Four in ten kids in central Indiana are at an unhealthy weight. That's nearly a quarter million kids, or enough to fill Lucas Oil Stadium three times.
Because of their weight, these kids are at significantly higher risk for life threatening conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
How did we get here?
The causes of the obesity epidemic are numerous and complex. Food has become highly processed, calorie dense, and “super-sized.” Many families lack access to affordable, healthy food. Children have fewer opportunities to play and be active, as recess and physical education classes have been reduced or cut entirely in schools. Too many kids spend too much time sitting in front of computer screens, tablets, or smart phones. Many of them live in neighborhoods that lack safe places to play.
As a result, simply promoting public awareness and “personal responsibility” will not solve this crisis. There are no simple or one-size-fits-all solutions.
A wellness program that strives to keep employees healthy is a strategic investment. To curb rising healthcare costs, many employers are advancing workplace health programs to:
- make improvements in the worksite environment,
- help employees adopt healthier lifestyles and,
- ultimately, lower the incidence of costly chronic diseases.
One of the first important steps in creating your employee wellness program is assessment of the work environment. What are your employee needs and preferences? What are your business goals and objectives? Where do nutrition and physical activity fit into the picture? What kind of timeline might be reasonable to accomplish this work?
There are a variety of assessment tools you can use. Here are four for you to consider:
Many local restaurants offer convenient and affordable delivery options for "catering" a lunch event at the office. If your workplace relies on this type of food service, the following tips can help everyone eat healthier.
Choose buffet style over boxed lunches
Boxed lunches typically include a sandwich, chips, dessert, and a piece of fruit. Limiting selection in this way often means that individuals eat larger portions than they'd choose for themselves. Plus, colleagues that don't like the featured fruit get no fruit at all.
Buffet style, on the other hand, usually offers enough variety for everyone to find something healthy they like to eat and enables colleagues to control their own portion sizes.
Given the number of hours that full-time employees spend in the workplace, it isn't hard to imagine that habits established or reinforced at the office spill over into the family home.
Employers can play a vital role in promoting healthy habits for their employees and employees' families. The returns on investment are real—less absenteeism, increased employee productivity, and reduced health care costs, to name a few.
The key is to use your existing communications tools and other simple strategies to educate and motivate employees about wellness, provide access to helpful resources, and create a workplace culture that values healthy living. Here are three ways to share information and promote healthy choices:
Local spotlight: United Way of Central Indiana employee inspires, supports co-workers
Can a single individual impact company culture enough to trigger healthier habits in the workplace? Jeffrey Wilson, administrative assistant at United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI), did.
If you schedule a meeting with Jeffrey, he'll likely arrive with a simple gift for you: a bottle of water and a banana, for instance. His passion for serving others—and his commitment to UWCI's mission to help others learn more, earn more, and live safe and healthy lives—spills over into everything he does.
Four years ago, Jeffrey made a decision to improve his own health by walking daily from United Way’s office—then located near 38th and Meridian— to Butler University and back. He lost more than 25 pounds.
You don't need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get an hour of physical activity each day. You can exercise without equipment, with limited time and little space using these five activities. Try them when you need a burst of energy at work, school, home—or anywhere!
Start with your knees on the ground, feet lifted and your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Put your body into a kneeling plank position. You can also do these on the wall to start or on your toes as you gain more strength.
Start by lying face down. Place your elbows and forearms underneath your chest and prop yourself onto your toes and forearms. Maintain a flat back and do not allow your hips to sag toward the ground. These can also be done in a kneeling position. Start by holding this position for 10 seconds and work your way up to a longer time.
Full-time employees may consume half or more of their daily calories while at work. Can you encourage healthy eating while being a good host in the workplace? Of course you can—and these 8 tips for catering healthy meetings can help!
1. Avoid offering meals and snacks when it is unnecessary.
Doughnuts and other snacks are likely additional empty calories for most employees, not a replacement for their usual meal or snack. If a meeting is expected to last roughly an hour or less, don't provide any food at all. Offer water, coffee, and unsweetened tea instead.
You don't need a big budget to make your worksite a healthy place for staff and visitors. Here are some budget-friendly—and effective—employee wellness program ideas.
Start a walking group
Walking has many benefits. It reduces risks for coronary heart disease and stroke; improves blood pressure, blood sugar levels and blood lipid profiles; enhances mental health; and reduces risks of osteoporosis, breast and colon cancers, and type 2 diabetes.
Walking during the work day may have more immediate benefits. Physical activity has been linked to improved concentration, better memory recall, faster learning, enhanced creativity and reduced stress—all of which lead to better job performance. So why not round up a group of co-workers and walk together?
If you're interested in starting a workplace wellness program, or looking for new ways to encourage employees to be active during the work day, consider launching a "take the stairs" initiative.
Why take the stairs?
Walking more, in general, is one of the easiest ways to increase physical activity. It is low impact with significant rewards:
- Reduces risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- Improves blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and blood lipid profile
- Maintains body weight and lowers risk of obesity
Taking the stairs, more specifically, is an effective short burst of activity that increases heart and lung capacity—and burns more calories per minute than walking or jogging!
Local spotlight: American Structurepoint helps employees eat healthy with free fruit, nutrition workshops
Pop into the break room at American Structurepoint, Inc., on a Monday afternoon, and you’ll likely find employees snacking on fresh apples, pears, bananas—even kiwi—courtesy of the company.
The architecture and engineering firm on Indianapolis’ northeast side gets produce from local company Green BEAN Delivery each week and makes it available to staff at no charge as one component of its employee wellness program.
“I get notified when the delivery arrives and head to the break rooms to set everything out in baskets and crates,” says Jessica Anderson, co-chair of American Structurepoint’s Employee Wellness Committee. “Then I check on it once a day—condense containers, pull out anything that has over ripened—until it’s all gone. It’s usually gone by Wednesday or Thursday.”