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Marsh column: Designing wellness programs

Q. We are looking to start a wellness program for our staff. After some research I realize there are a lot of companies out there willing to help. Costs range from affordable to very expensive. What do we need to look for to get the right program for the right price that will fit with our staff?
A. I am so excited that you are looking into a wellness program for your staff. We, the full-time staff at all the Rowan County YMCAs, are finishing our second year with our wellness program. I LOVE it!
When you are shopping for a wellness program, look for programs that focus on increasing movement. Don’t just base a program solely on weight loss. Check with your insurance company. They might have a program or steer you toward a program that fits your needs and helps your pocketbook on insurance cost. Let me tell you how great a company wellness program can be, and soon the YMCA can help you with that, too!
Having the luxury of working at a place where all the workout areas are literally outside your office makes it a lot easier. However, our metro staff has to travel to one of the YMCAs to get their workout in, and it is working out very well for them.
You get to work out on the clock three times a week (I exercise for a living, but this is for all full-time staff). If we work out three times a week, by the end of the quarter we can have an extra day off.
We offer three educational meetings and you have to attend at least two of them to be eligible for the grand prize.
One part of this wellness program is called the Fitness Frenzy. Throughout the year, you pick different activities that are available and do 21 of them.
Example: Take a water exercise class, work with a trainer, take a group exercise class, play racquetball, etc. This is to open people’s minds and make them step out of their comfort zones and try different things.
(They might find something they actually like!)
You finish your Fitness Frenzy and you get a gift certificate from Athletes Foot in the Salisbury Mall. Between all the full-time staff, we have made teams. The teams are evenly divided (not all the fitness/sports staff together ó that would not be fair) and for one month, three times in a year, we count our steps wearing a pedometer. We do it for the whole month, then we take the best 10 days.
At the end of the year, the team who has the most steps gets more goodies. Last year my team didn’t win but I remember seeing more gift certificates and an F&M umbrella!
Are you ready for the grand prize? Besides all the other good stuff, if you have exercised a minimum of three times a week, finished the Fitness Frenzy, come to at least two meetings, counted (and turned in) your steps, you can win another four days off! Is this great or what? Your upper management has to be on board, and I thank our CEO Jamie Morgan for supporting and participating in our wellness program.
Most of the goodies are donated by our wonderful community. Wouldn’t it be great if all the businesses swap goodies for wellness rewards/incentives?
We can come up with a lot of good stuff!
Your program might have to start with baby steps. A walking program can be very successful and lots of professionals, including myself, will come and help with the educational/ motivational part at no cost to you.
We all know that healthy people are productive people. Lots of companies are starting to give their staff an hour and a half lunch (thank you!) so they can work out, clean up and get a bite to eat.
These companies are smart; they see their staff perform better after they come back from a lunch workout.
It takes time and research and participation to make a program work but it will be worth it!
Contact Ester Marsh with health and fitness questions at 704-636-0111 or emarsh@ rowanymca.com.

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