Local Company Embraces Healthy Culture at Work to Fight Heart Disease and Stroke

With rising health care costs and losses in employee productivity, companies are seeking solutions to improve their employees’ health -“ even health insurance companies. Aetna has joined together with the American Heart Association to implement a fit-friendly workplace culture that includes insurance incentives, a walking program and other health benefits.

The American Heart Association’s Start! Walking Program is part of the American Heart Association’s “Fit-Friendly” focus. The Start! Walking Program encourages companies to promote walking at work and awards employees who move from a sedentary to a more active lifestyle. Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercise. Emphasizing walking as one of the best forms of exercise removes a significant barrier to regular exercise for millions of American workers. An employers’ emphasis on walking also fulfills one of the American Heart Association’s criteria to be certified as a “Fit Friendly” Employer.

Lynn Henderson, vice president of sales and service for Aetna in Michigan and Start! chairwoman said, “Health programs such as Start! help decrease stress and add excitement to the workplace. We are thrilled to offer employees a program that contributes to a longer healthier life.”

This healthy culture hasn’t taken Henderson and her team a long time to accept. In addition to implementing a health program, five female Aetna employees have taken the lead to introduce and promote walking at work to fight heart disease. The group known as the Sassy Steppers is committed to “I find that getting exercise, joking and talking to the team, improves my walking at work at least three times per week.well-being and helps me work through the rest of the day,” said Charlene Donahey, account manager for national accounts and team lead for the Sassy Steppers.

The Sassy Steppers rely on a buddy system as a way to stay on track and in control of their health. Consequently, many of the women have lowered their cholesterol, shed pounds and improved their overall well-being.

“By walking 30 minutes a day, people can improve their cardiovascular health,” said Henderson. “Start! is an innovative answer to the nation’s growing physical inactivity problem.”

Start! is a program that encourages Americans to get active. Many companies all over the country have implemented this walking program at their sites to cut-down on health care costs and help reduce stress. Aetna is the local Start! sponsor.

Free Start! resources include a fitness and nutrition tracker, maps for your favorite walking routes, tools to find a local or online walking buddy and a workplace wellness kit for companies.

Businesses who participate can earn national recognition as a Start! Fit-Friendly Company. Learn more at www.heart.org/start.

Over 150 companies in southeast Michigan have embraced the Start! campaign already, including participation in the 2009 Start! Heart Walks being held in Flint, Ann Arbor and Southfield. For more information, visit www.miheartwalk.org or call (248) 936-5782. For winter walking tips, visit www.heart.org/startwinterwalking.

Source: American Heart Association -“ Midwest Affiliate