Companies Urge Employees to Escape Cubicles and Get Active

Companies around the country are marking National Employee Health & Fitness Day today with new wellness programs, discounts or simple encouragment for workers to get moving.

CEOs are leading their employees on walks through downtowns, others are making accommodations for bicycle commuting, and some are offering discounts on gym memberships to keep their employees healthy and active. CIGNA HealthCare introduced a new “Just Walk 10,000 Steps a Day” wellness program to encourage small bursts of activity throughout the day.

"While most people know that regular exercise is important, many cannot find the time to fit exercise into their busy schedules," Diana Wynne, CIGNA's Healthy Rewards program project manager, said in a statement. CIGNA HealthCare employees get discounts on a variety of weight management, nutrition and fitness products and services.

CIGNA reports that some large U.S. corporations estimate an average return of $5 for every dollar invested in wellness programs, and an average drop in health care costs of 2.5 percent.

Many health-conscious employers already know that an active workforce is not only a productive workforce, but happier as well.

According to the National Association for Health and Fitness, promoting health year-round, not just today, is a great idea because it lowers levels of stress for employees while boosting self-esteem, self-image and well-being. Workers can also increase their stamina and maybe even lose weight.

This week is also Bike to Work Week, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and other cycling organizations. These organizations cite three main benefits of bike commuting: a better body, clean air and more money. The average annual price of keeping a car running is $3,000 while it costs $300 to keep a bike operating for a year.

Even though many workers are inactive, it's never too late to start moving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of American adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity a day. Workplace programs can be a big motivator.

The state of North Carolina is also getting into the act, encouraging residents to do just about anything that involves physical activity. May is designated as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. “We'd love to see everybody out there running, biking and getting a big cardiovascular workout each day, but we know that's not practical for everyone. So we've tried to come up with a simple, enjoyable way for people to remind themselves to get off the couch and be active," said Shellie Pfohl, executive director of Be Active North Carolina.

There's plenty of evidence to back up the contention that Americans have to get off the couch – or out of the cubicle. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports says that the combination of poor diet and physical inactivity are rapidly approaching tobacco, at 435,000 annual deaths, as the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

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