Did you know that May is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month? Created by the National Association for Health & Fitness (NAHF), a network of state-based councils and groups that promote healthy living, the group encourages daily physical activity and quality physical education in our schools. Through Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, the NAHF asks employers to create a workplace environment that promotes healthier living.
There are a variety of reasons to do this as a business owner or manager, or for employees to suggest it to their bosses. For a start, the CDC points out that healthier employees take fewer sick days, incur lower healthcare costs and are more productive; in fact, one study found that by promoting physical fitness and regular check-ups, employer healthcare costs could be cut in half. In addition, wellness programs can be seen by some prospective employees as a great benefit. It shows that the company is willing to invest in its employees, leading to a more positive work environment, better morale and higher retention.
“When it comes to encouraging employees to be active,” says Stefania Della Pia, “the key is to make exercise easily accessible.” Stefania is the senior program director of education and a master instructor trainer for MERRITHEW™, one of Physiquality’s partners. She encourages employers to remember the many commitments employees will have outside of work hours. She suggests incorporating activities into lunch hours, or offering after- or before-work activities on a schedule so that people have time to plan for them.
Here are some of the activities she suggests:
- Bring in an instructor for on-site express workouts during the lunch hour in whatever modality best suits the office environment, whether it be Pilates, yoga, or another form of exercise.
- Organize a team sport that everyone can get involved in, such as ultimate Frisbee, soccer or scavenger hunts.
- Sign up an office team for a local charity walk or run.
- Encourage employees to walk, bike or jog to work by providing parking spaces for bikes, and provide access to showers for those who choose the sweatier route.
- Partner with a local gym or Pilates studio to offer employees a discount to work out on their own time.
Another resource for office fitness challenges is your local physical therapist. As musculoskeletal experts, physical therapists are experts in how the body moves. Many PTs do fitness and wellness assessments. Why not partner with a local therapist to challenge your office to make healthier choices? The PT can come in on the first and last days of the month to assess each team member before and after the challenge, as well as weekly on-site visits for coaching or wellness presentations. “Using a health and wellness expert like a physical therapist might encourage employees or fellow workers to see how healthier choices can affect how they feel in and out of the office,” says Mitch Kaye, PT, PTPN‘s director of quality assurance.
If your office challenge is made of up activities outside of the office, be sure to find ways to track people’s progress so it can be celebrated and rewarded. Fitness trackers from companies like Polar, another Physiquality partner, can be used to count numbers of steps or active minutes, calories burned or distance traveled. If everyone in the office has a Polar device, they can even create in-office challenges, where Polar works with the team leader to determine the challenge and teams. Or the entire office can sign up at the GEHFM website to compete against each other and raise money for charities. These healthy competitions are a great way to encourage employees to support each other in achieving fitness goals, and they create a health-centered atmosphere, notes Stefania.
Employers can offer a wide range of rewards to encourage these healthy competitions. Simple rewards can be gift cards (to a juice bar or sports equipment store) for the most steps in a month, or the most active team in the office. Stefania suggests recognizing the month’s winner by highlighting her accomplishment in a company newsletter or on social media, or host an appreciation breakfast or lunch at the end of the challenge to acknowledge everyone that participated. If you really want to underscore your company’s commitment to healthy and active living, she says, “every quarter, or every year, offer a substantially larger reward, such as a trip or a piece of fitness equipment, to keep employees interested in ongoing health and fitness initiatives.”
Thank you to our contributors:
Mitch Kaye, PT, oversees all aspects of clinical review and quality oversight for PTPN, Physiquality’s parent company. Mitch also assists PTPN regional offices with quality assurance program management through ongoing training and support, and he meets with therapists, physicians and payers as needed for program development and problem resolution.
Stefania Della Pia is the Senior Program Director of Education, as well as a STOTT PILATES® Master Instructor Trainer, for MERRITHEW™, one of Physiquality’s partners. Stefania has represented the company in more than 14 countries on 5 continents as a presenter, trainer and examiner. She oversees the growth of MERRITHEW’s Instructor Trainer program and the global implementation of training and certification programs.
Polar is the brand of choice for heart rate and health monitors for athletes ranging from the beginner to the elite. As the experts in heart rate training for over 30 years, Polar, a Physiquality partner, has earned validation from respected institutions around the world, including The Olympic Medical Institute.