Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Walking Can Be Employee Health Superhero

Corporate Health Costs IncreaseIt's no secret that healthcare costs in the U.S. continue to rise. A USA Today article quoting a report from the Department of Health and Human Services predicts that the $2.5 trillion we spent on healthcare in 2009 will nearly double by 2019 to $4.7 trillion.

Employee Health Care Costs

The $2.5 trillion spent in 2009 equates to about $8,047 per person. Who couldn't use a little of their $8,000 in personal medical expenses back in their pocket? Seems like it might take a superhero—or maybe a really innovative, dynamic, creative, and engaging activity—to turn around this course and help manage health expenses.

One Superhero Can Help Corporations Turn Employee Health Around

Enter superhero, stage left...

Here's the thing: Walking, it turns out, is good for your health—if you have a body that lets you do it, if you have a place to do it, if you have the shoes in which to do it, and if you have the time and inclination to do it. Those are a lot of ifs, but employers have great potential to turn those possible barriers into clear-cut opportunities for their employees. Here are some tips:

  1. Build the infrastructure for safe walking spaces at your campus. Create a "route" with maps available at your main entrances. If your building is big enough, make an indoor route for bad-weather days. Establish a buddy board where employees can post walking interests (such as time of day, pace, and desired distance) to match up with colleagues for group walks. Build a wellness incentive program around walking.
  2. Give away gift certificates for free or discounted walking shoes to launch your new walking initiative. Your employees are a substantial customer base for a local walking/running specialty shoe store. The retail establishment might be willing to cut a deal to your employees on a long-term basis.
  3. Help your employees understand the personal value of regular exercise. Nudge them toward developing a desire to be active. Tie this back to employee health and vitality rather than to the corporate bottom line. Teach them about their preventable health risks and how regular exercise is a proven means for improving health.

Try Walking as A First Step Toward Corporate Wellness

Turns out, it doesn't take a superhero to turn the tide. But it does take leadership in the workplace to put some structure around opportunities for walking at work. Take it one step at a time. For very little money, you can establish a health culture at your office fueled by walking.

Topics: employee health control healthcare costs

Gadgets That Help Manage Employee Health One Step at a Time

employee health tracking deviceA good way for employees to measure their fitness progress is with portable tracking devices. These can range from the traditional pedometer to more advanced equipment.

Pedometers To Track Employee Health Progress

Pedometers come in all shapes and sizes. Enter "pedometer" into the Amazon search bar and you'll pull up 1,711 different options. Some measure only steps, whereas others have additional bells and whistles. Pedometers range in price from $4 to around $60.

Other High-Tech Employee Health Tracking Tools

In the last year, a new fitness-tracking tool has come on the market. Fitbit is a handy little gadget that clips onto your waistband like a pedometer. However, this high-tech tool tracks more than a typical pedometer by measuring calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled, and sleep quality. You can link the unit to your computer and store your data on Fitbit's robust tracking site. You can also join Fitbit's communities, follow its blog, and track other health markers.

At $99 per unit, the gadget is less expensive than the popular iPod nano and provides significant personal logging capabilities to track progress.

How Small Companies Can Use High-Tech Tools In Workplace Wellness Campaigns

Small employers: The Fitbit might provide a unique tool for your workforce to start moving more. Using the website tools connected with the device, you could easily build a workplace fitness program on which to base company wellness rewards.

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program corporate rewards technology

Three Reasons to Get Social with Your Wellness Program

employee wellness and social mediaMost employers have blocked social networking sites like Facebook on their company computers while simultaneously establishing robust social media policies. It’s not surprising; the reasons to block social media content from company computers are many.

Social Media and Workplace Wellness

The truth is, your workforce is still out there playing FarmVille, tweeting on Twitter, and sharing YouTube content. Maybe it’s time to get social with your employee wellness program, by not only allowing social media use but also by creating a social media presence for your wellness program.

Top Three Reasons to Revisit Social Media Policies

  1. Your employees are already out there. According to Cisco’s 2010 Midyear Security Report, an alarming 50 percent of surveyed employees admitted to surfing the web socially even though they knew it was against company policy. In addition, 27 percent of respondents took matters into their own hands by reconfiguring the settings on company computers to allow access to previously blocked content.
  2. Research tells us social networks matter. The Framingham Heart Study is one of the most well-known, comprehensive health studies in the industry. It followed, among other things, the impact of social networks on tobacco use and obesity trends from 1971 to 2003. It turns out that social networks have a very powerful influence on whether and how individuals will change health behavior.
  3. Quiet leaders might surface through social media. We’re always talking about the importance of employee champions for your wellness program. It’s common for those individuals to take the superhero form of the already-in-shape and always-eats-right marathon runner who wants to encourage her coworkers to be like her. Social media allows the quiet champions—the unassuming former smoker, or the less obvious heart-attack-waiting-to-happen who made small changes over time to improve his health—a platform to speak out, encourage, and quietly motivate their colleagues to take baby steps toward improving health.

