Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

What a Healthy Workforce Can Do About Childhood Obesity

Child BurgerChildhood obesity is on the rise. According to the CDC, in 1980 the prevalence of obesity in children aged 6 to 10 was 6.5% compared to 19.6% in 2008. Among adolescents aged 12 to 19, obesity has grown from 5.0% to 18.1%. That is a whopping 13% increase in childhood obesity in 28 years.

At this rate, some believe this will be the first generation of parents to outlive their children. Childhood obesity is an expensive employee health issue now and will continue to be so into the next generation if parents don't intervene. Let's look at the factors parents can control.

What Can I Do as a Parent?

The main responsibility of a parent is ensuring the safety, health, and well being of their child. Children come into this world knowing only what they learn from their parents and immediate surroundings. If your child is carrying around excess weight, as a responsible parent it is your job to explore any avenue you can to keep your child healthy. Here are some ideas to get your child on the road to living a long, healthy life:

  • Teach your child that exercise and play can be fun. The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Treat this as an opportunity to spend quality time together and learn more about what your child enjoys. Explore new activities together like bike riding, going to the park, walking the family pet, jumping in a local bounce house, or joining them in another favorite activity.   
  • Set an example. Children learn from their parents. Your child will generally pick up any habits that you have or practice. Use this to your advantage and keep it in mind in everything you do. If you currently have the luxury of using a corporate fitness facility, take what you have learned and incorporate it into your home life. 
  • Make fresh, healthy foods available. Ultimately, you or your spouse is responsible for the grocery shopping. Bring home a variety of fresh fruits, veggies, and healthy snacks for the family to enjoy together. If you don't buy the bad stuff, it won't be around for them to eat. Your kids don't like produce? Start with the sweeter fruits like strawberries or apples that they are more likely to enjoy. If you need to, keep around a low-sugar or low-fat dip like fat-free CoolWhip for them eat along with fruit.

Take Responsibility for Your Child's Health

Keep these tips in mind as you point your child toward living a healthy lifestyle. Don't hesitate to start taking some personal responsibility for your child's future. We don't want to outlive our children!

Topics: employee health overweight employees nutrition exercise at home control healthcare costs

How Much Is Tobacco Costing Your Company in Employee Health?

Perform a search for components of an employee health and wellness program and you’ll find that smoking cessation makes its way into nearly all wellness programs. Tobacco-free employees have fewer health risks and cost their employers less than their tobacco-using counterparts do.

The Staggering Cost of Employee Tobacco UseCigarette in Hand

If you’re like me, you know that tobacco users must cost a company more money. But I didn’t realize how staggering the cost actually is. According to the CDC, tobacco users cost their employers nearly $3,500 per person each year in medical costs and lost productivity. If you figure that approximately one in four employees uses tobacco, the approximate cost per year for a 2,000-employee site is nearly $1.75 million!

Approaches to Encouraging Tobacco Cessation

Companies take two different approaches to tobacco cessation: incentives and penalties. My company's wellness incentive programs, for example, put a lot of focus on rewarding employees for their efforts to quit tobacco. With benefits ranging from reimbursement for medication to free counseling, becoming tobacco free is a priority. They even offer employees an extra cash bonus in their flex account for being or striving to be tobacco free.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, other companies impose penalties on tobacco users. In a recent survey of major U.S. companies, almost 50 percent of companies surveyed showed interest in penalizing their employees for not complying with all aspects of their wellness programs. In these companies, employees could face higher insurance premiums or increased deductibles. Some companies may even refuse to hire tobacco users.

In my opinion, the best way to keep employees on track for healthy behaviors is staffing a corporate fitness center with highly trained experts familiar with the company’s wellness programs. Onsite fitness center management provides the tools and resources that both employers and employees need to reach the goal of becoming tobacco free.  

So which approach is more effective toward the goal of having a tobacco-free workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Topics: employee health control healthcare costs productivity tobacco cessation

Increase Workplace Health by Prescribing Exercise for Depression

Employee Health and DepressionBetween inflation, the rise and fall of the stock market, never-ending projects at work, and screaming kids, there are plenty of things in a employee’s life that can lead them to feel overwhelmed. While we all feel this way from time to time, feelings of anxiety and depression that don’t subside within a few days must be dealt with.

With the use of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications at an all-time high, most Americans seem to be taking the pharmaceutical route to deal with their mental-health issues. As effective as this might be, however, it makes one wonder whether there are other options. Is medication the only hope for your employee's health and depression issues?

Evidence Points to Exercise as Another Answer to Employee Depression and Anxiety

One tried-and-true method of improving mental health is regular exercise. Some evidence suggests it can be as effective as traditional psychotherapy and can even eliminate the need for medication in mild to moderate cases of depression. This is encouraging news for your company wellness initiatives.

If your employees are like me, though, the last thing they probably want to do is get their body moving when they’re feeling a little blue. Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic for getting started.

Once the initial discomfort of beginning to exercise wears off, I find my mind is a little more at ease and I can finally start to relax. I’m more upbeat, I can think more clearly, and I even leave feeling more energized than before. It’s not entirely clear how or why exercise can help improve mood, but it is known to do so regardless.

The Best Employee Exercises for Beating the Blues

Some employees will find aerobic exercise like walking or running to most improve their mood, whereas others find strength training more beneficial. I most enjoy running or playing basketball to get my mind off things; however, strength training has its place in my stress-relief program as well.

What Health Initiative Your Company Can Make to Assist with Employee Depression and Anxiety

As important as medication can be in a person’s life for a variety of ailments, never underestimate the body’s ability to heal itself. Whether it’s the release of endorphins that leads to the famous “runner’s high,” or the psychological benefits of setting an exercise goal and accomplishing it, performing regular physical activity can help employees deal with depression and anxiety.

