For Health at Work, Get Creative

Many options for improving health are available at and on the way to your job.

by Allan Richter

June 2015

When Tara Anianio worked at a gym, the only exercise she would get staffing the front desk was when she gave tours to prospective clients. Then, after her mother died five years ago, Aniano desperately needed outdoor physical activity as an outlet for her grief and stress. She didn’t want to wait until the weekend, and she wanted something challenging.

Aniano’s son Nicholas suggested that she ride a Trikke, a scooter with two platforms instead of one, for the two-plus mile roundtrip trek between her Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, home and the gym. It is propelled by the momentum from a rider shifting his or her body weight from side to side.

Aniano was never overweight, but she lost almost 10 pounds and much of the stress. She says the biggest difference is in her shape. “My arms, legs, and stomach became so toned,” notes Aniano, a mother of eight in her 50s. “Young guys in their 30s were hitting on me. My muscles are defined.”

Writing about a hybrid electric Trikke model for Reviewboard.com, Philip Ferreira says he lost 105 pounds on his 12-mile daily round trip to work on the vehicle for more than a year. He says he has kept the weight off, cured the pitting edema (a condition in which swollen tissue indents when pressed) in his leg, and kept his blood pressure in check.

The daily grind of harried commutes and workplace stress can easily relegate caring for one’s own health to weekends. But with a little creativity and careful planning, and the support of corporate America, workers like Aniano can find ways to keep healthy just about every day of the week.

Mental Health America, an advocacy group, says that along with stress, mental illness and substance abuse cost employers an estimated $80 billion to $100 billion in direct costs and bear directly on physical health.

Companies can make a big difference in their employees’ health with relatively little investment, such as making fresh fruit bowls available in the kitchen, and allowing only healthy goods in their vending machines. A number of vending machine makers offer fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other options with limits on calories, fat, sugar and sodium.

You can practice good health habits at work without detracting from your job. Platforms that raise desktop computers and monitors encourage employees to stand while working. A study published January in Annals of Internal Medicine found that sitting for prolonged periods raised the risk of cardiovascular disease by 14%, cancer by 13% and diabetes by 91%. Those who sat for long stretches with no regular exercise had a 40% higher risk of early death. Even with regular exercise, the risk was still significant at about 10%.

The platforms for raising desktop computer hardware come in many forms, from a basic wood plank that sits atop two other planks serving as legs to more advanced systems, such as the Rise Up, an electric, height-adjustable desk with bamboo desktop from Uncaged Ergonomics. The company also makes the Lift, an adjustable-height monitor riser for sitting and standing that holds single and dual monitors and iMacs; its Wobble Stool, an adjustable-height stool, as the name suggests, wobbles to keep you moving. Also making adjustable risers that let you shift from seated to a standing position is VariDesk.

A five-minute deep breathing, stretching, mini-meditation or yoga break once or twice a day takes virtually no financial investment.

Companies can build a walking path around the parking lot or elsewhere on the grounds; to get the benefit of nature, establish a path where flowering shrubs and other greenery grow. Bike racks and other storage space can be provided on premises to encourage the use of motorless modes of transportation to and from work.

Companies can arrange a contest for weight loss or for smokers who want to quit, providing an incentive. Weight Watchers and other organizations offer workday weight-loss programs, while the American Lung Association offers a corporate smoking cessation program.
Workers would have more incentive to work out with a small gym in which they can exercise. If space is a consideration, equip the gym with compact equipment. Scour urban fitness equipment suppliers for top sellers that are likely to take available space into account. Several recommended equipment such as a free-standing punching bag or the MaxiClimber, a small vertical climber that uses the same movements as rock climbing.

If you work in a huge warehouse or factory and use personal transportation such as a Segway that provides no fitness benefits, urge your company to let you use a scooter or Trikke instead.

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