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Getting Them Walking at Work
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Getting Them Walking at Work

When so many of us spend most of our time in the workplace (perhaps sitting at a desk or behind a computer), it makes sense to incorporate more fitness into your work day.

Here are some ideas on how to do it, but don't think you have to do this all yourself. Talk to a human resources manager or a benefits director at your workplace who already knows that a healthy workforce is more productive, requires less health care spending, and misses work less often.

Encourage walking, mass transit and carpools. Work with management to create incentives to reduce the number of cars in the parking lot. See if the company will give employees a break on their health care premium if they walk to work, use public transportation, or carpool. Set up a system of connecting co-workers to other workers in their neighborhood so they can carpool together. Then encourage them to alternate days walking to one another's house for the ride, rather than getting picked up.

Offer parking cash-outs. Hard, cold cash in someone's pocket can be a powerful motivator. Suggest to your employer that they give employees the cash equivalent of the cost of parking if they refrain from driving to work. In many major cities, a parking space can cost hundreds of dollars a month. If parking is free at your workplace, an employer could also give you the cash equivalent or extra benefits at work for not using a parking space. The other option is charging a hefty premium for the privilege of parking at work.

Build it into the workday. In settings where a rigid schedule in the workplace is necessary-such as an assembly line or answering phones-walking breaks can be scheduled into the day. Bonus breaks specifically for walking can even be offered. The schedule may require so many minutes for lunch as well as morning and afternoon breaks, but you can also allow an additional 10 or 15 minutes for people who will specifically walk during that time. The lost minutes far outweigh the increased satisfaction, effectiveness, and health of the employees who choose to walk.

Give away some vacation. How'd you like to earn a day of paid vacation for every 100 miles or 30 hours of walking you log? At some enlightened workplaces you already can. They've realized that active employees are so much healthier and happier than they gets lots more done even with some extra days off. Some worksites will let you earn up to an extra week of vacation with your walking.

Provide places to walk. You can't encourage people to walk if there's no place to do it. But the solution can be as mundane as marking the mileage around the perimeter of the parking areas or on nearby sidewalks. Forward-thinking employers are more proactive-building sidewalks, creating trails and nature preserves on their property, and supporting nearby rails-trails (unused railbeds being turned into multi-use trails).

Create friendly competition. There's no doubt that creating departmental teams and recording mileage can really get people involved. But if you do this, be sure it's encouraging to everyone, not just the fit. Base team-total competitions not on miles walked but on time spent walking (this gives fast and slow walkers an equal chance). Hold relay races where ages and abilities are balanced across teams, and everyone's time is added together for the team total. No matter how you decide to structure a little friendly competition at your worksite, just make sure it is year-round, not just 10 or 12 weeks.