Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Three Lessons Employers Can Learn about Corporate Wellness from CVS

man breaking cigaretteBy now you've no doubt heard the announcement that CVS plans to remove all tobacco products from their shelves by October 1, 2014.  It's a bold move, even if experts think that financially it's not risky for the organization.  They drew a proverbial line in the sand and declared that they would be a business about better health for its customers.  When they measured the financial gain from selling tobacco products to customers against their brand positioning to be a leader in health care, there was really only one decision.

There has been some debate about why CVS stopped at tobacco and why they aren't proclaiming to pull candy bars or alcohol off their shelves.  Tobacco remains the one legal, non-prescriptive drug in the marketplace that, when used as intended, causes harm to the body. Candy bars (and put all other non-nutritious foods in that category) and alcohol do not work the same way (when used as directed).

Despite the limited financial risk for CVS Caremark - they have indeed made a bold move, and employers who are carefully designing and delivering employee wellness services could learn a thing or two about this corporate coup.

  1. CVS didn't wait around for perfection.  The debate on other less-than-healthy items in it's stores will continue.  And in fact, CVS reportedly is still invested in tobacco companies through the organization's mutual funds offered to employees.  So no, they didn't nail it 100% on this one.  But we can't always let perfection be the enemy of good.  What employee wellness initiative are you waiting to launch until it is perfectly primed and elegantly unflawed?  
  2. CVS decided who they were. And it became clear that selling tobacco didn't match up to that vision.  As stated by their CEO, "...the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose." As an organiztion, how are you giving out conflicting messages to your employees? Wellness should be about doing something FOR your employees, not TO them.  If you say you want to help them improve their health, ask yourself how the annual HRA and fingersticking accomplishes that. 
  3. CVS was bold about telling the world what they were doing.  Sure, you could claim it was a PR stunt.  And maybe it was.  But for whatever PR goodness (or nightmares) the announcement created, it has also raised the debate (again) about tobacco.  What debates do you need to be having, publicly, with your workforce about what they need to engage in better living?  What issues are you hiding from, or living with as status quo because no one at your organization is bold enough to address them head on? Are we talking about how a work environment contributes to obesity?  Are we challenging conventional wisdom on how employees can flex their time to engage in mid-day workouts, meditation, or naps?
We can't keep doing what we've always done in corporate wellness and expect different results.  This decision by CVS to stop selling tobacco is a big deal.  What big deal health issues is your organization dealing with (hiding from?) that could benefit from real dialog and a progressive CVS-style approach?
Topics: corporate wellness tobacco cessation

Improve Employee Health with Behavior Modification

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

late night binge eating, stages of changes, behavior modification, nifsHabits are hard to break. This is especially true when it comes to your health. It’s very easy to fall into routines of not exercising, late-night snacking, eating out, watching several hours of television, and so on. In addition to diet and exercise-related health rituals, other behaviors that can be detrimental to health and similarly very hard to break free of include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive caffeine consumption, and self-loathing (or having a negative self-image)…and we all know how hard those can be to overcome!

Steps to Behavior Modification

In order to achieve permanent success in behavior modification, one must realize that it takes time. In fact, psychologists have outlined five Stages of Change that are used to identify how ready an individual is to tackle his or her negative health behaviors. These stages include

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance

Notice that the first three stages are all centered around getting ready and realizing the need for change, whereas the last two focus on actually changing the behavior and maintaining the change. This is a long-term process; success will not—and should not—happen overnight. Truth be told, change is something we all need time to warm up to.

Modifying Your Behavior with Goals

One of the most successful interventions in modifying behavior is goal setting. The entire process encourages gradual change. If proper procedures are used, goal setting can serve to increase energy, effort, and focus.

One of the main reasons goal setting works in behavior modification is that the process creates a never-ending chain of events. In setting goals, you identify obstacles, which help you secure commitment to your goals, which helps you develop an action plan, which—once started—offers feedback on goal attainment, which helps you evaluate goal attainment, which leads to reinforcement of goal attainment, which allows you to set new goals when you are ready!

