Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

High-Touch Versus High-Tech in Corporate Wellness

fit techThere’s been a lot in the media lately about wearable technology having a strong presence in corporate wellness. Employee wellness programs have provided a whole new market for some wearable manufacturers, and one research firm indicates that upwards of 13 million wearables could become part of employee wellness initiatives in the next five years.

The Challenges with  High Tech Wellness

This specific high-tech phenomenon is fairly new and relatively unresearched in terms of long-term effectiveness at helping adults make sustainable health behavior change. But technology in corporate wellness has been around for years and it has evolved to keep up with perceived wants and needs. Years (and I mean years) ago, we used to take health risk assessments (HRA) on paper. Then those moved to this thing called the internet. Eventually, we got “smart” feedback on those HRAs and our fingerstick data was integrated with our self-report HRA responses to create a profile.

Now we have web capacity to integrate with pedometers and other higher-tech wearables like Up® by Jawbone® and various products by Fitbit. The data syncs up to a company site where we can compete with our peers, and it links with our own tracking tools on our phones. We have access to a lot of information about our movement. Still, I wonder if data is really king when it comes to health behavior change. Are high-tech solutions enough to help someone move their own needle?

You probably have anecdotes where someone’s health was profoundly changed with the help of a wearable, an app, or some combination. You, like me, may also know stories where a wearable began an obsession with data and quickly sucked all the fun out of measuring the movement. So effectiveness may very well be in the arm of the wearer (so to speak). Still, there are definite limits to today’s tech solutions. Maybe someone will solve them down the line, but right now, as I see it, there are barriers on tech that limit potential impact on improving health. There’s a great outline of these limits in this Forbes article.

There are other issues with a high-tech-only solution that have come to light recently, as well. For example, while more and more boomers (who are still in your workforce) are adopting technology solutions in various areas of their lives, they still lag behind Gen X and Millennials in their rate of adoption. This article makes the case that boomers may be the demographic most likely to benefit from, and most willing to pay for health-related technology, but the market isn’t designing for them.

And while the technology certainly supports what seems to be the unquenchable thirst for data, there is still the tricky math involved in determining whether your employee wellness device translates to actual company savings on health care.

How High Touch Wellness Helps

When you look at the challenges identified in the Forbes article, many (dare I say all) of them can be worked through or even remedied by a human being with a brain and some capacity for nuance. And here’s where high-touch in corporate wellness steps up.

The right people powering your corporate wellness program should be

  • Both capable of and passionate about helping your employees establish healthy goals and effective plans to achieve those goals.
  • Compassionate motivators who have the right skills to nudge participants toward finding their own intrinsic motivation.
  • Nuanced enough to know when to step in to provide a course correction when your employees stop engaging or when their efforts aren’t achieving the carefully crafted goals.
  • Savvy at helping participants understand their data in a way that’s meaningful and impactful.

Using people in a high-touch capacity to bolster and back up your high-tech tools can be an effective way to help your employees achieve better health. 

CORP Initiatives

 

Topics: corporate wellness employee health technology corporate wellness staffing counting steps

Active Aging: Taking the Extra Step Toward Fitness

senior playing with a dogHow many times do you circle a parking lot looking for that perfect spot right in front of the door? It doesn’t matter if I am at the supermarket, a sporting event, a restaurant, or even the gym (sad, but true); I see people circling the lot like they’re in the Indy 500. As I get out of my car and walk to my destination, all I can do is ask myself, “Do they really think they are benefiting from parking in front of the door?”

My reasons for parking in the back of lots have changed over the years, but the end result hasn’t, and that is more steps walked equals more calories burned.

Can You Walk 10,000 Steps Per Day?

If you have ever been in a walking program or used a pedometer, there is a good chance you were advised to hit the 10,000-steps-per-day mark, but what does that mean? Is it attainable? Let’s break it down into numbers we deal with on a regular basis.

The average person’s stride length (the distance between successive points of contact of the same foot) is about 2.5 feet, so one step would be about 16 inches (assuming a normal walking pattern), which means you take about 4,000 steps to walk a mile. So if your goal is 10,000 steps per day, you will walk about 2 miles per day. If you consistently hit that 10,000-step mark, you are considered moderately active.

But what about the people who frequently take less than 5,000 steps per day? People in this group are considered sedentary. A drastic increase in steps can lead to many people quitting shortly after starting. People looking to increase their daily steps should look to add about 500 to 1,000 steps per day and increase at this rate every week until they hit their goal. So if you currently take 5,000 steps a day and you are increasing your steps by 1,000 per day per week, it will take you 5 weeks to hit your 10,000-step goal.

How to Walk More Steps

So where can you find these hidden steps, you ask? Here are a few activities you can adjust to add extra steps:

  • Parking farther back in parking lots: Parking an additional 20 spaces back equals about 200 steps round trip.
  • Getting up to change the channel: Changing channels 6 times per day equals about 60 steps total.
  • Walking to consult a coworker as opposed to calling them: Based on 2 round-trips of 60 feet equals about 200 steps.
  • Take the stairs: Taking the stairs causes more caloric expenditure than walking on a flat surface, and one flight equals about 15 steps.
  • Walk your pet: Walking around the block equals about 1,000 steps.

These are easy ways to add a few hundred steps to your day; pick and choose all, one, or something else. The goal is to go at your pace and to do what you like; anything else will just lead to a decline in program adherence until you ultimately quit. The steps you need are all around you, and if you look hard enough I guarantee you can find the time and energy to take an extra step.

Topics: employee health walking employee wellness fitness healthy habits staying active physical activity counting steps