Wellness @ work

Wellness @ work

The workplace has shifted in the last few decades. More and more of us are sitting in front of screens instead of doing manual labor, burning fewer calories than preceding generations. Studies have shown that even if people exercise, sitting for extended periods of time can lead to higher chances of chronic illness like heart disease. And so we sit and expand, and face a growing obesity crisis.

In 2007, the Milken Institute published a study on the economic burden of chronic disease. Evaluating the cost of seven of the most common chronic diseases, the authors estimated the cost of these diseases at $1.3 trillion annually. Within that figure, between sick days and “presenteeism” (those that come to work but are still sick), lost productivity accounts for $1.1 trillion. The study states, “Plainly, absenteeism and lower productivity on the job linked to chronic disease are major factors limiting economic growth and reducing living standards.”

But all hope is not lost. The study also looked at preventing these chronic illnesses. Their data suggested

    “that modest reductions in avoidable factors — unhealthy behavior, environmental risks, and the failure to make modest gains in early detection and innovative treatment — will lead to 40 million fewer cases of illness and a gain of over $1 trillion annual in labor supply and efficiency by 2023.”

The study concludes that “there needs to be a strong, long-term commitment to promote health and wellness.”

Most people know they should be healthier, but need better tools and support.Some businesses have started to heed this advice, realizing, says Cristina Martinez Faucheux (a physical therapist and partner at Moreau Physical Therapy, a Physiquality network member in Louisiana), “most people know they should be healthier but are lacking the tools and support to make this happen.” Healthier employees are happier employees, and typically more productive.

For businesses considering workplace wellness programs, Kelly Lenz, PT, CEES, a physical therapist and co-owner of Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Tennessee Physiquality network member, suggests that these types of activities cannot be temporary or part-time. As she notes, “Being healthy needs to be a choice every day.” It’s also important that employees have a variety of programs and times to choose from. Offering programs during the work week makes them very convenient for employees, but making some available on the weekend can allow other family members to participate as well.

Kelly also points out that programs do best when upper management “buys in” to the concept. When upper management participates in such programs, their employees are more likely to be motivated by their supervisors’ actions and to participate.

So what types of programs should your company consider? Here are a few ways to offer wellness opportunities to your employees:

Try offering general wellness memberships to your employees. Cristina suggests that businesses can partner with a local physical therapy clinic to offer a general wellness membership for a monthly fee, adding other options like wellness assessments a la carte. She notes that it’s better to offer this service during regular business hours, at least at the beginning of the program, to take advantage of the clinic’s standard operating hours.

Cristina’s clinic, Moreau Physical Therapy, has also begun offering a Corporate Fit Challenge program to local businesses. The participants are already seeing some incredible results.

Offer the fit@work program from fitbook™. Angela Manzanares, the creator of the fitbook™ (a Physiquality partner program), offers a fit@work program targeted to businesses. All participating employees receive fitbooks™, a great way to track their fitness and eating habits, which has been shown to help people stick to exercise and weight loss programs.

In addition, participants receive weekly emails with articles and fitness/nutrition tips, as well as company-specific sections to promote corporate wellness initiatives; daily fitTexts with health and wellness info to motivate participants; and rewards at the 6- and 12-week marks to keep employees engaged.

Nutritional programs like Weight Watchers are often successful. Kelly says that nutritional programs, like Weight Watchers, and group exercise programs are often successful, especially when upper management participates. Her clinic, Clinton Physical Therapy Center, has an extensive wellness initiative that includes corporate wellness, exercise classes, and more. They offer corporate discounts to their gym, as well as educational forums on a variety of health and wellness topics.

Wrist stretches. Click for larger image. Keep in mind that workplace wellness extends to how your employees sit and work throughout the day. PTPN Claims Manager Mike McManus started implementing exercises for his data entry staff several years ago. He worked with PTPN Director of Quality Assurance Mitch Kaye, PT, who put together a series of hand and finger stretches for his staffers to keep their hands, arms and shoulders from cramping up.

While the responsibility is in their hands, so to speak, to do the exercises, completing the series 3-4 times a day reduces muscle strain and helps them refocus after an hour or two of typing away. (To see 3 of the stretches recommended by Mitch, click on the image to enlarge the graphic.)

Cristina notes that the “key to a successful program is to make it fun and effective.” Angela agrees, saying that while incentives might engage employees, “real change happens when individuals set personal goals and commit to achieving them.” Even realizing such small goals as losing five pounds or cutting out soda for a full week will help employees see results and feel healthier — which will help them feel more confident both at home and in the workplace.

Cristina Martinez Faucheux, PT, is a physical therapist and partner at Moreau Physical Therapy, a Physiquality network physical therapy clinic with six locations throughout the Baton Rouge area in Louisiana.

Kelly Lenz, PT, CEES, is a physical therapist and a co-owner of Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network physical therapy clinic, in Clinton, Tennessee. Kelly is a Certified Ergonomic Evaluation Specialist and works closely with industry and business in ergonomic improvements and injury prevention.

Angela Manzanares is the founder of fitlosophy and the creator of the fitbook™, a Physiquality partner program, and a revolutionary line of fitness + nutrition journals that are redefining how people reach their fitness goals.

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For further reading:

Spectrum Fitness now open 24 hours a day; Spectrum and Moreau Physical Therapy staff participate in first Corporate Fit Challenge. CentralSpeaks.com, August 11, 2011.

Craven, Samantha. Physical inactivity linked to increased risk for chronic disease. University of Missouri, August 1, 2011.

Stych, Ed. Klobuchar, Paulsen form congressional wellness caucus. Minneapolis-St.Paul Business Journal, June 13, 2011.

Parker-Pope, Tara. Less active at work, Americans have packed on the pounds. New York Times, May 25, 2011.

Khazan, Olga. Employers tell workers to get a move on. Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2011.

McIlvaine, Andrew R. Innovations in wellness. Human Resource Executive, April 1, 2011.

Reynolds, Gretchen. Phys Ed: The men who stare at screens. New York Times, July 14, 2010.

Helliker, Kevin. The power of a gentle nudge: Phone calls, even voice recordings, can get people to go to the gym. Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2010.

Manzanares, Angela. 7 tips to get fit@work. fitbook, June 2009.

Manzanares, Angela. Corporate wellness: Just a buzzword? fitbook, January 2009.

Krause, Kendall. Keeping food diary doubles weight loss. ABC News, July 8, 2008.

DeVol, Ross and Armen Bedroussian. An unhealthy America: The economic burden of chronic disease. The Milken Institute, October 2007.

The material and information contained on this Web site is for information only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or consultation.

Consult your personal physician before beginning any exercise program or self-treatment.