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Fitness in the Workplace: Take The First Steps

 

With the New Year comes, new resolutions. Employers across the South have employees who have made goals to improve their health, fitness, and well-being. One behavior that most people choose is being physical active more often or hitting the gym at higher frequencies. Yes the “E” word: “Exercise.”

Being more physically active can help a person boost their energy, feel better, and lose weight. The benefits of regular physical activity are numerous and have been known for many years. In fact, in 1996, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report promoting duration of 30 minutes a day can have many health benefits such as reducing risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and even type two diabetes.

office_fitnessThe report even showed that there is a dose response which means; the more you do, the greater the health benefits up to a point, where your orthopedic risk does increase over 60 minutes of constant activity. For the employers, the benefits are also numerous including improved employee health, a boost in productivity, reduced risk of workplace injuries, and a lower cost employee on their health plan.

Employers have a history of promoting physical activities in the workplace. Walking is a great example where business map out walking routes inside their buildings or outside on their sidewalks with some even building walking paths on their grounds. You can see in some employer’s signs that promote the use of the stairs instead of the elevator. In Atlanta, GA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have made their stairwells attractive by painting them, hanging some paintings, and even piping in music to make walking them more enjoyable.

Onsite fitness classes are a simple way that a company can promote fitness through group activities. Maybe there is a stretching class at lunch, a running class or a cardio circuit class after work. Others have gone the distance to building onsite fitness centers for employees where they have a host of treadmills, bikes, resistance machines, stretching mats, and some group exercise rooms. Some companies have taken small rooms and put just a few items such as stationary bikes, dumbbells, and places to stretch. Butler Snow law firm in Ridgeland, Mississippi has a host of bicycles that employees can check out to ride a lunch or take a ride with co-workers after work.

The number one question that comes up when considering workplace fitness is liability. More and more companies are hosting and promoting more physical activities at their workplace. They follow a specific set of steps to reduce liability and improve the safety of such fitness efforts. Always check with your legal department and your risk manager and engage their expertise. Put a process in place using a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (Par-Q), a physician statement/clearance form, a waiver and release of liability, and an informed consent form. All of these can be found in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines – Google it!

Also make sure that if you an outside vendor for teaching and/or management of programs to make sure they have certifications and professional liability coverage. The final step of the process is to have emergency procedures in place and have any employees trained on the process and procedures. All this seems a little much, but if you have it in place, you reduce your liability and improve the safety and enjoyment for your employees.

Fitness in the workplace can be the easiest and cost effective wellness program that you offer in your company no matter how many employees you have on staff. Promote walking meetings, taking stretch breaks during meetings and trainings, and meeting up after work for a run are real simple. Just remember to take the step necessary to improve the safety for your employee and this will reduce your companies risk and maximize their enjoyment. The benefits to the employee and to the company are many, so start today in promoting more physical activity in your workplace.

 

Murray Harber

Murray Harber

Contributing Writer
Murray L. Harber is a thought leader in employee health management along with being an experienced health and human performance strategist, speaker and writer. During his career, Harber has consulted and lead teams that have created innovative and effective employee health and wellness programs and coached athletes to excel at the highest levels. Harber is currently the Executive Director of the Mississippi Business Group on Health which fosters a community of Mississippi employers seeking to continuously improve the quality and cost effectiveness of health and health care through shared solutions. He is also a national speaker for several large pharmaceuticals and business organizations.
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