Topics: employee health behavior modification tobacco cessation smoking

Effects of Smoking and Obesity on Employee Health and Life Expectancy

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

obesity, smoking, smoking cessation, weight lossLife expectancy in the U.S. in comparison to the rest of the world is quite impressive: 78.7 years versus 69.2 years. Much of this difference is due largely to advanced medical and preventative care; however, many analysts worry that this number will soon plummet due to a high population of American smokers and the ever-alarming prevalence of obesity in the U.S.

What would our life expectancy stats look like if it weren’t for smoking and obesity? When you look at each factor individually, it’s plain to see that we would boast one of the highest—if not the highest—expectancies in the world. The facts below speak for themselves.

Tobacco Use in the U.S.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that longtime smokers lose about 14 years of their lives to their addiction.
  • Tobacco use accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths in the U.S.  
  • Tobacco use is responsible for nearly one out of every five deaths in the U.S., and is the largest cause of preventable death.
  • Secondhand smoke causes nearly 3,500 nonsmokers to die of lung cancer and 46,000 nonsmokers to die of heart disease each year.

Obesity in the U.S.

  • Accompanying obesity are numerous risks and ailments that pose serious threats to one’s health and well-being.
  • Researchers have discovered that overweight and obese cancer patients are at a greater risk of experiencing complications related to treatment as well as premature death.
  • In general, overall mortality increases with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more, and a BMI greater than or equal to 30 multiplies one’s risk of premature death—especially from cardiovascular disease—by 50 to 100%.

Is your corporation a tobacco-free workplace? How do your workplace wellness programs help promote tobacco cessation and quitting smoking? How can weight-loss programs help your employees live longer, healthier lives?

Topics: corporate wellness overweight employees disease prevention tobacco cessation

Will Graphic New Tobacco Packaging Encourage Employee Health?

This blog was written by TJ McAloon. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

According to this Washington Post article, "Federal health officials unveiled plans to replace the warnings that cigarette packs began carrying 25 years ago with new versions using images that could include emaciated cancer patients, diseased organs and corpses.”

What that means is no more cool-looking cowboys and cartoon camels on your pack of cigarettes. Those easy-on-the-eyes images will be replaced with a cowboy or Joe the Camel in a hospital bed or with their oxygen tank.

But the real question to ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is why after 25 years are they taking away the Surgeon General’s warnings? Why have they adopted this picture over lengthy worded warnings?

One answer could be because we do not take time to read warnings, instructions, or really anything.

quitting smoking, employee health, corporate fitness and wellnessTake a second and think about the last time you read the instruction manual to anything. Does anyone take the time to actually read along in emergency guide on an airplane in case of an actual emergency? No, you just sit there and wait until you are allowed to turn back on your iPod, iPhone, computer, or whatever electronic device they made you turn off.

It is a smart move by the FDA to go to the pictures. For example, why does the Stop sign work? Because it’s in big white letters as just one word: “STOP.” Even then people don’t read that and blow right the sign!

This new plan will be in place in October 2012. Now people have no excuse when they get sick or have problems from smoking. It’s now their fault for not seeing the warnings of what can happen from prolonged use of smoking. Get the picture?

What is your workplace wellness program doing to encourage a nonsmoking lifestyle?

Topics: employee health tobacco cessation

Employee Health: Secondhand Smoke Contributes to Infertility

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

In recent years, your corporate fitness center members have no doubt been made aware of the health risks associated with smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke. Just in case you need one more reason to urge your participants to join in on National Kick Butts day (March 23, 2011), research has proven that secondhand smoke increases the chance of infertility as well as miscarriages and stillbirths.

describe the imageSociety has come a long way. Think back several decades ago when the dangers of smoking weren’t as well known, and women smoked throughout their pregnancies and around their small children. The more studies that surface, the more the evils of cigarette smoke are exposed, whether inhaled personally or secondhand.

If a corporate fitness member shares with you that she is having trouble getting pregnant, what encouragement can you give her? Along with general health recommendations for anyone (for example, eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight), urge her to become more conscious of situations where secondhand smoke is present. Although many counties nationwide have adopted a no-smoking policy for bars and restaurants, there are still organizations or public events that allow smoking.

It is important to encourage women who are still smokers to stop now, rather than wait until they are trying to conceive, to avoid potential infertility problems.

