Several business executives joined Friday with Gov. Mark Dayton to promote "worksite wellness" in an effort to improve health and productivity and decrease health care costs and absenteeism.

Minnesota spends nearly $6 billion annually in excess health care due to obesity and tobacco use, and nationally employers spend $93 billion per year in health insurance claims and $1.3 trillion in lost productivity and absenteeism, according to Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the Minnesota commissioner of health.

"We look forward to helping more businesses create healthy worksites … good for employees, communities, and the bottom line," Ehlinger said.

Chuck Runyon, CEO of Hastings-based Anytime Fitness, said top executives have morale-and-financial incentives to lead.

"I'm in the fitness business, so it may seem self-serving, but if I were making widgets down here in Hastings I would still be part of this because I believe in wellness and ­fitness," Runyon said. "And when I use our onsite fitness facility, our employees work out more. Culture is somewhat top-down. If the leaders believe in a wellness program, it will take hold."

At a Capitol rotunda event, Dayton declared 2014 Minnesota's "Year of Worksite Wellness" and Runyon will spearhead a "CEO Pledge" in asking businesses to incorporate a combination of strategies to promote a culture of physical activity in the workplace.

According to a 2012 survey, nearly nine in 10 Minnesota workplaces are interested in improving wellness and a quarter of employers offer worksite wellness efforts. Businesses see wellness programs as ways to help employees improve their health, outlook and improve productivity. Poor employee health is correlated with a more than 50 percent decrease in overall productivity, costing companies nationally an estimated $225.8 billion annually, or $1,685 per employee per year, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Year of Worksite Wellness champions include Schwan Food Co., Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Anytime Fitness, Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Connolly Kuhl Group, Lakewood Health Center, Life Time Fitness, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Taher Inc. and TEAM Industries.

More information about the Department of Health's Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), assistance to interested employers and the worksite initiative can be found at and