Trim the Fat: Employers support healthy endeavors

Maria Hoover, SBJ Features EditorMaria’s weight change for the week: -4 pounds; total: -9.6 pounds

There are lots of reasons why employers might want to take an active role in supporting employees’ endeavors to improve their health.

Perhaps the most obvious is the dollars-and-cents issue. For employers, and particularly those who pay for all or part of employees’ health insurance coverage, keeping employees healthy means keeping those costs down. Better overall employee health also means fewer days off due to sickness, and that can help the bottom line, too.

According to the American Heart Association, adult Americans spend the most waking hours at work, often in sedentary jobs, and obesity alone costs U.S. businesses $12.7 billion a year in medical expenses, and $225.8 billion in health-related productivity losses.

A competition presented by the American Heart Association is designed to get more employers involved in keeping workers healthy.

AHA’s Start! Fit Friendly Companies Program encourages physical activity such as walking during the workday, healthy snacks and cultural enhancements such as online tracking tools and health assessments. It has spawned the Fit-Friendly Company Challenge of the Ozarks. The three-month competition officially began Jan. 15, and the Fit-Friendly Companies currently participating include Ollis & Co., CoxHealth and AG Financial.

The competition is open this year only to companies that already are recognized as Fit-Friendly companies, but organizers hope the event will be an annual one. However, companies that want to become Start! Fit-Friendly or organize a team of walkers for the Heart Walk can (417) 881-1121 to learn more.

Physical activity is the main tool of the competition, supported by healthier eating habits. The team that walks the greatest distance, shows the largest percentage increase in steps taken from the first week ‘til the final week and demonstrates the largest percentage decrease in total weight and Body Mass Index will be the winner, receiving a $2,000 piece of exercise equipment from Mad Bear Fitness/Play it Again Sports, to use as part of a corporate wellness program.

The winner will be announced at the Start! Heart Walk on Saturday, April 25.

Springfield Business Journal became a Start! Fit-Friendly company in 2008, and a large group of us, including me, participated in weekly step competitions and the 2008 Heart Walk, which took place on a surprisingly cold spring day.

Weekly update
I’m challenging myself to work more physical activity into my workweek.

This past week, I lost four pounds, which is good, but I wonder if that number would’ve been higher if I’d exercised. So this week, I’m going to keep watching what I eat – which seems to be getting easier – AND get some exercise. I’m off to an OK start. On Sunday, I walked about a mile in my neighborhood, and if the weather holds, I plan to do more of the same.

Anybody got some brilliant ideas for how to work out without it feeling so much like work? Does your company encourage physical activity during the workday? Let me know in the “Responses area” below.

Corrected on Jan. 20. Entry originally said the Fit-Friendly Company Challenge was open to any company; only companies already recognized as Fit-Friendly companies can compete this year.

1 Response to “Trim the Fat: Employers support healthy endeavors”

  1. 1 Mel Haase January 29, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Listening to books on CD might help pass the time while you’re walking. Congrats on the nearly 10 lb loss!

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