Research indicates that American jobs have become dangerously more sedentary, and people are working 164 more hours per year than we were 20 years ago. With that in mind, the American Heart Association (AHS) launched the national cause campaign called Start! The campaign calls on Americans and their employers to create a culture of physical activity and health through workplace walking programs.
The Start! program works with both employers and the 142 million Americans in the workplace to create a culture of walking before, during and after the workday. Studies show that for every $1 the average company spends on its worksite wellness program, it receives an average net benefit of $3.40 to $7.88.
"We focus on walking because it is something everyone can do, and it doesn't require equipment or belonging to a gym," Elizabeth Moreno, AHS's senior manager, cause communications, told SNEWS®.
A key element of Start! is the Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Recognition Program, which recognizes employers who create physical activity programs within the workplace. Companies may earn recognition by implementing physical activity practices such as providing walking routes, and promoting walking programs, online newsletters and tracking tools to motivate employees.
AHS provides participating companies with materials that help promote company wellness programs to employees, newsletter templates for internal distribution and consultation on CPR/AED programs. It also gives their employees access to program resources, including the free Start! Walking Program and My Start! Online fitness and nutrition tracker.
Moreno said that since the program's inception in January 2007, there are 520 companies that are certified as Fit-Friendly Companies, and anticipates more than 1,000 companies will be certified in 2008.
"To be recognized at the highest level in the program, which is platinum, those companies have to show some type of measurement of progress of the success of their program," she added. "That could be recorded in fewer sick days, higher productivity, etc."
Moreno said AHS is integrating the Start! program with its signature Heart Walk fundraising events. More than 1 million walkers are expected to participate in over 500 events throughout the year, raising funds for programs that combat heart disease and stroke.
As part of the campaign, AHS is asking all Americans to incorporate 30 minutes of walking into their day, especially their day at work, by participating in the National Start! Walking Day on April 16.
"The Start! program is supposed to be a year-round extension of that one day of walking," Moreno said. "We're asking companies nationwide to allow their employees to walk at work that day, so we'll have businesses all over the country holding walking rallies and giving their employees a half-hour to an hour to walk."
AHS said studies have shown that employers who foster worksites with physical activity programs have reduced short-term sick leave by 6 percent to 32 percent, increased productivity by 2 percent to 52 percent, and reduced employer healthcare costs by 20 percent to 55 percent.
For more information about Start!, go to www.heart.org/start.