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Some companies help employees stay healthy

November 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Today's jobs require little activity. And the result is that workers are heavier than ever, which can lead to a host of costly health problems for employers and employees alike."I got to a point where my children were getting a little bit older and I couldn't do anything with them. It was physically difficult. I used to lose my breath tying my shoes," said Jim Lewis, an employee at Herbalife.

Lewis dropped 120 pounds and now competes in triathlons.

Roderick Robinson smoked cigarettes since age 11, but finally quit smoking.

Neshon Davis lost 300 pounds working with a health coach on diet and exercise.

What's special about their success is that they got their help at work.

"It started very soft with wellness sessions and a subsidized food program," said Rich Goudis, Herbalife chief operating officer.

Goudis said Herbalife employees have gyms, nutrition savvy cafes and a host of free or discounted programs. They also get financial breaks by participating in a health screening.

Kaiser Permanente walks the talk with its Healthy Workforce program. Each medical center has a one-mile Thrive path, weekly exercise classes, nutrition coaches and even a weekly five-mile run for employees.

A program at Spectrum Health Clubs offers employees and employees at other companies a way to count steps and check activity through special pedometers. They can also monitor blood pressure, weight and body fat. As the miles rack up, people can earn points for up to $250 in gift cards and extra benefits at the gym.

This challenge is ultimately about money. For businesses, insurance is second to labor in terms of cost, so if they can lower their premiums while getting you healthy at the same time, it's a win-win.

"There are really three costs if you think about it--whether you're a big employer like Herbalife or a small mom-and-pop employer--it's employee recruiting costs, there's retention cost, there's absenteeism from sickness," said Goudis.

Still, small companies have options.

"Maybe it's as easy as time off from the business, and probably for a small mom-and-pop time off is probably the simplest thing that they can do, but it's a very strong gesture," said Goudis.

Employees can step up their game too.

For example, take stairs or stand instead of sit. Walk your next one-on-one meeting, wear a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day.


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