FIT WHILE AT WORK: Maintain healthy habits while on the job

Where do adults spend most of their waking hours? At their jobs!

Workplace wellness programs have become commonplace in many organizations, for good reason. Many employers are realizing the benefits of encouraging healthy habits at work, with the hope that those habits become routine at home, too.

Over time, a healthier workforce is a happier and more productive workforce, and costs to both the employer and employee can decrease. Many employees appreciate the encouragement and convenience that a good workplace wellness program offers for improving their health, but not every workplace offers a wellness program. Where do you begin?

Whether your workplace has a formal wellness program in place or not, there are a number of ways to support heart health and overall wellness, and they don’t necessarily take a lot of time or money.

Some strategies are easier to accomplish than others, so let’s explore a few of these!

Policies in the workplace that promote healthy food choices are a good place to start. Commit to making the healthy choice the only choice at work by replacing those donuts at meetings with some fresh fruit, low-fat cheese sticks, yogurts, or whole-grain snacks. Salad “bars” — offering fresh greens with a variety of healthy toppings — are good options for workplaces lunches and a welcome break from the usual pizza.

What about exercise? Even if you stand, lift, or walk all day at work, your body gets used to that “normal,” and needs additional physical activity to help with weight control and heart health. In addition, non-work physical activity breaks offers stress-relieving mental health benefits.

Encouraging a 10-minute walk or a simple stretching routine during break time is a helpful strategy to improve fitness and reduce workplace stress. Mapping out a walking circuit in your building or on campus might entice your staff to put their comfortable shoes on and hit the “bricks.”

Smart workplaces make every effort to help those employees who still smoke to become ex-smokers.

Creating a smoke-free workplace property costs nothing except a few signs, yet protects non-smoking employees from dangerous secondhand smoke exposure while reducing the total number of cigarettes consumed by those who haven’t yet quit. Smoking cessation classes are available at no cost to the employer or employee, and your health insurance plan covers cessation aids such as patches or medications.

What can you do if your employer is not ready to encourage workplace wellness? Start your own! Whether it’s one person, one department, or one shift, you can start making small changes to your own work environment for the healthier. Keep a water bottle handy, ditch the candy or snack dish, and commit to bring a healthy lunch instead of going out or eating vending food.

Use your break times to walk or do a few exercises, and invite a coworker to join you! You will feel better, and your actions can encourage others to do the same.

Chautauqua County has high rates of both heart attack and stroke, but an estimated 80 percent of heart attacks and strokes are preventable. CHQ250 is an initiative of the Chautauqua Health Action Team(CHAT), encouraging you to take action to be one of at least 250 strokes, heart attacks, or related deaths prevented in Chautauqua County in the coming year. This column is written by CHAT members to share information to help you to do your part to live a life free of stroke or heart disease; it is not intended to replace advice provided by your healthcare team. Please direct questions or comments to: