The Shaping of an Exercise Program

July 1, 1993
Good programs don't happen over-night. They take lots of planning, careful implementation and, usually, much revision. Lafayette, Indiana-based Subaru-Isuzu Automotive's (SIA) work-hardening program is no exception. The company designed the program to condition automotive workers for physical labor and cut down on workplace injuries, such as strained muscles and repetitive-motion injuries. The program has gone through several phases since its inception in 1989, in an attempt to make it the best it can be.

It began as an extension of the Japanese practice of stretching out to music before beginning work. Although SIA borrowed the concept from its parents in Japan, it wasn't content simply to imitate. It brought in two exercise physiologists from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, to redesign the stretching exercises for maximum benefit. "They created a stretching program that's more specific to our needs," Lee Ashton, personnel and training manager at SIA, explains. "The exercises concentrate more on backs and forearms."

At this phase of the work-hardening program, the company simply taught employees how to stretch properly during their orientations, and then provided them with music daily once they were on the job. The company also had employees perform more simple exercises, like squeezing putty (to strengthen their grips) or walking around the plant.

In 1990, SIA expanded the program to include aerobics and more-intensive general exercises during orientation for muscle strengthening. The workout equipment includes everything from exercise machines to such makeshift products as a brick attached to a broomstick with a rope, and a box filled with kitty litter and bolts. (Employees strengthen their forearms by twisting the rope on the broomstick and toughen their fingertips by digging through the rough kitty litter, searching for bolts.)

The program went through its most recent change in 1991. Employees still receive aerobic and strengthening exercises, but they also receive job-specific training. They work with physical therapists who coach them on how to perform their specific job tasks properly.

Personnel Journal, July 1993, Vol. 72, No. 7, p. 60.