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By Drew Johnson

The entire auto industry was forced to get leaner and meaner following the recession that took hold in 2008, and Volkswagen is instilling that same mentality in its new hires at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee production facility.

In order to create “industrial athletes”, Volkswagen is requiring all new hires at its Tennessee plant participate in a fitness program. The program has been ongoing since April, consisting of two-hour daily sessions.

Although the fitness program may sound like some crazy derivation of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, it’s actually designed to help train workers for real life actions on the production line. The program is comprised of several different exercise routines, each designed for a specific job on the line, whether it be assembly, paint shop or body shop. The entire program is headed by Progressive Health Rehabilitation Services.

“That first week was really rough,” said Anthony Staton, an assembly worker that recently completed the program. “After the first week I started noticing some changes in my body. I could do a flight of stairs a little more easily. I didn’t get winded as easily.” Staton lost about 30 pounds through the program.

Despite the required participation, VW doesn’t have any weight requirements at the Chattanooga plant. However, a number of workers have reportedly lost up to 30 pounds, and have pledged to remain on a workout regimen. The entire situation sounds like a win-win, with employees getting healthier and VW getting a more able workforce.

The Tennessee plant will eventually build VW’s new mid-size sedan.



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Good idea... something like that would be useful for corporate cubicle dwelling white collar exercise-averse bagel chomping code monkeys like myself.. :)

One company I was at a couple years tried a voluntary fitness program for it's employees, but they didn't get many takers for going on runs, soccer, kickball, etc and other sports over lunchtime outside on 110 degree days..

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VW has workers get fit before hitting factory floor

By Bill Poovey, Associated Press Writer

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee — Volkswagen is requiring production workers hired for its new U.S. assembly plant to go through a fitness program on top of the usual job training, aiming to forge an "industrial athlete" who can lift, grip, bend and push without flagging.

VW formally opened its training academy at the $1 billion plant site Friday. But dozens of workers hired ahead of a projected production start early next year have already been building their bodies there before they start building cars.

Volkswagen Chattanooga spokesman Scott Wilson said the workouts are aimed at better product quality when the German automaker starts building a midsized sedan at the plant, which is expected to create about 2,000 jobs. He said time in the classroom, hands-on training and fitness training are all "focused on getting each and every one of us, no matter what our job is at the plant, prepared to show up and perform at the highest level of professional excellence."

Since April, fitness trainers have had new hires taking part in "on-the-clock" workouts that follow health testing and are individually tailored to their future production jobs that include the paint shop, body shop and assembly.

In a region that is home of Little Debbie snack cakes, MoonPies and Krystal burgers, VW wellness-disability specialist Marsha Wood said the trainees are meeting the physical challenge in a community that generally has a high body mass index. "We are improving it," Wood said, calling it training for an "industrial athlete."

She said exercises in the daily two-hour-long workout sessions directed by Progressive Health Rehabilitation Services are linked to movements they will do every day and include stretching, cardiovascular strength, endurance, grip and how much employees can push and pull.

She said the workers go through a three-week job orientation before starting the fitness regimen.

Jason Guess, the VW plant's manager of safety, health and wellness, said the fitness training is unique for VW plants globally.

Guess said there is no weight threshold to keep a job but that some workers have lost 30 pounds in three weeks of workouts.

Guess also said many of the 150 workers who have finished or are currently involved in the daily workouts did not come from a manufacturing environment. The workouts also help build camaraderie.

Anthony Staton, an assembly worker who finished the fitness program, said he didn't like it at first. "I felt like my hand was being forced a little bit," he said. Staton, 45, worked at a desk job at home for about four years and had a sedentary lifestyle before getting hired by VW.

"That first week was really rough," Staton said. "After the first week I started noticing some changes in my body. I could do a flight of stairs a little more easily. I didn't get winded as easily."

Staton said he has dropped about 30 pounds.

"When the third week was over my uniform was just being delivered and I noticed my pants I had ordered when we first started working out were looser," he said.

Staton said his assembly job requires "an all-over kind of fitness thing." He said unlike some work areas with a floor that moves with you, he assembles where "the car moves and I have to move with it, reaching and bending."

A new logistics employee, former trucker Dan Clark, said the workouts were his toughest physical challenge since Army basic training.

Clark said he has dropped two sizes in his pants and is about 60 pounds lighter.

Clark said that as a trucker he often ate huge portions of country fried steak and gravy and now is "eating a lot smaller portions and eating healthier."

He said his VW job will involve lifting, bending, twisting and turning.

"The first week I looked at [my workout instructor] and told her I hated her," Clark said. "The third week I told her, 'I don't hate you anymore.'"



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Good idea... something like that would be useful for corporate cubicle dwelling white collar exercise-averse bagel chomping code monkeys like myself.. :)


This is the quote of the day.

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