So improve employee awareness through educating them on the benefits of exercise for depression and anxiety. Encourage them to grab a friend, get moving, and leave their worries behind. They might even lose a few pounds, too. And that alone can perk them up a little (as well as lower your companies health costs)!

Topics: employee health healthy workforce motivation control healthcare costs

Can Putting a Price on Calories Boost Worksite Wellness?

Employee Health Cafeteria ReceiptsThe majority of office cafeterias post nutrition information for numerous items they serve. But how many employees want to waste valuable lunch-break minutes searching for them or reading their microscopic fonts? I know I don't! I tend to go for the meal I think sounds the healthiest and pray that, when I plug the details of my meal into my online calorie counter, I don't find out I blew an entire day's worth of calories on one little lunch.

An Innovative Employee Health Solution

If the small nutrition labeling on the wall next to the food isn't doing employee health justice, would seeing the calories, total fat, carbohydrates, and protein listed on the food receipt make an impact on employees' overall health? Check out SmartReceipt's Nutricate, a system that prints nutrition information right on lunch receipts. Nutricate has the potential to help employees make a positive change in their eating habits by making it easy for them to value their calorie intake like they value their hard-earned cash.

Weighing Cost Against Employee Wellness Benefits

The biggest issue with a product such as Nutricate will be cost related. Will a receipt plastered with nutrition information benefit companies enough to outweigh the extra cost? Will companies have to put a higher price tag on their food to make up for the expense of supplying a fancier receipt?

Worksite wellness should be about improving employee lifestyles, and thus controlling healthcare costs. Maybe, in addition to adding nutrition information on receipts, companies could also use SmartReceipt to advertise health tips and their corporate fitness programs – making the health impact on employees even greater!  

Topics: employee health corporate fitness control healthcare costs

Decrease Salt. One Important Way to Improve Employee Health

Employee Health Through Reading Food LabelsIn a tough economy, many of your employees are making logical changes in spending habits. They are probably taking fewer vacations, eliminating extras from TV subscription packages, and using e-mail more frequently to save a few cents on a stamp. One thing we hope your employees aren't sacrificing, however, is good, healthy and lightly processed food.

Encourage Employee Health by Providing Health Tips that Teach Them What to Look for on Food Labels

Buying cheap food is tempting when you're at the grocery store, but convenience and processed foods aren't necessarily the way to go. Purchasing frozen meals and other processed food items can drastically increase sodium intake.

Even items you wouldn't think contain salt might be sneaking it in to employee diets. For example, on a recent trip to the store for a bag of frozen peas, I glanced at the back of the package only to find the words “peas, water, and salt” listed as the ingredients. I looked at a few other brands and, wouldn't you know, several had salt listed, as well. I did find one that had only peas and water, a small success that can add up!

Let Your Employees Know the Effects of Excess Sodium

You're probably thinking “what's the big deal? It's just a little salt,” but Americans consume entirely too much sodium. What does excess sodium intake result in? Hypertension! And what does hypertension mean? An increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Most of your employees don't even realize that hypertension is a preventable illness, meaning that people can actually do something to prevent hypertension from sneaking up on them. The best form of prevention is to monitor your daily salt intake by glancing at the nutrition label on the foods you eat and keeping a tally of what you're putting into your body. According to the American Heart Association, we should be consuming 1,500mg of sodium or less per day.

In addition to keeping track of how much sodium you consume, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can reduce your risk of developing hypertension. 

Make Employees Aware of the Risks

Think about this: With all the hype about healthy eating and increasing exercise, shouldn't more companies be tuning into what they can do for their employees in order to reduce the cost of healthcare? Encourage employees to take the next step to a healthy lifestyle and start paying better attention to what they are putting into their bodies. Once people make this a habit, the performance they'll get out of their bodies will be even better!

Topics: employee health nutrition disease prevention control healthcare costs

Investing in Corporate Fitness Management Can Boost Productivity


Employee productivity increases with exerciseYou've had your morning coffee and breakfast and you're ready to begin your workday. You plop down at your desk to scan through the 50 e-mails you received since you shut down your computer last night. By the time you finish, more than an hour has passed, you've answered five calls, and your boss is begging for your help with an agenda for a last-minute meeting.

To top it off, stress is setting in. Guess what? Your brain is already fried and your productivity for the day will probably be minimal.

Exercise at Work Is the Answer

What if your company offered employees 30 paid minutes each day to exercise in its corporate fitness center? Would employee productivity increase? Studies show it would. Exercise has positive effects on the brain. It stimulates the brain and nervous system, decreases stress, and increases performance. I don't know of a single CEO who wouldn't want his or her staff performing better on the job. Fewer mistakes equals more company return, happier bosses, and happier employees.

Increased Productivity Can Outweigh the Cost of a Corporate Fitness Program

You're probably wondering whether the benefits of opening a corporate fitness center outweigh the cost. The right type of managed facility would. Many corporate fitness centers have trainers who can help individuals reach their fitness and health goals, which means lower insurance costs, fewer sick days, and increased productivity. Corporations can reap many benefits from having a corporate fitness or wellness center. 

What's Your Next Step?

Convince company decision-makers to consider the benefits of allowing employees to exercise on company time. If a worksite fitness center seems out of reach, suggest a company-wide walking program or an exercise class at work. Become a healthy workplace advocate by providing articles and research that show how productivity and efficiency increase with employee exercise (see above).

Imagine the positive change that could occur for you and your fellow employees if your company took even a few steps toward better workplace health!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program healthy workforce corporate fitness business fitness solutions control healthcare costs productivity

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

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

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