Commit to a healthy workforce

Last week I joined the second “Summer Walk” that the MHealthy champions in our IT department organized. It was a 1.5 mile round trip between our two main office facilities during the lunch hour. We had about 60 participants for each walk. What a great way to get some exercise, connect with colleagues and show our shared commitment to healthy living!

I wasn’t planning to do the walk when I first saw the announcements and flyers around our office. I expected that I had meetings during that time. But when one of the MHealthy champions reached out directly and asked me to show my commitment to healthy living, how could I say no?  It turned out that I could join them if I left a meeting 15 minutes early. I’m glad I did; literally “walking the talk”.

Our department is so committed that we were recently recognized as being one of the top performing areas, with 58% of employees participating in the University’s MHealthy Rewards program. More than 21,000 people throughout the University took advantage of the annual opportunity to review their health status, develop an action plan for improvement, and participate in helpful programs and services such as Active U, Weight Watchers, tobacco treatment, or stress-management programs. This is the program’s seventh year.

Our department’s MHealthy workgroup is developing new plans for activities and events to promote physical activity, healthy eating, and other positive health behaviors. The Summer Walks on the last Friday of each month are just the beginning.

They have also started a FitBit community for the department. But out of 600+ employees, we only have 12 people who have joined so far – makes it easy to be in the top 10! I’d love to see more people joining. I’m sure there are many more FitBit users than those 12. I’ve been in a virtual workout group of about 20 women on Facebook for the past two years. All these groups lead to healthy competition but most importantly, some accountability on reaching my own goals. When you share your goals with others, there is more incentive to reach them.

I’ve been hitting my own exercise goals about 5 out of 7 days for the last six weeks since I renewed my commitment and took my exercise out of the gym to the great summer outdoors. My daily goals are two-fold – minimum 30 minutes of some kind of exercise and total of 10K steps. If nothing else, I get out and walk the dogs for ½ hour at night. Yes, even when I have more email for the day to get through, I stop and make sure I exercise. With the nice weather, most days it is a 30-40 minute dog walk – if my little dog could talk, she’d probably say “give me a break and go to the gym sometimes!”  Nothing like having goals and tracking them to improve something – in this case, my health! Like I said in my blog on this subject a year ago – if not now, when?

MCIT staff gather for the first “Summer Walk” outside our office complex.

Working adults spend about one third to one half of their workday sitting down. For those of us in IT with desk jobs we’re working at computers and going to lots of meetings – all the more reason to find ways to move during the day. Karen Schmidt, MPH, Associate Director for Wellness and Health Culture in the MHealthy program says, “In addition to health improvements, the immediate benefits of moving, even for short periods of time are increased energy, clearer mind, improved mood, ramped up metabolism, increased blood flow, improved posture, and simply feeling better.”

Karen says, “Inactivity is one of the top risk factors for U-M faculty and staff.  By nature of our jobs, many of us don’t have as many opportunities for movement throughout the day.  Research suggests that sitting for long periods of time can contribute to higher risk for diabetes, obesity, back pain, heart attack and even cancer.   MHealthy hopes to encourage employees to move for at least 3 minutes every hour, and this fall will be launching a campaign to encourage movement throughout the work day.  You can do a number of things during that 3 minutes – move around your office, do stretching exercises at your desk, etc. If you work in a call center, you can even start a practice of moving every fourth call.”

ActiveU 2015, the MHealthy 12 week physical activity tracking program, engaged over 11,000 participants across the University in logging over 23 million minutes of physical activity. Now those are some impressive numbers!

Jean Hagen and Ann Ritter have been our IT MHealthy champions the past few years. They have recently formed a new MHealthy workgroup that also includes Terry Barnard, Gillian Mayman and Kathy Mitchell. Special thanks to all of them for their efforts, enthusiasm and encouragement.

Great to be creating a community of health with our staff in IT!



Learn more about the University of Michigan’s MHealthy program

Learn more about the benefits of physical activity and how it makes a difference

4 thoughts on “Commit to a healthy workforce

  1. Jennifer Sporer on said:

    It’s true that taking exercise breaks can enhance our work–fostering creativity and delivering even better customer service!

  2. Jack Billi on said:

    Wonderful post. I made a standing desk which gets me out of my chair when doing emails or MiChart. We all need to find ways to get up and get moving that work in our busy lives. Thanks Sue for reminding us!

    • Sue Schade on said:

      Jack, amazing how many steps I get in when have meetings at hospital all day vs just being at my offsite office. Good for you on the standing desk!

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