Taking small steps toward health can have big impact

Global Employee Health and Fitness Month is a national and international invitation to workplace wellness. The goal is to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to employers and employees through work-site health promotion activities and environments. During the month of May, employers challenge their employees to create healthy moments, form healthy groups and track and share their healthy ideas and activities. Healthy moments focus on changes in eating and activities that add up over time to create a healthier person. Such changes might be walking to work, trying a new healthy recipe, cooking dinner at home instead of eating out, learning how to substitute healthier ingredients for favorite recipes, signing up for an exercise class, joining a gym, doing exercises while watching TV, or scheduling a physical exam. Healthy groups are small groups of employees who gather to participate in an activity in order to improve their health.

According to research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, on average it takes people 66 days to develop an easy healthier habit, such as drinking an extra glass of water or taking a ten-minute walk at lunch. Daily repetition over a two-month period offers people the best chance of becoming healthier over the long haul. The idea behind Global Employee Health and Fitness Month is that healthy will become the new norm and that entire communities will become involved in healthy actions and behaviors.

According to Dr. Ron Goetzel at Thomson Reuters, a large proportion of diseases and disorders that people contract are preventable. Many modifiable health risks influence health care costs and diminish workplace effectiveness. Positive lifestyle changes can improve the health of employees not only on the job but also the information and application of knowledge and programs at home and in the community can create a healthier society. Some of the immediate benefits of health-related programs at work are decreased health care costs, enhanced employee productivity, decreased rates of injuries and illness, and reduced absenteeism. Other benefits include lower levels of stress, an increased sense of well-being, improved physical fitness, an increased self-image and self-esteem, reduced body weight, and increased health awareness.

Healthy Groups may choose to meet at lunch in order to go for a walk or a bike ride. They may decide to bike or walk to and from work together. They may decide to share healthy recipes, or cook for each other taking turns each week day. They may choose to form competitive sports teams or just play some sporting activities together after work. A Healthy Group may decide to all brown bag it together. They may even decide to form a team for a charitable organization and do a walk or run or do a corporate health promotion day. The idea is that anyone can participate no matter what their current level of physical activity or fitness level might be. Some fun ideas might be stretch breaks in the middle of the day, or a 10-minute chair aerobic break, a bike-to-work day, or a giant salad bowl day where everyone brings something for the salad. Other ideas might be a healthy snack day, or an herbal tea tasting day with fruit and nut offerings.

I’m happy to report that Corinne King of the KGFECU in Lihue has taken this idea to the next level. She has organized a 12-week program for her employees at the branch with yours truly to conduct exercise classes, nutritional education classes, stress reduction classes and lifestyle changes interventions. We are having a blast making changes that over the next three months will improve the quality of lives throughout the staff. I’m proud to be involved and hope that other employers also will take up the cause to support their employees and staff in seeking a healthier life. This is simply good leadership!

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Jane Riley is a certified nutritional adviser. She can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, (808) 212-1451, www.janerileyfitness.com

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