predicting future production

Apr 12

One of the coolest things about the often long-standing relationships we have with clients is witnessing their families grow up. Although always a reminder of how fast time flies, it's super cool to be hearing about tales of rec-sports or dance recitals one minute and then, in what feels like a snap of the fingers, hearing that the kids are heading off to college or applying for a job "at the company". While most people don't think of the large employer clients we connect with as "family businesses", so often, in fact, they are, with generations of men and women learning the literal "tricks of the trade" from their parents and grand-parents; good jobs with an ever-evolving skill set. New tools and process improvements are tested all the time - and scanning for a better way is all part of gaining a performance edge in the marketplace. Now, while sometimes this means producing more, often it's about producing better - a higher quality product or a better outcome, preferably via a process that is less risky for those "doing" it.  

With that in mind, anytime I see research that points in that general direction, I'm excited to share it. This time, it is about improving health risks today to maximize the next generation's ability to work a full career tomorrow. Taken from a VERY LONG observation of 1200+ individuals, if we want our kids to not have the aches, pains, and illnesses that we are dealing with today, 45 years later the punchline is - "Invest in Fitness", specifically cardiorespiratory (aerobic) fitness.

In the mid-1970's when Finland was starting their "global worst to first" countrywide health turnaround, an amazing accomplishment we've discussed in the past, they began tracking several measures of fitness in school-aged children (12-19 years old). In addition to standard height and weight measurements, and similar to the US Presidential Fitness test from way back when (now the "FitnessGram"), they also included measurements of muscular endurance, strength, and power, using tests like the flexed arm hang, situps, pull-ups and standing broad jump, along with running tests to measure aerobic fitness.

Where it gets interesting is that researchers were able to track down many of those Finnish adolescents when they were in their prime earning years (37-44 years old) and again in their late earning years (57-64). More than 1200 agreed to complete a questionnaire known as the "Work Ability Index" which has been shown to accurately capture a person's ability to be productive at work and also the amount of illness absence they experienced at those times of life.  

After statistical scrubbing to account for known accelerators (like low levels of education and occupations that include heavy physical work) and decelerators (like volume and intensity of leisure time physical activity), they found that only cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with higher future productivity at work and lower odds of illness absence. The researchers concluded, "Enhancing CRF in the first decades of life might contribute to better work capacity and productivity in the labor force, which would have implications for health, quality of life, society, and the economy.".

We don't know what the future holds, but even in a world where computers might do most of the heavy thinking and robots the heavy lifting, it's probably reasonable to assume most of our kids WILL have to work for a living. Nudging their fitness now is likely to be one of the best investments we can make for when that time comes.

Have a great weekend...maybe get out and play,

Mike E.