Posts Tagged ‘healthy lifestyle’

Improving Employee Health

May 10th, 2021

In 1979, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition founded the National Association for Health and Fitness, which in turn created Global Employee Health and Fitness Month. The aim of this annual observance in May is to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to employers and their employees through worksite health promotion activities and environments.

Almost half of all US worksites provide health promotion activities through some type of employee wellness program, an initiative within the organization that fosters healthy lifestyles among its employees. Employee wellness programs vary in the types of services and activities offered, but in the long run, they all appear to benefit the employees – and the employers.

What’s included in a company’s employee wellness program generally depends on the size of the organization, its budget for wellness initiatives and which activities make the most sense for its employee population. The most successful programs address multiple dimensions of employee wellbeing, including their physical, emotional, social, occupational and financial wellbeing.

To help improve employee wellbeing across all dimensions, companies can employ a wide variety of solutions. These may include: health risk assessments, fitness classes or gym reimbursement, health coaching, health education, flu shots, financial counseling/planning, flexible work schedules, free health food, health fairs, on-site/near-site health clinics, telemedicine, tobacco cessation, weight management and wellness challenges.

In many cases, the benefits of providing an employee wellness program outweigh the cost of providing the program. Employees spend most of their time at work, so linking their wellness goals with an overall work-life balance can positively impact the company’s bottom line business outcomes.

For one thing, employee wellness programs lower the employees’ elevated health risks, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Managing risk translates into improved overall health. This ultimately reduces use of medical services and lowers medical costs to the employee and employer.

In addition, organizations with good wellness programs can experience reduced absenteeism for a number of reasons. Employees with good general health typically don’t miss work. Employees who can manage stress well have lower absenteeism. Employees with normal blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose are less likely to miss work, and those who are not overweight or obese are less likely to get sick and miss work.

Poor employee productivity at work is called presenteeism. That’s when you’re at work but not really working, and it’s been linked to poor health. Employee wellness programs that impact employee lifestyles and improve health eliminate presenteeism and increase employee productivity. These programs also help to retain and recruit employees to the company, as many workers today look for factors beyond salary when choosing an employer.

Not so fast! Researchers reported conflicting results in a study published in the April 2019 edition of JAMA. In their study, researchers analyzed data from 160 worksites employing nearly 33,000 people. About 10 percent of the employers in the study offered wellness programs that addressed topics such as exercise, nutrition and stress.

The researchers compared employees with and without access to a wellness program over 18 months and discovered that those who had access to a wellness program reported significantly higher rates of exercise and weight management efforts.

BUT, those with and without wellness programs had similar self-reported health behaviors and outcomes; similar results on 10 heath measures, including blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index; similar use of medical resources; and similar absenteeism and job performance.

So what’s the bottom line when it comes to employee wellness programs? Do they work or don’t they? It’s clear more research is needed to determine the true effectiveness and benefit of these programs. For example, a study lasting longer than 18 months might yield much different results.

If you started exercising more, lost weight, quit smoking and/or began eating healthier because of what you learned though an employee wellness program, you’ll definitely reap benefits that will positively impact your overall health. That’s the true bottom line.

Put Your Heart Into It

February 16th, 2016

iStock Image: 60992736

iStock Photo

I think we’ve all heard the statistics about cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. By now, we know it is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Heart disease alone kills one in four Americans each year.

What you might not know is that heart disease is preventable in many cases if you make healthy choices and manage your health conditions. Topics such as a healthy diet and exercise get a lot of the press time, but managing stress in your life is just as important. Stress is more than an emotional upheaval. Too much of it not handled properly can affect you physically as well.

The American Heart Association has an entire stress management section on its webpage with lots of good information and tips. Here, I’ll focus on what stress can do to you and mention a few things you can do to combat those effects. The website has many more.

Think about what causes you to feel stress. For many of us, work is a big contributor, but many things can leave a person feeling stressed. It could be an illness, either personal or that of a loved one, relationship problems, financial concerns or just the hassles of everyday life.

When we’re stressed, we often feel anxious, irritated and out of control. You might not connect them, but those little (or big) aches and pains you get – like headaches, backaches or stomachaches – could also be related to stress, as well. So could those feelings of depression and helplessness, tenseness and anger. If you’re having trouble sleeping or you’re feeling tired all the time, that could be stress, too.

The AHA admits the link between chronic stress and heart disease is not clear, but we do know that the body reacts to stress by releasing adrenaline, igniting the “fight or flight” response, which includes increasing the heart rate and blood pressure. Chronic stress causes a person to be on “high alert” for long periods of time. That’s got to take a toll on the ticker after a while.

Let’s switch gears and talk about how we can cope with the stress that is pretty much inevitable in our lives. The AHA has some good ideas. Besides the basics of eating better and getting physical activity, they suggest you fight stress with healthy habits. Here are a few they recommend (see their website for the whole list):

  • Remember to laugh – It’s the “best medicine,” and it works for stress, too.
  • Slow down – Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to get each task done. This way, you’re not rushing around trying to do everything at once.
  • Practice giving back – Helping others helps you as well.
  • Try not to worry – The world won’t end if you don’t mow your lawn or clean your kitchen today. It will still get done if you do it another time.

The AHA also offers some other stress management tools including positive self-talk and daily relaxation tips. If you want more, many community health centers and even some hospitals offer classes on stress management. Certain forms of exercise, such as yoga and Tai Chi, are also good at relaxing the mind and body and relieving stress.

While we don’t fully understand the link between stress and heart disease, we do know that stress, especially chronic stress, takes a terrible toll on our bodies, leading to emotional and physical responses. Often, we deal with chronic stress by engaging in negative behaviors: We eat too much, we drink too much, and we rush around in a panic and ignore the gym.

Determining the cause of our stress, recognizing our responding behaviors and making some healthy adjustments are essential to managing stress in our lives. Pay attention, and give your heart a lucky break!

Page 1 of 1