Consider How The Good Side of Social Media Can Work for Your Corporate Wellness Initiatives

Using social media to promote your employee wellness program is hard for most executives to buy into because of the productivity concerns. However, this free communication and sharing opportunity might provide more benefit than you expect. Your employees are already out there socializing. Why not meet them where they are with the messages you want them to hear?

Topics: corporate wellness employee health healthy workforce health culture social media

Yoga: Employee Exercise at Work Without Breaking a Sweat

YogaWorkCorporate fitness folks hear it all the time: "I really want to work out on my lunch hour, but I don’t want to sweat at work." It's a legitimate excuse. Some of us sweat in ways that it takes hours to recover from. And who wants to smell sweaty for the rest of the day?

Yoga – A Perfect Fitness Fit for Employee Health

That being said, avoiding exercise altogether will only result in overweight employees. Instead, think of yoga as the answer. We don’t mean that in an all-the-world's-mysteries-can-be-solved-while-you-meditate kind of way. But the truth is that yoga can challenge your muscles enough that employees will walk away from class feeling both relaxed and rejuvenated while barely breaking a sweat.

Employees Can Benefit from Yoga as Exercise

There is still debate on exactly how effective yoga can be for true, sustained weight loss. But yoga can positively impact flexibility and muscle tone as well as body image. Each of those pieces has a role in an individual's ability to maintain or lose weight.

How to Bring Yoga to Your Workplace

A great way to control healthcare costs is to start a yoga class at work. If you can’t afford to hire an instructor for a formal yoga class at your worksite fitness center or a vacant meeting room, try renting some DVDs from the library and borrowing a TV/DVD player combo from your AV room. Employees can also incorporate yoga into their day by using some yoga relaxation moves at their desks.

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work employee health overweight employees control healthcare costs health culture

There's More to Worksite Wellness Than Just ROI

It’s rare for me to have a conversation with a prospective NIFS client these days without being asked something related to the return on investment (ROI) for worksite wellness. I can’t blame them; these folks are typically tasked with decreasing an organization’s healthcare costs. An organization can take one of several approaches to decreasing healthcare costs, such as decreasing the size of the workforce. But cutting staff offers diminishing returns. Wellness, as general as that term is, can be the solution.

Here’s the thing: ROI for wellness programs can be extremely tricky to capture. Not only do you need to build your program with the right pillars in place, but the evaluation can be hard to wade through and costly to calculate. Read what Dr. Ron Goetzel, an industry pioneer in measuring wellness ROI, has to say about this in his WELCOA interview.

What’s a company to do? Wellness is complicated and requires persistence over time to see the results you’re looking for. If you can’t get everything in your wellness program “just right” and you don’t have the means for full-blown evaluation, should you give up and not offer a wellness program for your workforce at all?

It’s at this crossroads that you’ll need to consider the true motives behind the wellness initiative. I suspect your goals have to do with more than just direct healthcare costs. I’d be willing to bet two things:

  • The organization is interested in doing right by its employees.
  • You recognize a responsibility to contribute positively to your employees' overall wellbeing and that happier employees are more loyal and productive employees.

The first part—doing right by your employees—is actually even harder to measure than health outcomes and changes in corporate healthcare costs. But if you watch your employees' faces and listen to the water-cooler conversations, the anecdotal evidence you capture will say it all: Treat your employees right—with programs and services that make the healthy choice the easy choice—and they’ll work harder for you.

Topics: corporate wellness control healthcare costs

Fitting Corporate Fitness into Your Employee Health Benefits

Corporate FitnessEmployee fitness in the workplace is becoming more important to business owners as they look for ways to remain competitive despite the economic climate.  Great news - fitting corporate fitness solutions into your employee health benefits may be easier than you think! 

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), time and cost-conscious exercise options will be among the top trends in fitness for 2010. 

What we love about this predicted number one trend in exercise habits is that it targets both time and cost which are two of the most common reasons reported for not exercising.  Even better though, is that it capitalizes on exercise programs that are both time- and cost- conscious which is great for employers who are looking for corporate fitness solutions to improve employee health.

