Raise Your Workplace's Activity Level

It could reduce health care costs and absenteeism.

HOW physically active are the employees you manage? Given spiraling health costs and America's stunning increase in obesity, don't you want them to be more active and healthier?

If you doubt you can affect these, try directly rewarding workplace physical activity. That's one approach of Atlanta-based HealthBux® Investment Systems (www.healthbux.com), which recently partnered with Hinda Incentives of Chicago (www.hinda.com) to offer HealthyRewards, a HIPAA-compliant, Web-based incentive system that rewards daily "investments in health," such as stair climbing and healthy food purchases. Dividend points are then redeemed for merchandise in Hinda's online catalog of more than 3,000 items.

"Most workplaces are designed so you spend as much time as possible in front of the desk. Ten-minute bouts of physical activity during the work day make a big difference in individual health and in developing a culture of wellness. That's why a major focus in our implementations has been increasing active breaks at work," HealthBux CEO Alison C. Earles, an employee benefits/HIPAA privacy attorney, told me. Employees can see health improvements when they self-screen at on-site blood pressure and weight kiosks developed by Lifeclinic, International (www.lifeclinic.com).

Earles said many wellness programs require participants to log activity and rely on self-reporting when awarding incentives. In contrast, this patent-pending system uses simple technology to prove and reward actual behaviors--eating fruit in the company cafeteria or walking 10,000 steps in a day, for example--and reinforces "the small, everyday, boring decisions that lead to a healthy lifestyle." she said. The wide range of incentives possible through Hinda makes these healthy choices more exciting and serve as "extremely powerful" motivators, said Earles.

Implementations to date show significant, sustained increases in stair climbing, physical activity breaks, and overall physical activity levels. These improvements ultimately reduce health care costs and absenteeism.

Let's face it, sweatbands and water bottles won't motivate sedentary workers. Offer something truly attractive if they'll take the stairs during the day or walk a few blocks for lunch, and you can reach people who may never consider going to a gym.

This column appeared in the April 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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