Getting Active is Not Inconsequential
GET PROACTIVE- KEEP YOUR EMPLOYEES FIT
Q: There is much being said about the minimum amount of daily exercise that adults need to stay healthy. The numbers seem to change monthly. We have no budget for gym facilities or memberships. What can we as employers do to promote a healthier lifestyle in our workplace?
A: Let’s face it. We all know the benefits of exercise and the health implications of a sedentary lifestyle. Here are the simple facts:
#1: Canadians are less active than they have ever been.
#2: This level of inactivity when combined with our poor dietary habits has led to a drastic increase in the rate of lifestyle related diseases.
#3: This increase in lifestyle related disease is threatening the viability of the Canadian public health care system. A report published online in the journal “Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism” estimated the total cost of our unhealthy lifestyle choices had reached approximately $6.8 billion in 2009, or 3.7 per cent of all health care costs.
I know that you and your organization can feel like a small drop in the big ocean of national health, but your drop is an intrinsic part of the larger body of water. At some point, we need to get behind this health and fitness movement and have faith that our seemingly small effort will yield significant and positive results. Your drop matters!
What is the recommended minimum amount of daily exercise? The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and ParticipACTION have just released their official Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. Given the landscape of our collective state of health, you might think that the guidelines would reflect an increase in the amount of exercise for all Canadians, but this is not the case. The previous version of the guidelines recommended that adults get 30-60 minutes of exercise per day and to reduce the amount of time sitting on their backsides. The current version of the guidelines says that adults should exercise 150 minutes per week. That’s a reduction of between 60 – 270 minutes of physical activity per week. So why were the guidelines lowered? In a press conference response, The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and ParticipACTION said that the guidelines have been lowered because “Canadians are so inactive that even small amounts of exercise will make a difference”.
It’s a sad state of affairs. In my opinion, the previous version was still shy of enough! The good news is that it doesn’t take much to meet these recommendations. The difficulty lies in getting people to move.
I believe that we have good intentions around being more active. We truly want to be healthy, but our intentions and desires are simply being trumped by all the other demands of life. Physical activity is not a high enough priority. Ian Janssen (the author of the aforementioned report) states that “It’s [getting people to exercise] a very difficult thing to fix. We’re talking about something a lot of people don’t necessarily like to do and they don’t necessarily know how to do it. It’s simple in theory, but in reality it’s very difficult to get people to engage in physical activity to improve their health.”
Become part of the solution! No matter how well-intentioned you are and how much your employer supports physical activity, you will not be able to make fanatic fitness converts out of every employee. However, you can create a corporate climate that supports, encourages and maybe even rewards those who do get moving.
Here are some low-cost, low maintenance initiatives that can help make your drop in the ocean count.
Keep it light! Make sure employees have access to natural light where possible. This small tidbit keeps people more alert and happy – they will be more likely to make healthy decisions.
What floats their boat? Poll your employees to find out what kinds of activities they would be interested in getting involved in at the workplace.
Their ideas – their program Support the formation of a Health & Wellness Committee by initiating the project and offering time and office space for the committee to function.
Use their enthusiasm Find a keener amongst the troops to lead the committee and a champion to head up each program or event.
Educate Set up a series of Lunch n’ Learn workshops that reflect your employees’ needs and interests.
Incentives work Encourage participation through creative measures (financial support, recognition, time, space). Find a way to let your employees know that their healthy lifestyle choices are being noticed and that you care.
Meet them half way If the running club needs showers so they can rinse off after a run, consider installing showers or make a deal with neighboring businesses that have shower facilities. If the yoga enthusiasts want to bring in an outside teacher for a noon hour class, provide a clean space for them to practice. Supplement the employee-initiated programs by offering to co-share program expenses with the participants (perhaps a percentage of the cost). Combine team-building events with physical activity of some sort.
Get involved There’s nothing like sweating it out with your employees. When they witness you living out part of the corporate intention around fitness and activity, you are sending a very clear message, “Let’s do this together”.
Don’t feel like this now lies entirely on your shoulders. You’ll be amazed to discover that certified fitness or yoga specialists charge most affordable rates to come to your workplace and teach onsite. I’ve built a personal network of professionals across the country over the years so let me know if you’re looking for a referral to specialists in your area.
Something about people doing things together appeals to our essential human nature. We understand that we are part of something larger and making a difference. What is the quality of your drop in our ocean?.
Marla Ericksen is an integrative fitness specialist, exercise rehabilitation therapist and Yoga teacher. She owns and operates Empower ME Yoga in Ottawa. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Dealing with a Bad Boss
TIPS FOR SURVIVAL
Q: I am becoming more and more frustrated with my manager. Can you provide some suggestions on handling this situation and reducing the added stress?
A: There are days that we all ask ourselves if we are the only sane ones working here.
The Karolinska Institute in Sweden did some interesting research on the relationship between employees’ health and leadership. They surveyed 3,100 professionals looking at their blood pressure, cholesterol readings and their relationship with their boss. A person with a poor manager was 60% more likely to suffer heart issues or some other major health related affect. Employees with strong managers were 40% less likely to suffer heart related health issues.
Albert J. Bernstein PhD, author of the book “Am I the only SANE ONE working here?”, is a psychologist and leading expert in workplace conflict resolution. Bernstein offers the following suggestions for dealing with a bad boss:
Coach & Founder
Ask yourself “Why am I still here?” You need to get to the heart of the matter. Are you staying because of the money or next step in your career? Then you will need to accept this for now. For those dark times, remind yourself of your “why.” If the only reason you are staying is that you are afraid of looking for a new job, you need to face up to the reality that this is hurting you more than staying, face the fear.
Be realistic. Don’t expect changes in your boss as a result of you making changes in your own behaviour. Be prepared, observe carefully and anticipate attacks that may come from your boss.
Become indispensable. Develop an area of expertise that your boss lacks. This area of knowledge will give you more bargaining power and make you more valuable in the long run.
Transcend temper. The most effective way is to maintain eye contact. Resist the temptation to justify. Listen to what your boss says and get out of the situation or meeting as quickly as possible.
Keep records. Make sure you keep track of key conversations and any correspondence that supports your situation. This may be helpful later.
Be able to assess your own performance. Bad managers are quick to blame and slow to praise. Keep track of your own accomplishments and emails from both co-workers and clients. It is a great way of keeping perspective and a way of having facts to deal with any unnecessary criticism.
Avoid the temptation to gripe. While complaining to others feels good, all of the psychological research supports the more you complain, the more you reinforce your own negative behaviour.
Bernstein stated “When dealing with a micromanaging boss or peer, the most important thing to keep your sanity is to stop and think. It is best to analyze before you judge, this will give you the information that will help you, or at the very least keep you sane.” Not only is this good advice for your mind, but this is good advice for your heart.
Keep sane by spending more time analyzing and less time judging.
Alan Kearns is Canada’s Career Coach & Founder of CareerJoy, Canada’s Career& Leadership Coaching Company. He can be reached via email at alan@CareerJoy.com.