Even a little exercise has impact on workers

It can be a stepping stone

Do you dream of employees making a beeline for the gym after their shift are over, or trading in their automobile commute for some running shoes? Those dramatic changes may never happen, but even a little exercise during the day can have a positive impact.

"Occupational health managers that are able to encourage any physical activity in the workplace are making an impact on the quality of the lives of employees," says Thomas Siebenaller, a Findlay, OH-based wellness coordinator for Marathon Oil Company.

A little more exercise may serve as a stepping stone to a bigger and better impact down the line. "These small changes oftentimes act as a catalyst for individuals in their journey towards improving their health," says Siebenaller. "A fifteen minute walk while at work can quickly morph into a gym membership and a new set of positive lifestyle behaviors." Try making these changes:

• Give employees a small amount of time for a stretch break.

"This is a fairly simple, and fairly inexpensive, opportunity," says Siebenaller. "It may even be possible to contract with a local university to have a program designed specifically for your setting."

Siebenaller adds that stretch breaks can provide a nice boost to metabolism. "They are generally more physically demanding than most folks initially believe," he says. "In addition, there is an added benefit in that a great number of injuries are the result of tight musculature throughout the body."

• Start a walking, running, or cycling club.

Participants may learn for the first time that they are actually capable of incorporating physical activity into their lives. If they have experienced it in the past, they're reminded of the benefits.

"Group settings provide additional motivation and accountability for many individuals. This positively impacts their retention rates in a physical activity program," Siebenaller says. "A fifteen minute walk while on a break at work provides a number of physical benefits. It also provides one important psychological benefit---increased confidence."

• Paint stairwells.

"The stairwells are some of the most dark and dreary areas in many facilities," Siebenaller says. "A fresh coat of bright paint can greatly affect the mental association that many folks have with taking a few flights of stairs."

Add an extra incentive by placing bulletin boards at each landing with images and sayings that are part of a riddle. "Individuals that utilize the stairwells would have the opportunity to pick up clues to the riddle on the bulletin board. Award a small prize to the individual who is able to solve the riddle at the end of a specific time period," Siebenaller says. "It may sound a little corny, but corny can be pretty effective!"


For more information on encouraging exercise in the workplace, contact:

• Thomas Siebenaller, Wellness Coordinator, Marathon Oil, Findlay, OH. E-mail: tsiebenaller@Marathonoil.com.