June 2011

I got a great surprise over the weekend. I ran into a friend’s brother and he looked fantastic!  I asked him what he was doing and his answer was exactly what I like to hear as a health professional: he had implemented a regular workout routine and was thinking about portion control. These very simple changes that required no starving, no exhaustion, and no real sacrifice has resulted in him losing 25 pounds in the past two months.

Regular physical activity should be an important part of our daily routine. It really helps me get moving and without it I tend to feel sluggish and my mood plummets. As a personal trainer and health coach, I see many people who would like to lose some weight and feel better. The problem is that many are looking for a magic pill will make those extra pounds go away rather than the only method that is proven to work: eating a well-balanced diet and adding more physical activity to the daily routine. I am often asked about the importance of physical activity and the benefits that can be expected. Should people move more?

The answer is yes, absolutely!  Exercise is not just good for us, it’s vital!  The body is designed to move and be active. Regular exercise and physical activity are important to everyone’s health and well-being. Being physically active helps you continue doing the things you enjoy while staying independent as you grow older. Regular physical activity over long periods of time produces long-term health benefits.

Here are some of the many proven benefits of physical activity:

  • Weight Control
  • Reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reducing your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Reducing your risk of some cancers
  • Strengthening your bones and muscles
  • Improving your mental health and mood
  • Improving your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, especially if you’re an older adult
  • Increasing your chances of living longer

One of the best things about physical activity is that there are so many ways to be active. For example, you can be active in short spurts throughout the day, or you can set aside specific times of the day on specific days of the week to exercise. Many physical activities, such as brisk walking, raking leaves, or taking the stairs whenever, you can are absolutely free and require no special equipment. Your local library may have exercise videos. Your community may even have exercise or walking groups, which is a great way to meet new people while getting healthier! Even 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity will provide noticeable benefits!

If you have a chronic health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease, make sure to talk with your doctor and find out if your condition limits your ability to be active before trying anything strenuous. Work with your doctor to come up with a physical activity plan that matches your abilities.

Jackie Ostrikis MS CPT

A colleague and I were developing a physical activity program for a client and were reviewing the rough outline.  Our manager asked on what we were basing the program goals? I am embarrassed to admit, after doing this for a while, I had jumped in and started planning based on my overall knowledge. I did not begin with the data.

I had committed a cardinal sin in Worksite Health Promotion. While there may be some common factors in most challenges or programs, each audience is unique. Whether this is your first challenge or 100th you should always start with the data.

What had previous challenges or the Health Risk Assessment (HRA) told us about how much the employees at this organization were exercising? Based on the HRA and previous challenge evaluations or employee interest surveys, what did we know about what employees wanted or were ready to do?

I remember reading an article about an organization that wanted to target physical activity, based on the companies HRA results.  The employee interest surveys showed there was a large interest in baseball.  A Spring Training Physical Activity program was developed.  Brilliant, the employees were instantly engaged.

To give another example, a company develops a healthy eating campaign.  The goal is to eat eight servings of fruit and vegetables as day.  If the organization knew the employees were currently only eating one to two servings of fruit and vegetables a day, how would that change the program or the goal?  What are the chances of hitting the goal of eight servings a day if you are starting at one?

Most companies offer some type of wellness programs. The majority are activity centered – they throw a bunch of activities at employees and hope for results.

In contrast, results-oriented initiatives are those programs that are based on company data and thoughtfully designed. Results-oriented programs are more likely to impact the organization’s bottom line through high participation levels, improved employee health and increased productivity.

Valorie Bender