prolonged health and productivity.

Also, physical activity helps people stay off the ‘anything addictive-a-holic’ syndrome that so many people suffer from in economically developed societies (which those coming up through agrarian societies don’t have to contend with).

Does good physical health translate to good mental health, and ultimately, superior performance at work?

The correlation between physical health and mental health has been established repeatedly in countless studies and research. However, good plus good doesn’t equal superior.

Taking the baseline of any given individual with consideration as to what their potential output could be, better health will almost always translate to more wealth. And by “wealth,” in this case, I mean output.

I believe the overall stress realized in economically developed countries is simply too much collective stress for both the mind and body.

With the advent of technology, and its improper use/abuse, I see people being much more ‘distracted’ in general, and a huge spike in ADD/ADHD type symptoms preventing consistent output from being achieved and fulfillment being realized.

Today, less duration — with more focus and determination — results in positive reinforcement and consistent progression on the physical side. This pattern of positive reinforcement and balance better equates to improved mental health and work performance on the output of whatever mental endeavor an individual engages in.

Henry David Thoreau said that “It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?”

Is encouraging a healthier diet part of this philosophy – in terms of being something that can help employees be more productive?

Healthy diet is suggestive and subjective and there are so many schools of thought on it, each feeling they’re correct that it’s not something I get into conversations over regularly.

I myself should eat better, but on the flip side of occasional carbs and sugars I like, I don’t partake in recreational drugs or alcohol.

The general population would probably be surprised to find out the collective ‘ingestion’ patterns of known celebrities and so called health and fitness experts in the field preaching their dogma, but not necessarily following suit.

People must remember that the health and fitness industry are just that -- an industry. And they are an industry that generates revenues based on trends and the formation of so-called innovative ideas and insights.

The truth is that there is very little that’s new under the sun, and just like anything else, I would recommend the proper application of moderation when it comes to all things, and avoiding trends and snake oil solutions to problems that either don’t exist or the origin of the ailments being attributed to things that are not scientifically sound.

Overall, a diet limited in grains and sugars, high in fats and plant fibers and moderate I proteins is an effective way to go. Water intake should be a metric of your total output and environment, and don’t forget, mental exertion in today’s society is more important than physical. Many people come to the gym mentally exhausted, which has a significant negative impact on the body physically.

My best advice is to feed the brain, and the body will follow.

Your Sweat23 concept suggests that short, focused training sessions are the most effective when it comes to physical training. With that in mind, do you think 9-to-5 employees should go for a quick, half-hour training session during their lunch breaks? Or does it make more sense to exercise before or after work?

I’m very biased here, so I’ll just say this:

Just like I’m not a proponent of eating late in the day, I’m not a proponent of heavy exertion after mid-day. In addition, I find 90% of people that attend exercise classes do so prior to 1pm, if following a normal routine.

There are those who will say they don’t have time and they’re too busy, or their work schedules won’t permit anything other than evening exercise, and to those people my sympathy goes out.

30 minutes at mid-day followed by a light lunch and hydration will do wonders for your productivity for the balance of the day without having to resort to stimulants and go a long way toward reducing stress hormones, diminishing stress on the adrenals and lowering cortisol count.

The sad reality is that lunch is typically the ‘social’ meal of the day, and those in a constant state of adrenal stress simply find it more comfortable to have a few drinks at lunch and make small talk with co-workers at a nice restaurant, then they see value in taking those same people to a lunchtime exercise and recovery session.

I believe for most 9-to-5 workers, an hour spent taking a quick 30 minute walk, workout or other focused physical activity followed by a small meal consisting mainly of protein, plant fiber and hydration would improve their collective health and maintain their balance tremendously.

Would you agree that it’s a smart investment that any company should make – to provide its employees with healthy living training programs or activities?

I believe it’s in any organization’s best interest to provide access and opportunity for individuals to invest in their own collective health.

From a business owner perspective, I feel it’s next to impossible to get people who don’t subscribe to certain philosophies to suddenly see the light and begin adhering to a better, healthier lifestyle. I would say the best course of action would be to have leadership within a given organization vet certain programs they feel will achieve the objectives they would like to see, envision the end results they’re likely to realize and work the steps backwards until the objective is best met. The realization will be had when organizations define parameters and set incentives to meet these objectives.

It’s more a matter of “what you inspect” vs. “what you expect,” and once you define and reward those things that best serve the collective effort between employer and employee, you will be in a better position to realize goals that are mutually beneficial to the collective whole.

Dom DiLuigi, M.A. (BUD/S Class 162 “Iron Man”), founder of Sweat.Haus, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on functional health and effective training. After decades of research and road-tested training, DiLuigi came to the conclusion that the vast majority of injuries occur between the 26th and 46th minutes of physical exercise. He also discovered that typical hour-long training sessions often result in diminished returns and ‘overtraining’ symptoms. To build balance, flexibility, cardio, and strength – the essential elements of functional health – DiLuigi developed the Sweat23 training program. Learn more at www.sweat.haus

Return to Index

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.