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May is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month

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Whether you punch a time clock or work from home, your health is important to your workplace productivity and happiness. May is Global Employee Health and Fitness Awareness Month (GEHFM).  According to the GEHFM and Health.gov, the goal of this month’s awareness program is to “to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to employers and their employees through worksite health promotion activities and environments”.  Throughout this month there are programs designed to help employers and employees improve their health.

The success of these programs depends on the support and dedication that comes from the employers and executive leaders. According to Health.gov, when executive leadership creates a culture of physical activity, employees are more likely to participate in wellness programs, and become more active. The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) has developed a CEO pledge for executive leaders to utilize as an effort to establish a culture of health and wellness.

Benefits of the CEO Pledge are:

  • Employees will be healthier
  • Employees will be happier and more engaged
  • The organization will increase productivity
  • The organization will be better positioned to recruit and retain top talent
  • The organization will be publicly recognized as a forward-thinking employer and thought leader

The pledge calls for CEOs to implement at least six strategies that fall within three categories. These categories consist of policies that address behavioral, educational, and environmental/policy support.

  • Behavioral Support
    • “Healthy meetings” which involve walking, stretching, or other physical activity during the meeting
    • Inspirational programs such as recognition/rewards and individual or team competitions
    • Buddy systems
    • Sponsored walk/run events
  • Educational Support
    • Provide information
    • Invite speakers
    • Promote benefits of getting up and moving often
  • Environmental/Policy Support
    • Provide fitness classes onsite
    • Offer reimbursement/incentives for exercise expenses
    • Bike share discounts
    • Longer break time
    • Provide areas that support physical activity, such as showers, bike racks, clean and safe stairways, onsite fitness areas, walking paths, and “active office” furniture.
    • Allow work out friendly attire
    • Brief activity breaks

Once an organization’s health and wellness goals are established, there are great desk and office stretching exercises and activities that can help promote a healthy workplace.  Standing desks are becoming more popular in the workplace. This desk allows either sitting or standing to work at a computer or flat surface. Sitting for long periods of time without standing, stretching, or moving is unhealthy and contributes to a sedentary lifestyle.

Long hours of sitting are linked with a higher risk of:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Premature death

There are many benefits to a standing desk:

  • Comfort: standing can alleviate pressure on back, neck, and legs
  • Improved focus
  • Collaboration: it is easier for two people to view the computer
  • Versatility: divide time between standing and sitting

Whether you are an employer or an employee, it is important to have a happy, healthy work environment. Encourage executives and co-workers to implement and utilize physical activity and wellness programs in your workplace. May is the time to start during Global Employee Health and Fitness Month.  

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