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April 03, 2006
Healthy Living Is Its Own Reward

America--the land of fast food and couch potatoes? The statistics speak for themselves. Among the main wellness issues Americans face are diet and exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 percent of U.S. adults 20 years of age and older--more than 60 million people--are obese (30 or more pounds overweight), and another 50 million are overweight. Not surprising, really, since two-thirds of American adults get little or no physical activity during their leisure time, and a lot of Americans are addicted to fast food, which is full of fat and sugar. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 10 percent to 20 percent of all deaths in the United States can be attributed to poor diet and lack of physical activity. And current data indicate the situation is getting worse.

How about your workforce? If you're seeing a lot of big bellies, you're probably looking at higher healthcare costs and less productivity as well.

Wake up your workforce. To drive home the wellness message, have your employees calculate their BMI--that's body mass index. It's easy to do using the following formula:

Weight (in pounds)
----------------------------------------------------- x 703 = BMI
Height (in inches) x Height (in inches)

For example, say a person is 5' 7" (67 inches tall) and weighs 140 pounds:

BMI = ------------- x 703 = 21.9
67 x 67

For adults, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 indicates a healthful weight. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a person with a BMI of over 30 is obese. People with high BMI are at greater risk of a whole array of deadly diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Why It Matters...
  • Fifty million people have high blood pressure, which is often controllable by proper diet and exercise.
  • Seventeen million people have diabetes and 16 million more have pre-diabetes--a disease that may be prevented and often controlled with the help of proper diet and exercise.
  • More than 12 million Americans have heart disease, and more than 1 million die of heart attacks every year. Healthful diet and exercise are essential ingredients of a healthy heart.
  • Unhealthy employees are less productive, lose more workdays, and cost your organization more in healthcare dollars.

It's easier to maintain than regain health. The formula for maintaining a healthy lifestyle is simple: Regular exercise + nutritious diet low in fat. Encourage employees to eat less fatty, sugary fast food and more fresh vegetables, grains, fish, and lean meats. And point out that in order to maintain a healthful weight, there must be a balance between calories consumed and calories expended. That means regular exercise during leisure time, like walking, jogging, riding a bike, aerobics, weights, swimming, or even dancing. All it takes is 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week or 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity at least three times a week.

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