As the end to summertime draws near, I find myself dreading the impending cold weather and shorter daylight hours. The combination of the two usually results in a decreased drive to exercise on days that I work because my routine of running post workday in daylight that extends to 9pm is interrupted by chilly temperatures and sunsets prior to 6pm. Kindly enough, my workplace has instituted some options just to appease my complaints with Mother Nature (okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a tad) that encourage us outdoor-loving folk to keep in shape in the winter months.
Children’s introduced the Strong For Life initiative about two years ago with catchy t-shirts that read “Strong Enough (front) To Care Enough (back).” Nobody knew at first exactly what to expect from this brand new get fit through work campaign. Details were released over the course of several months that led to a nationally-recognized and widely-embraced initiative offered for employees as a way to get in shape with options to subsequently chart your progress. Comprehensive health screenings are offered at various times throughout the year that include weight checks, blood pressure readings, cholesterol and glucose screenings, BMI calculations and an overall assessment of nutritional status with opportunities for questions to be answered by screening personnel. Everyone was encouraged to set up a Strong For Life profile that allows you to track your screenings and measurements, answer a questionnaire that creates recommendations on what lifestyle changes to make based on areas that make you high-risk for certain preventable conditions and diseases. The site also encourages daily involvement with options such as calorie counting, healthy recipes and an exercise log. As an incentive, employees receive a discount of $10/month on our health insurance if we update our profile on a yearly basis.
Another concept that has been widely accepted and promoted throughout the workplace is the pedometer. Every employee (clinical and non-clinical) was awarded a pedometer to wear on their shoe that automatically updates the amount of steps you take to your online profile. I found this to be extremely amusing to see how many miles I work on a busy day shift and found myself taking the stairs more and the long way to my car just to get in those extra few steps. The hospital even went so far as to tap in to our competitive natures by making each department compete against one another to see who could tread the most steps. The pedometers even work at home and upload the data upon return to work so exercising at home is encouraged as well.
Children’s has offered discounted Weight Watchers memberships with weekly meetings held at the hospital campuses, encouraging camaraderie amongst co-workers that are weighing in next to you. A major overhaul of the cafeteria was recently completed with now healthier food options including fresh fruit all day and a huge salad bar. There are also opportunities for buying weekly baskets of farm-fresh produce set up through Children’s.
For those gym rats that love working out in a group setting (like myself), the hospital introduced free exercise classes offered each day of the week at the various campuses. I have always found that fitness classes offered at my home gym appealed mainly to the 9am-5pm workers with less favorable classes held after my work hours, but the classes at the hospital are accessible for nurses who get off at 7pm and want a workout prior to their departure for home.
Coinciding with the campaign release was major construction done on the staff stairwell heading to the parking garage. The end result to the construction was kept quiet until completion of the project which resulted in a grand opening of a stair gym brightly painted with murals of various sceneries and motivational quotes on the walls. The stairwell extends from level P4 (four floors underground of parking garage) to the sixth floor (a total of over ten winding flights of stairs) where you feel as though upon completion you have summitted Mount Everest because of the beautiful snow-covered mountain-top mural painted on the top floor. The stair gym has become my new best friend in the middle of night shifts when my energy level is low and my craving for comfort food is high. Scaling the stair gym two or three times is a fabulous way to get the blood flowing and burn some calories at work.
All in all, the Strong For Life campaign at Children’s has been a huge hit and a major success. In quarterly updates, cumulative pounds lost from employees is released as real evidence that working out and eating right really does work. Various employees are spotlighted with the opportunity for them to boast about their success stories of embracing a healthy lifestyle. One employee in particular who now blogs for Children’s about her struggles with weight control, has lost over 50 pounds by participating in the activities provided by the hospital. Her story was so inspirational that Children’s also offered to pay for a personal trainer to fuel her success even more.
I think my favorite part of this entire campaign is the idea that finally a hospital and its staff are practicing what they preach. Far too often do you find overweight nurses who are educating their patients about ways to prevent health problems but are not following their own advice. Knowing that the staff is concerned about their own health adds validity to patient education on healthy lifestyle choices. Now, with the winter months quickly approaching and the temptation of holiday desserts a constant at the nurse’s station, I have Children’s to thank for my many options to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I have great pride in my organization for being so health-conscience and hope other hospitals are following suit. Any other stories of health-conscience employers to share?