To build a corporate fitness program with low cost exercise options to your workforce, consider these options:

  • Set aside a small meeting room space as your new corporate fitness center.
  • Consult with experts on space layout, exercise equipment selection, and liability reduction to maximize employee health benefits in your program. 
  • Consider staffing solutions for your corporate fitness center to give your employees the expertise they need to get full health benefits from your fitness center.  
  • Offer group fitness classes to support camaraderie and group accountability.

Remember, you don't have to make an enormous capital investment in exercise equipment to develop a robust and successful robust employee fitness program.  In fact, spending wisely on a few small, key fitness tools and toys may just put you ahead of the employee wellness curve!

There are more ways to build a corporate fitness program.  Share your best practices here and help other organizations get a solid start on their employee fitness program. 

See the full article of 2010 fitness trends predicted by ACE.
Topics: employee health corporate fitness program employee health benefits corporate fitness cost conscious business fitness solutions remain competitive

Manage Health Expenses Defensively by Supporting Walking Breaks

EmployWalkA recent Gallup survey reported that over one quarter of all medical costs are directly related to defensive medicine. That's a lot of unnecessary medical care by doctors just to protect themselves against potential malpractice lawsuits.

Practice Defensive Medicine with Your Employees by Encouraging Walking

What if we poured 25 percent of our energy into practicing our own defensive medicine--aka disease prevention or health promotion? What if your employees spent 25 percent of their one-hour lunch break getting some exercise at work?

Of course, not everyone is willing to do that. But what if employers supported 15-minute walk breaks for their employees so that they could get that walk in on the clock?

The Physical Benefits of Getting Employees Walking

Think about it: Fifteen minutes of walking the parking lot or the campus halls (which burns 50 calories per 15 minutes for a 150-pound person) could do a lot of people--and businesses--a lot of good.

The Financial Benefits for Getting Employees Walking

Wise employers know that getting away from the desk and being active can help employees be more productive. And the health benefits from this exercise can help a company control healthcare costs and practice their own defensive medicine.

Tell us how your company is supporting physical activity in your workplace.

Topics: exercise at work control healthcare costs

Taking the Stairs: A Small Step Toward Workplace Health

StairWalkDoes your organization's disaster recovery plan account for the almost-certain riot that could ensue if your elevators break down? While I may have a flair for the dramatic, check out the crowd reaction to the escalators freezing at Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle stop recently. Your employees might look strikingly similar to these dumbstruck passengers if they were forced to scale the stairs each day.

Look at Stairs as a New Way For Employees to Get Physical Activity at Work

I think people take elevators and escalators almost mindlessly (kind of like how we eat most of the time). It doesn't really enter most individual's consciousness to view stairs as a small but beneficial chance at some extra activity each day.

Climbing stairs burns roughly seven calories per minute for a 150-pound individual. Taking the elevator burns just one calorie per minute for the same person. Over the course of one month, if you choose the stairs for five minutes per day, five days per week, you will burn an extra 750 calories. Over the course of a year, that's more than 9,000 calories burned, which is equal to roughly 2.5 pounds.

Although that isn't staggering weight loss for the year, it does provide you with some buffer for maintaining your weight year to year (assuming your calorie intake is unchanged). Furthermore, for overweight employees who are trying to lose weight, taking the stairs can support that ongoing effort.

Encourage Employees to Forego the Elevator With These Tips

This guide from the California Department of Health Services has extensive tips on encouraging employees to take the stairs at work or comment below to tell us about your healthy stairwell campaign.

Topics: exercise at work employee health overweight employees

One Creative Way to Create a Health Culture: Gardening at Work

EmployeeGardening2"Build a health culture at work and your wellness programs will succeed," worksite health promotion professionals have said a thousand times. Seriously though, what does that mean? What does a health culture at work look like? How do you know when you’ve arrived?

Employees Gain Physical Health Benefits While Gardening

Maybe we reach our destination when we learn to infuse a little healthy fun and flexibility into the workday. Consider this: A team of employees at the McPherson CertainTeed Molded Products plant in Kansas created and implemented their own employee health initiative. Working with McPherson County agents, the employees found a piece of land on which to plant a vegetable garden. They tilled the soil and planted the seeds. Today, the garden is maintained by an enthusiastic crew of employees. Those who work the garden also reap additional health benefits from the physical activity required to plant and maintain the garden.

Employees Gain Additional Health Benefits While Gardening

Employees also reap the benefits of healthy, pesticide-free veggies for daytime snacks and at-home cooking. 

Exercising, eating right, having fun, reducing stress…sounds like a health culture to me!

How Can You Build A Health Culture at Work?

Share what your company is doing to build a healthier culture by commenting below. Even better, let others know how are you empowering your associates to take the lead in constructing a shared and mutually beneficial healthy workplace culture.

Topics: corporate wellness employee health health culture