GLOBAL EMPLOYEE HEALTH & FITNESS MONTH
WHAT is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month?
Global Employee Health and Fitness Month (GEHFM) is an international and national observance of health and fitness in the workplace created by the National Association for Health and Fitness, with Diane Hart as its lead architect. Its mission is to make "healthy the norm" by generating a persistent demand for healthy living among all sectors of society. The goal of GEHFM is to promote the benefits of a healthy
lifestyle to employers and their employees through
workforce health promotion activities and environments.
Employers everywhere are invited to participate. Employers
will challenge their employees to create Healthy Moments, form Healthy Groups and develop a Culminating Project. Employers can request participants log their activities throughout the month, allowing employer and employees to track, share and promote their individual and group activities. A toolkit helps guide activities and events. GEHFM is very simply structured for ease of use.
Healthy Moments are focused on the individual, and are occasions of healthy eating, physical activity or personal/environmental health. Examples of Healthy Moments include trying a new recipe, cooking dinner at home instead of eating out, planting an extra row in a backyard garden to harvest and share with a local food pantry, scheduling a health assessment, and going to a doctor.
Healthy Groups are small groups of employees formed to create a sustainable activity continuing even beyond the month of May. Healthy Groups include: creating lunchtime exercise groups who meet during mealtimes to walk, run, or bike; forming commuter groups who bike or walk to and from work together; and establishing healthy meal clubs that share recipes and distribute healthy snacks to each other throughout the day.
The Culminating Project is an event or series of events that promote health through the whole company or community. This project could include support for a healthy workforce in the company's vision or mission statement. Other examples include planting a community garden, adopting a company-wide physical activity or tobacco cessation policy, facilitating "brown bag lunches" open to the community during which a program emphasizing health and fitness is presented, and creating a company or family fitness event.
GEHFM has adaptability to any wellness program currently in place, can breathe new life into an existing wellness program or ignite interest in starting a new program at your workplace. It can be a basis for creating sustainable healthy programs, environments and policies. Involving the community in your organization's wellness efforts is not just about doing the right thing, it also offers direct benefits because as a conscious organization, you are set apart from other organizations.
WHEN is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month?
GEHFM is held during the month of May every year (traditionally physical activity month). Healthy Moments occur daily, even multiple times a day, and are created by individuals and groups. Healthy Groups implement activities to be performed several times throughout the month. Finally, the Culminating Project is developed during the month and is executed at the end of May.
WHY should employers/employees participate in GEHFM?
GEHFM is a great way to kick off wellness and fitness programs, bring excitement, and complement existing programs. Workforce wellness programs have been shown to benefit the employer through enhanced employee productivity, reduced health care costs, reduced employee absenteeism, and decreased rates of illness and injury. These programs benefit employees by lowering stress levels, increasing well-being, increasing self-image and self-esteem, improving physical fitness, increasing stamina, increasing job satisfaction, and controlling BMI and blood pressure.
Consider the following:
Findings from 56 studies of worksite health promotion programs showed an average:
27% reduction in sick leave absenteeism
26% reduction in healthcare costs
32% reduction in workers' compensation and disability management cost claims
$5.81 to $1.00 ROI ratio
The University of Michigan Health Management Research Center (HMRC) estimates that organizations save $350 annually when a low-risk employee remains low risk compared to a savings of $153 when a high-risk employee's health risks are reduced.
Jumbo and large employers led the way in self-insuring their populations and now most employers with more than 1,000 employees do so. The majority of employers with more than 200 employees now self-insure. When an employer self-insures, the company owns the "health-risk" of its population. Large and jumbo employers (5,000+ employees) list in their top three wellness objectives to include "increased physical activity/exercise." Effective prevention, wellness and improvement of the health of its workforce will result in a company keeping more "money in its pockets" by paying less in claims. Robert J. Gould of the Partnership for Prevention stated, "The current and future spending on employee health is not only unsustainable, but also poses a significant threat to the overall competitiveness of businesses within the global marketplace."
Worksite wellness programs play an important role in fostering a sense of belonging, trust, caring and mutual understanding in the workplace, as well as supporting a shared vision by being responsive to new initiatives and organizational challenges. Wellness programs also encourage a positive outlook by emphasizing strengths over weaknesses and investing in productive people.
Compelling research points to green exercise, defined as exercising in the presence of nature, as a promising and practical way to cultivate a more physically active workforce. Green exercise combines the mental and physical benefits of being active with the psychological and physical rewards of exposure to natural environments - a synergy that adds up to healthier, happier employees with a dose of stress reduction.
Worksite health promotion is a sound business strategy and joining the GEHFM movement this May (and every May) is the best place to start or rededicate your organization's efforts to the imperative cause of health becoming the norm in our world!