DALLAS, Sept. 16 More than 900 businesses across thenation have been recognized by the American Heart Association's Start!Fit-Friendly Companies Program for promoting physical activity and health inthe work place -- a 20 percent increase over last year.
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080916/NYTU059LOGO-a )
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080916/NYTU059LOGO-b )
Start! is the American Heart Association's national initiative to getAmericans walking. Most adult Americans spend a majority of their waking hoursat work -- many in sedentary careers -- increasing their risk for medicalproblems such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program participants implement variousoptions to encourage physical activity, nutrition and culture enhancementssuch as on-site walking routes, healthy food options in cafeterias and vendingmachines, annual employee health risk assessments and online tracking tools.Those participants who achieve Platinum recognition -- the highest tier --take the program a step further by actually measuring the outcomes of theirwellness efforts.
Wellness programs have increased in popularity in recent years becausethey are economical and efficient ways to help offset increasing employeehealthcare costs, according to an American Heart Association survey.
The survey also showed that fewer than one in five employees evaluatetheir employer as encouraging participation in their company wellness programextremely or very well. However, employees in these highly encouragingenvironments are more likely to participate in and value these programs.
"Physical inactivity is an epidemic in our country -- we just don't getenough exercise," said, Dr. Timothy Gardner, president of the American HeartAssociation and medical director of the Center for Heart and Vascular Healthat the Christiana Care Health System in Delaware. "Physical activity is one ofthe best preventive health measures there is, and people who find ways toincorporate more walking into their lives gain health benefits. Our studyrevealed that employees are far more likely to engage in a workplace wellnessprogram like Start! if company executives promote it, which is underscored bysecuring the Start! Fit-Friendly designation from the American HeartAssociation."
The biggest obstacles preventing employees from getting enough physicalactivity are the time constraints and responsibilities of their jobs. TheAmerican Heart Association's answer to this is Start!, which aims to develop acorporate culture of physical activity by motivating employees to walk duringtheir workday. Start! targets both individuals and companies and focuses onwalking because it has the lowest dropout rate of any form of physicalactivity. The Association provides free toolkits to companies who want toimplement a worksite walking program.
"Employees participating in wellness programs experience fewer sick days,improved quality of life and higher job satisfaction," said Dave Josserand,chairman of the American Heart Association and executive vice president andchief strategic officer of The Dalton Agency in Jacksonville, Fla. "Wellnessprograms will continue to play an important role in the health of Americans inyears to come. The evidence that participating employees realize healthbenefits is key; research shows that businesses can save as much as $16 forevery $1 they spend on health and wellness."
The list of 2008 Start! Fit-Friendly Companies and more information aboutthe study conducted by Harris Interactive are available atwww.heart.org/start. The Oct. 27, 2008 issue of FORBES magazine will include aspecial advertising section that features all 2008 Start! Fit-FriendlyCompanies.
Companies interested in applying for recognition in the Start!Fit-Friendly Companies Program should contact th