I’ll be the first to admit that my relationship with regular exercise has been on-again, off-again at best. Obviously, I’m not alone. The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 1 in 4 adults say they are obese, an increase of nearly 2 percent from 2005 to 2007. And to be honest, you had to go no further than the National Safety Congress last week to see how prevalent this problem is in our society.
At the NSC, it was not unusual to see EHS managers who had wrestled with a few too many Big Macs and Cokes, and lost the battle of the bulge. It’s a fair question to ask if they should be more actively engaged – by example - in the effort to promote healthier lifestyles. After all, they are the ones at the workplace who serve as a focal point for keeping employees safe and healthy. Whether an employee drops dead in a confined space or from 40 years of French fries, it’s the same sad, premature result.
“The epidemic of adult obesity continues to rise in the United States indicating that we need to step up our efforts at the national, state and local levels,” said Dr. William Dietz, director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “We need to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables, engage in more physical activity and reduce the consumption of high calorie foods and sugar sweetened beverages in order to maintain a healthy weight.”
In our September issue, we reported on “The Use of Incentives for Health Management and Wellness on the Rise.” In that article, we noted that a new survey showed that 71 percent of major U.S. employers were using incentives to promote employer-sponsored health and wellness programs. In 2007, employers most often offered health insurance premium reductions, but this year, gift cards were the most popular incentive used by companies. While only 30 percent of the companies were measuring ROI for health and wellness programs, 83 percent of those doing so said they were seeing program returns of better than break-even.
It seems most of us need all the help we can get to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Perhaps deciding to assume a leadership role on this issue at our workplaces will help not only our employees, but ourselves – both professionally and personally.