According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1429 higher than those of normal weight.”
This is astounding to see in print, but we know this is true as our daily life tells us. And even many of those who are not “obese” are still largely unhealthy. But this is the life that has been built: wake up early; grab a cup of coffee and maybe some sugar-laden oatmeal or an egg biscuit. Go to work. Sit, look at a computer. Go home, have dinner, watch TV, stay up late. Repeat.
It’s easy to point fingers and say that people should just be healthier, yet we know that it’s not that easy. At some point, an individual has to take control of their life, yet our American civilization shares a large part of the responsibility for the condition of its people. Fast food can be found around every corner, and each has a genius marketing plan to get people to eat greasy, mass-produced food though everyone knows that fast food is not good for us.
It seems that purchasing our food at grocery stores instead of restaurants would make us healthier, yet grocery stores are tricky too; the dichotomy captured in this cartoon, “If Food Products were Honestly Labeled” by Dan Berger and Mike Adams. Let’s be honest, though. We could talk for days about obesity and its causes and repercussions. What are we going to do about it?
Back in the first paragraph, did you catch that word, preventable?
Let’s take a look at our lives: most of our lives are spent at work. Therefore, corporate wellness initiatives should have the power to change the obesity statistics, right?
Joshua Love, president of Kinema Fitness, a corporate fitness management company, weighs in with Five Reasons Corporate Wellness Is More Important Than Ever.
Love urges corporations to plan, to be creative, to use their power to motivate employees into wellness. He says, “Corporate wellness cannot be treated as a band-aid....Behavior modification takes time and is different from person to person. It is possible when reinforced consistently with different programs, multiple touch points, strong leadership, and unwavering commitment.”
However, many corporate wellness programs fail because they assume that people want to be healthier and that people are willing to work to be healthier.
The truth is that most people have settled into their routine, and though they may want to be healthier, they don’t understand why or how to do it.
Look around, talk to your employees, and take an anonymous survey if you must. Treat this program like you do business. In business, you get to know your target audience before you start selling. You figure out who they are and what they need, specifically. You figure out what makes them smile and what makes them twitch and you build your business plan accordingly. The success of your corporate wellness plan is no different.
People are often highly motivated by incentives, such as offering an extra day off or a Visa gift card to the person who loses the most weight. But those who do not win may be discouraged. So in addition to offering this kind of incentive, consider offering individual incentives such as lower health insurance premiums or deductibles. Encourage people to see that even if they don't win the corporate competition, they will win increased energy, better fitting clothes, and greater overall wellness if they keep up a healthy lifestyle. This way, each person is motivated to work toward their fitness and wellness goals.
When promoted in the right atmosphere, fitness challenges and competitions can drive people to completion. Of course, when it comes to fitness, there is no "completion." Fitness is a lifestyle and requires long term commitment. But when you're just getting started, a little competition among fellow employees can be superb. But, you ask, how on earth would you keep track of everyone's progress? Encourage people to purchase fitness devices, or better yet, purchase them yourself and give them to your employees! A fitness device or a pedometer will take the scores out of your hand and allow the competition to flow freely!
Your health insurance provider likely has experts that are willing to talk to your employees about health and nutrition. Or building corporate wellness solutions with a team of fitness and nutrition professionals can be beneficial. Sometimes an outside voice will help to jump-start a program. But don’t stop there. Hold monthly meetings where employees can be held accountable for their goals.
Being involved in your employees' wellness can be an exciting new aspect of your company. We hope that you consider a wellness plan for your business!
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