HealthScaping NorthWest

Creating healthy, vibrant communities

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HealthScaping at Work: Get Active!

Stairway fitness

Stairway fitness (Photo credit: gorbould)

Have you heard of the ‘sitting disease’?

Many of us sit at a desk or in meetings for most of the day, eating while we work, never taking a real break.

Sitting for hours a day has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and shorter lifespans.

Employers can improve workers’ health and reduce healthcare costs by taking a few simple steps to get people moving throughout the workday.

Walk the Talk 

Many employers sponsor fitness activities, provide flex-time, subsidize gym memberships, encourage cycling to work by installing bike racks, and provide exercise rooms, lockers and showers.

But employers can kick it up a notch by getting people moving while they work[i]. Some ideas to try:

  • Walking meetings: Take a walk outside with one or two employees as you problem-solve, plan, or brainstorm. This gets the blood flowing, manages stress, boosts morale, and creates a culture of health.
  • Take the stairs or walk to another building for your next large meeting. Skip the elevator when you’re just going a few floors. Allow employees time to take the stairs, walk, or bike to appointments.  <insert picture of a StairWell campaign sign>
  • Guide people in some light stretching at the beginning of a morning or post-lunch meeting, or during breaks of longer meetings.
  • Allow employees to alternate between standing, sitting, and using an exercise ball at the desk or workstation.
  • Encourage employees to get up and walk to each other’s offices and talk face-to-face, rather than sending another email.
  • In call centers or similar workplaces, encourage employees to stand and stretch while they talk on the phone, or take a quick break once an hour to walk to the bathroom or get a glass of water, coffee, or tea.
English: WASHINGTON (June 2, 2009) Master Chie...

English: WASHINGTON (June 2, 2009) Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West speaks with Navy Times reporter Mark Faram during a walking meeting along the National Mall. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer A. Villalovos/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s especially important for managers to set the tone. If you take the stairs, ask your employees to walk with you, bike to work, or switch out your chair for a balance ball, your employees will feel empowered.

HealthScaping NW can walk you through the steps of adopting policies that get employees moving.

Healthy Benefits

Include a number of incentives for physical activity in your employee benefits package, including: gym subsidies, flex-time, public transportation passes (which encourage walking and biking to and from transit stops), as well as fitness coaching or on-site exercise facilities.

The Bottom Line

Small changes that promote physical activity at work add up to big rewards in reducing employees’ obesity, chronic diseases, stress, turnover, and health care costs[ii].

Worksite wellness programs produce a great Return on Investment: Worksite weight loss programs are cost-effective, producing a savings of $1.44 to $4.16 for every pound lost[iii]. 

Why wait?

Contact HealthScaping NW today.

[i] Guide to Community Preventive Services. Environmental and policy approaches to increase physical activity: creation of or enhanced access to places for physical activity combined with informational outreach activities. (2011).

[ii]Guide to Community Preventive Services. The Community Guide in Action: Investing in Worksite Wellness for Dow Employees. (March, 2012).

[iii] Guide to Community Preventive Services. Obesity prevention and control: worksite programs.

 [KM1]3 examples

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Healthy Meetings at Work

Many of us sit in meetings for most of the day. Often we eat meals while we meet, and never really take a break.

Here are three simple ways to make meetings contribute to workplace health and wellness:

1. Have you ever considered a walking meeting?

When meeting with one or two people, consider taking a walk outside. This is great for one-on-one check-in meetings with employees.

The benefits include fresh air, sunshine (which helps our bodies make Vitamin D), physical activity, and better workplace relationships. In turn, walking meetings can help reduce workplace stress, increase employees’ physical activity, and raise morale–all good for heart health. The fresh air and easy exercise get the blood flowing to the brain, prompting fresh thinking and problem-solving.

Bonus: Take the stairs or walk to another building for your next large meeting.

Bonus: Guide people in some light stretching at the beginning of a morning or post-lunch meeting, or during breaks of longer meetings.

2. Healthy Snacks

Many workplaces include food at meetings in an attempt to reward employees or build a sense of community. Next time, skip the donuts or candy, and choose a healthier option, such as small whole grain bagels, nut butter, and fruit.

Many employees are likely watching their weight, and will appreciate healthy food that feeds the brain, too.

Click for a downloadable list of healthy foods for meetings, put together by the Oregon Nutrition Policy Alliance.

Bonus: Provide reusable plates and flatware.

Bonus: Provide locally grown or organic, fresh fruits and vegetables.

3. Bring on the Water

Instead of serving sugar-sweetened beverages (juice, juice-drinks, or soda) or “diet” drinks, provide fresh water.

Unlike sugar-sweetened and diet beverages, water satisfies thirst without adding extra calories or creating hunger. Studies have linked diet soda to diabetes and depression.

Many people are trying to drink more water. Our bodies are 60 percent water, and every organ system depends on it. Mild dehydration causes stress and exhaustion, but drinking enough water helps people feel energized and think sharp!

Water is important to long-term health as well.

Bonus: Instead of providing bottled water, reduce plastic waste by providing pitchers of tap water and reusable drinking glasses.

Bonus: Provide reusable water bottles or glasses to employees as incentives for participation in your wellness program.