Healthier Habits

Healthier Habits

The employees at the Board of Certified Safety Professionals took a midday break earlier this month for a game of kickball.

Last week, they were doing yoga. Later this week, they’ll be learning the basics of strength training, and at the end of the month, they’ll hold an office Olympics.

All that play is part of a corporate wellness initiative at the nonprofit organization that started last fall, said Christy Uden, quality assurance manager for the organization, who is leading the wellness program.

Employees are also participating in several weeklong challenges in May, trying to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, or drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water, or do 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Those who do so get in a drawing for gift cards.

The candy in the breakroom at the office has been replaced with fresh fruit and vegetables. Water and coffee have replaced soda. There are scales in the bathrooms that measure body fat.

Last fall, employees got goody bags with water bottles, food journals and pedometers. The organization set up a wellness library and organized 15-minute walk breaks.

It also paid for health assessments of its 22 employees that included weight, body measurements, blood pressure and comparing resting heart rates to heart rates after a minute of physical activity. The assessment will be repeated this fall.

The walk breaks were popular until the weather got cold, but the food journal challenge didn’t go over quite so well.

“The one thing they’ve all consistently said is they really love having fruits and vegetables in the breakroom,” Uden said. “They don’t miss the chocolate.”

But with the cold winter weather and a move from Savoy to a new building on Bradley Avenue, the initiative kind of fizzled.

“Now we’re focusing on getting it rolling again,” said Uden, noting that May is National Employee Health and Fitness Month.

She and her colleagues decided to focus on smaller challenges this month, with incentives for participants, before they consider how to help employees tackle longer-term goals.

“We thought we would be promoting healthier habits,” Uden said. “We find it does a lot of team-building within the organization as well.”

When she and her colleagues were thinking about starting a wellness program, some of them visited Human Kinetics in Champaign. The company publishes books, journals, courses and other products related to physical activity.

“We preach about health and fitness, so we certainly encourage it in the workplace as well,” said Ann Maloney, director of human resources at Human Kinetics.

The company has a fitness facility on site, with treadmills, rowing machines, stationary bikes and weights. A personal trainer comes in and teaches classes.

Employees can choose from strength training, yoga and cardio workouts. There’s an outdoor basketball court, and a group of employees goes running together before lunch.

The company offers incentive programs to encourage people to remain active in the winter, with grand prizes that have included an iPad and a trip to New York City.

The cafeteria serves healthy options — nothing is deep-fried, there’s a salad bar every day, and a yogurt and oatmeal bar in the morning.

Maloney said the company hopes that having healthier employees will also mean more productive workers and lower health care costs.

“(Employees) care about health and fitness themselves, and we find ways to make it easy for them (to exercise),” she said.

Photos: Janey Morton, a customer service associate at the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, participates in a lunchtime game of kickball, top. Treasa Turnbeaugh, director of certification and program development, rolls the ball, bottom. Photos by John Dixon.

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