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Working Out at Work

Employees urged to get active to stay healthy

SUNDAY, May 13 (HealthScout) -- Trimming the fat is nothing new in the business world these days.

But if you're an employer or manager, consider a different twist on that concept by starting workplace programs that motivate employees to exercise and adopt healthy lifestyles. That can ring up healthier profits through reduced absenteeism, lower health benefit costs, and higher productivity, say the organizers of National Employee Health and Fitness (NEHF) Day, set for May 16.

"Having a healthy workforce improves the bottom line for any workplace," says Chris Kimber, board president of the National Association for Health and Fitness, a not-for-profit organization that sponsors NEHF Day.

"It's a good investment in time and resources. It's really a very good return on investment," says Kimber, who is physical activities promotion coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Health in St. Paul.

Launched nationally in 1989, NEHF Day is meant to encourage companies to implement workplace wellness programs and spark employee interest. The day includes fun, non-competitive activities and events like organized walks, fitness demonstrations and health fairs.

Thousands of companies participate each year and many companies partner with other businesses and community organizations to plan their events.

But Kimber says more companies need to recognize the payback of initiating worksite wellness programs.

"All someone has to do is read a few of the articles about the reduced workers' compensation claims at worksites that have greater employee physical activity promotion and opportunities, and that pretty much speaks for itself," Kimber says.

Many large companies do have budgets for health and wellness programs, and others are starting to realize the importance of making that part of their workplace, says Sara Utley, operations manager for the National Association for Health and Fitness.

The association has other programs, including the eight-week Let's Get Physical (LGP) Challenge. It's a free, educational and interactive program that encourages participants to engage in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least three times a week.

Since the inception of the LGP Challenge in 1997, more than 1,500 U.S. companies have adopted it, and approximately 15,000 people have participated in it.

"You don't want to promote just one day, so we ended up making a program. We want people to be more physically fit and more active in the workplace. Because at work, there are a lot of people like myself, who just sit in an office for eight hours. We want you to get out and do something during that time," Utley says.

Doing something could be as simple as going for a walk or stretching on your break or lunchtime.

"Get away from your desk and do something," Utley urges.

She suggests other easy ways to incorporate more activity at work. Always take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park your car farther away from the building.

In short, do whatever you can to get a workout at your workplace.

What To Do

Here's where to go if you'd like more information about NEFH Day activities and resources. Or contact them at 317-237-5630. For more about the National Association for Health and Fitness and its programs, click here.

For more HealthScout stories on exercise, click here.

Whether you do it at work or not, exercise is important for your health. The 1996 U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health says at least 30 minutes day most days of the week of regular, moderate physical activity can substantially cut the risk of developing chronic illnesses, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve mood and enhance a person's ability to perform daily tasks.

But, the report notes, more than 60 percent of American adults don't reach the recommended amounts of physical activity, and 25 percent are not active at all.

SOURCES: Interviews with Chris Kimber, M.S., R.D., board president, and Sara Utley, operations manager, National Association for Health and Fitness, Indianapolis, Ind.
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