The saying “What gets measured gets managed” is as true in the world of health care as it is anywhere else. Focusing our attention on particular metrics can drive results, particularly when there is competition involved. A recent systematic review in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4115486/pdf/1471-2474-15-231.pdf) demonstrated strong evidence that walking programs using pedometers significantly increased physical activity in individuals with Musculoskeletal Disorders. Across the studies, there was a mean increase of 1,950 steps per day in groups using pedometers compared to the baseline. Depending on the step length of the individual, this could potentially equal over 1 mile a day.
Not only did physical activity increase with these individuals, but they also reported decreased pain levels and increased physical function levels following the intervention. This obviously makes sense as physical activity is a leading preventative measure of chronic musculoskeletal disorders as well as diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and obesity.
As many employers are looking to improve their employee health to decrease Workers’ Compensation claims and fight ever-growing health care costs, simple programs to increase physical activity can have a huge return on investment for extremely little cost. Several employers already engage in these programs, with some offering incentives, rewards, and discounts off of health care premiums when their colleagues participate. In the end, it is a win-win for everyone involved and can be a simple component of a broader employee health and wellness program.
Investing in the health of employees can help companies reduce employee stress levels and increase productivity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death contributing to over 3.2 million deaths globally. Due to this high mortality rate, the WHO recommends that adults 18-64 years in age should get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity and exercise each week. This is often hard with the many office and remote positions that are primarily sedentary in nature.
Employers can implement various pedometer programs as previously mentioned. Other forms of activity that employers can implement are on-site fitness facilities and equipment. If an office or remote environment, standing desks can be provided and standing or walking meetings encouraged. Contests and incentive programs can be put in place to encourage team building and physical activity simultaneously. Employers can also implement stretch and flex programs for their employees.
The term “Industrial Athlete” refers to anyone who makes a living using mental and physical talents to perform jobs that require skill, strength, flexibility, coordination and endurance. The ability of this individual to perform physically has a direct bearing on the productivity and competitiveness of a company, much like the success of an athlete’s team.
Pre-game warm-ups have been proven to reduce injuries on the field and the same can be done with employees. But, how do employers warm up the team without sacrificing productivity? Employees can be given a customized Stretch & Flex Program that does just that.
Employers have professionals observe each job taking note of postures, repetition, and movements. Then they tailor specific stretches for each job based on which muscles are used most. Stretch and flex programs involve setting up a short series of job-specific activities and stretches designed to address the problems that can occur with certain job tasks. Employers can even train team leaders to effectively “coach” the routine in your facility.