Although it’s impossible live a completely toxin-free existence, cigarette smoke has been a known carcinogen for many years and can be easy to avoid. Do you plan to run any corporate wellness programming for National Kick Butts Day this year?

Topics: disease prevention tobacco cessation

Employee Health: Are E-Cigarettes a Healthy Alternative to Smoking?

This blog was written by Kara Shipman. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

As a part of my profession and my lifestyle, I have personally chosen not to smoke, and I encourage others not to smoke. As a nonsmoker and fitness professional in a corporate fitness center, the word E-Cigarette was completely foreign to me until about a month ago.

Are E-Cigarettes a Smoking-Cessation Aid?

After reviewing some of the claims and benefits on numerous E-Cigarette websites, it is not a tobacco-cessation aid as I originally thought. The product is marketed as an alternative to the very dangerous nicotine–, tar–, and carbon monoxide–containing cigarette.

What Is an E-Cigarette?

The electronic cigarette is a battery-operated device that looks, feels, and tastes like a traditional cigarette. It mimics the mechanical motions that smokers get so used to doing. It even emits a smokeless vapor. According to E-Cigarettes Choice, the vapor is “a result from the heating up or atomizing of the liquid inside the cartridge.” The more challenging information to find is what exactly composes the liquid.

What's in an E-Cigarette?

None of thcigarette resized 600e sites selling the electronic cigarette fails to mention the thousands of additives and chemicals from cigarettes that they don’t contain. But hardly any of them actually mentions what they do contain. Of the products that do list the ingredients, with a few variations in between, the liquid seems to be composed of nicotine, water, and propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is commonly found in antifreeze, hand sanitizers, cosmetics, and certain medications.  

So is this better than smoking a traditional cigarette? According to, the answer is yes. Because the product is fairly new, there are few studies on the short- or long-term effects of its use. This organization is basing its answer on the proven fact that real cigarette smoking is so harmful, and “almost anything is certain to be safer.” The overall cost and detrimental health effects so far seem to be less. The key words here are so far.

Benefits of Tobacco Cessation Outweigh Benefits of E-Cigarettes

Some of the main points manufacturers use to sell the product include “no more standing outside in the cold; no more lost productivity, cigarette butts, secondhand smoke, or smoker’s breath.” Oddly enough, these along with others are the same benefits you would experience if you just quit smoking completely.

I see picking up electronic cigarettes as trading one addiction for the other. And with so few studies, why take the risk? Why not just avoid the risk of detrimental effects, save the money, and quit altogether? As we all know, smoking is an addiction, and it’s not easy to quit. Don’t feel like you have to do it alone. If you need help quitting, visit Smoke Free to find what works best for you.

Topics: employee health tobacco cessation

Worksite Wellness and the Healthy People 2020 Goals

This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Each decade the Department of Health and Human Services identifies a list of health goals to strive for over the next 10 years to improve the health of all Americans. You may be familiar with Healthy People 2010. Now that 2010 has come to an end, Healthy People 2020 has just been released with an updated list of goals.

Take a look at the following objectives taken from Healthy People 2020 followed by the Workplace Action for contributing to this goal while also improving the health of your employees.

Physical ActivityWorksite Fitness resized 600

Objective: Increase the proportion of employed adults who have access to and participate in employer-based exercise facilities and exercise programs.

Workplace Action: Provide your employees with an onsite wellness center staffed with certified fitness professionals who can provide safe, effective fitness routines.

Offer incentives for employees who regularly participate in worksite exercise programs.

Immunization and Infectious Disease

Objective: Increase the proportion of children and adults who are vaccinated annually against seasonal influenza.

Workplace Action: Provide onsite flu-shot clinics so that employees can get immunized for the seasonal flu at work. Provide discounts or reimburse employees for flu shots for family members.

Tobacco Use

Objective: Reduce tobacco use by adults.

Workplace Action: Offer a free onsite smoking-cessation program for employees who use tobacco. Provide discounts for nicotine replacement therapy products for employees wishing to quit smoking.

What are you doing to help us meet the Healthy People 2020 workplace goals?

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness worksite wellness disease prevention tobacco cessation

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