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Citizens Bank Takes on HealthPlus in a Fitness Competition

Friday, July 16, 2010 General News J E 4
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FLINT, Mich., July 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Two mid-size companies headquartered in Flint—Citizens Bank and HealthPlus of Michigan—recently put their heads together to creatively engage employees in a workplace wellness program.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100715/DE35727 )

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100715/DE35727 )

Called the "Commit to Get Fit Challenge," it was a friendly contest to see which company's workforce would exercise the most over a six-week period between May and June.

"The goal was simple: To encourage our employees to be more physically active and make health and wellness a part of their lifestyle," explains Citizens Bank President and CEO Cathy Nash. "And now we know it was a big success."

Altogether, more than 1,300 employees voluntarily participated in taking positive steps toward healthier lifestyles. For instance, they climbed stairs, took lunch time walks, worked their abdominals, lifted weights, plunged into yard work, worked out at fitness centers, and signed up for sports teams.

Then they logged their exercise points through the wellness portal on the HealthPlus website. Ten minutes of physical activity equaled one activity point. The goal for each was to accumulate at least 125 points, which took an average of about 30 minutes of exercise per day for six weeks.

The companies kicked off the Challenge with a tug-of-war at HealthPlus and an obstacle course competition at Citizens. Along the way, internal teams at both companies stoked the fun and enthusiasm, and participants wore red, co-branded "Commit to Get Fit" tee shirts.

"The Challenge was a boost for the year-around workplace wellness programs at each organization," says Bruce Hill, president and CEO of HealthPlus. "We know that close to 30 percent of all people in Michigan are obese. We also know that moderate exercise, such as a 30 minute brisk walk each day, reduces obesity, as well as the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, bone loss, anxiety and depression. With all these benefits, why wouldn't we want to become healthier?"

CEOs Nash and Hill, conceived the Challenge. The Citizens Human Resources team staff and the HealthPlus Health & Lifestyles team put it together. Incidentally, both companies are sponsors of the Crim Festival of Races in Flint, and the Brooksie Way half marathon in Oakland County.

On July 12 at HealthPlus, "Commit to Get Fit" team captains from both companies gathered to hear the results announced by Bobby Crim, the former Michigan legislator who started the Crim road race that led to development of the Crim Fitness Foundation.

After noting that he had personally run in 495 races over the past 48 years and feels quite healthy at age 79, Crim tore open a large envelope containing the name of the Challenge winner.

"I understand that the winner of the Commit to Get Fit Challenge is the team with the highest average of physical activity points per person," he said. "The statistics I have in front of me indicate that nearly 1,000 Citizens Bank employees accumulated nearly 200,000 physical activity points, resulting in an average of 153 points per person. HealthPlus employees accumulated nearly 85,000 physical activity points, averaging 220 per person.

"So congratulations, HealthPlus! You are the winner of this Challenge and the Nash-Hill Cup," Crim exclaimed.

"Clearly, everyone who participated is a winner," said Nash. "Check this out: Together, our employees completed the equivalent of five years of round-the-clock physical activity in six weeks! My hope is that every person who participated in this fitness challenge will be motivated to improve their lifestyle in a permanent way."

HealthPlus plans to conduct more creative wellness competitions with businesses that take advantage of its wellness programs.

"There's growing interest in wellness programs among businesses in Michigan and nationwide," notes Hill, "That's partly because workplace wellness programs have been proven to reduce health risks, absenteeism, and disability costs, as well as improve productivity and lengthen lives. Another reason is that, beginning this October as part of national health reform, federal grants will be available to small businesses to start workplace wellness programs.

While wellness programs typically draw participation by about 40 percent of a workforce, the "Commit to Get Fit Challenge" engaged far higher percentages at both companies.

Employee enthusiasm was evident at both organizations throughout the competition.

"I loved this program," said HealthPlus Behavioral Case Manager Karen Barruso. "I loved the company-wide focus on health. I loved the energy and sense of camaraderie, as well as the motivation stimulated by the competition."

At Citizens, the response was much the same. Says HR Information Systems Analyst/Assistant VP Linda Eggert: "Throughout the Challenge, Cathy Nash sent out e-mails and posted items in her blog encouraging us to stick with it. I gained activity points by walking while my son was at baseball practice, doing yard work, and participating in the American Heart Association's Heart Walk with other Citizens Bank employees, which was a lot of fun."

About Citizens Bank

Citizens Republic Bancorp, Inc. is a diversified financial services company providing a wide range of commercial, consumer, mortgage banking, trust and financial planning services to a broad client base.  Citizens serves communities in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana with 218 offices and 255 ATMs.  Citizens is the largest bank holding company headquartered in Michigan with roots dating back to 1871 and is the 47th largest bank holding company headquartered in the United States. More information about Citizens is available at www.citizensbanking.com.

About HealthPlus

HealthPlus of Michigan?a nonprofit health-benefits company?along with its subsidiaries offers a comprehensive portfolio of PPO, HMO, and TPA health plans tailored to meet the needs of employers, families, individuals, and government (Medicare, Medicaid, MIChild, county health programs). Most HealthPlus benefit plans include access to extensive, online health, wellness and lifestyle resources.

Founded in 1979, HealthPlus?with a staff of more than 400 at its Flint headquarters and regional offices in Saginaw and Troy?serves more than 200,000 people statewide. To advance its vision of building healthier communities, HealthPlus contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to more than 200 nonprofit organizations in the communities it serves. More information about HealthPlus is available at www.healthplus.org.

SOURCE HealthPlus of Michigan

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