Celebrating the 6th annual Employees Wellness Month

National Employee Wellness Month helps business leaders learn how companies successfully engage employees in healthy lifestyles. It showcases how companies can support employees by creating healthy cultures, improving their health and well-being while lowering healthcare costs and driving engagement.

Created in 2009 by Virgin Pulse in partnership with the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance, National Employee Wellness Month is sponsored by these organizations and the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease and WorldatWork. Held annually in June, 2014 marks its sixth year.

The Importance Behind the Month

Healthy company cultures drive productivity and engagement. With these issues and healthcare costs directly impacting the bottom line, National Employee Wellness Month highlights the workplace’s role in helping to create healthy employees – and how they’ll mold a better business.

Proud Supporters

More than 175 organizations and over 70,000 of their employees supported the fifth annual National Employee Wellness Month in June 2013. What’s more, employers and their employees shared their viewpoints and insights on workplace wellness. Check out the 2013 survey findings.

This year, the National Employee Wellness Month kicks off with a nationwide activity challenge, highlighting the link between physical activity and good health. Thousands of U.S. employees go toe-to-toe to see who can rack up the most physical activity.

Category : Uncategorized | Wellness Coaching

Why Focus on School Wellness?

A recent report published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, entitled Preventing Childhood Obesity, came to the conclusion that it is “critically important” that the school environment support healthy eating and physical activity behaviors among students as one strategy for confronting the childhood obesity epidemic (Koplan, Liverman & Kraak 2005). Yet the lack of programs that support regular physical activity and proper nutrition in the current school landscape continues to be disturbing to many childhood experts.

For example, recess and physical education (PE) programs are constantly at risk of being cut from school curricula in order to fit in more classroom instructional time to prepare for standardized testing. One report found that only 8% of elementary schools, 6.4% of middle schools and 5.8% of high schools provide daily PE during the school year for students in all grades (Kolbe, Kann & Brener 2001). In a recent survey of American youth, just over one-third of high-school students reported attending daily PE classes by the time they reached their senior year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2006).

And the problem isn’t exclusive to teenagers; younger kids are also seeing less and less play time at school. According to a recent report called Calories In, Calories Out: Food and Exercise in Public Elementary Schools, 2005 just 8 out of every 10 elementary schools have daily recess, with 25 minutes being the average amount of play time offered (Parsad & Lewis 2006). Despite its importance, recess is often on the chopping block as schools struggle to fit more academic requirements into the day.

There is also ongoing concern about the junk foods sold in schools. In an attempt to compensate for dwindling budgets and overcrowded classrooms, many schools have abandoned balanced, home-cooked meals and instead offer only “grab and go” calorie-dense and nutrient-poor packaged items—what many see as a sorry reflection of the nation’s eating habits as a whole. Nationally, 83% of elementary, 97% of middle and 99% of high schools sell foods and beverages out of vending machines, school stores or à la carte settings (Government Accountability Office 2005). Not surprisingly, soft drinks, chips and candy are the items most commonly sold in our schools (Wechsler et al. 2001).

Fortunately, the times are changing—or at least improving. In fact, the recent federal mandate for local school wellness policies requires schools to set goals for nutrition and physical activity. This presents an extraordinary opportunity for both parents and health and fitness professionals to contribute to creating and sustaining school environments that promote student health.

Category : Wellness Coaching | Wellness Education

Well according to recent statistics, if your company’s wellness program dividends don’t include significant employee weight loss, you’re not alone. Companies with wellness programs are doing their employees – and their organizations in general – a huge favor, but wellness programs alone aren’t showing that they are capable of helping reduce obesity in some of the long term research data being reported.

Why might that be? The short-term motivators and health advice typical of wellness programs provide general benefits across an employee population, but people needing sustained weight loss will most certainly require concentrated behavior change assistance specific to their condition.  This is where the face to face interaction of a coach factors in.   In study after study, this trend of needing face time is being observed time and time again.  Furthermore, scientific observations show that comprehensive, evidence-based programs that focus on small, obesity-related changes over longer periods of time are the surest path to greater and more sustainable weight loss compared to generalized wellness activities. The best of these programs address the common cognitive, emotional and biological barriers to most peoples’ weight loss efforts.

Cognitive barriers

Prime examples of cognitive barriers to weight loss include patterns of thinking, such as “all or nothing” thinking.  Cognition is thought.  And putting those thoughts into action.  Despite the best intentions, it’s all too easy for a person trying to reduce food consumption to rationalize, “Well, now that I’ve eaten that cookie, I might as well just go for it and start over tomorrow.”  Or, “well, I’ve already ruined my diet for the day, I might as well blow it all to bits for the rest of this week!”.   Professionally trained  coaches can help program participants identify these thoughts and how to tap into the clients strengths to develop more productive responses.

Emotional barriers

Emotional barriers to weight loss include depression, as well as stress and anxiety. Even mild depression leads to lower activity and increased appetite. However, it can be countered with physical activity, which improves mood and assists with weight loss. Those who are experiencing stress and anxiety naturally crave foods that are high in fat and sugar. That craving is a biological response; stress hormones flooding the brain produce the same effect as when our primitive ancestors needed to outrun predators – a desire for foods high in quick energy. Experts skilled in weight reduction can direct participants to alternative, satisfying foods consistent with weight loss.

Biological barriers

Biologicalbarriers to weight loss include the underlying reason why rapid weight loss is usually followed by rapid weight gain. Sudden loss of substantial weight signals to the brain that the body is starving, and triggers a sustained drive to gain that weight back quickly. That’s why it’s so important to have a weight loss program that helps obese people lose a reasonable amount of weight at a reasonable rate – it keeps from triggering the endocrine system’s flood of hormones that encourage excess food consumption and weight regain. Experts can help obese people achieve weight loss in a way that is optimally sustainable and coach them on successful weight loss maintenance strategies.

The importance of management buy-in

Having a behavior change program that addresses the cognitive, emotional and biological barriers to weight loss can be greatly bolstered by a fourth element: management buy-in. When management positions the program to obese employees as a valued positive, they’re more likely to stay focused and celebrate the small victories on their weight loss journey. Better yet: Lead by example. When executives and middle managers who are themselves overweight participate as peers with employees in a company-sponsored obesity program, substantial results can be achieved for everyone involved.

Category : Wellness Coaching