Workplace Healthy Living Programs Can Make a Difference

In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health developed and implemented a workplace lifestyle intervention program to improve the health of employees.

Workplace intervention for better health

The study was designed to reduce risk factors for heart disease and diabetes among workers. Participants of the study were employees of the Bayer Corporation. Following the implementation of the workplace lifestyle intervention program, employees found that they increased their daily physical activity and lost weight compared to the participants in the control group.

Senior study author Andrea Kriska, Ph.D., professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology explained:

“Our Group Lifestyle Balance program has proven successful in diverse community settings, so we adapted it for the workplace since we found that there was a real need for effective programs that could fit into people’s work lives. This current effort in the worksite shows clearly that a proven healthy lifestyle program, like the Group Lifestyle Balance program, offered to people where they work is not only feasible but effective in reducing risk factors for diabetes and heart disease for participating employees.”

Lifestyle changes have outperformed medication

The workplace lifestyle intervention program was based on the U.S. Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), which is a national study of the decrease in risk of developing diabetes through lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. The DPP found that modest weight loss as a result of exercise and dietary changes made sharp decreases in the risk of developing diabetes compared to the results of people taking a diabetes drug.

Researchers designed the Group Lifestyle Balance program to build upon the findings of the DPP. Spread out a one-year period and broken into 22 sessions, the program aims at improving health and decreasing risks of developing diabetes by healthy lifestyle changes.

The sessions are designed so that they can be performed as a group with a coach, through a DVD and brief phone session with a coach, or through email consultations with lifestyle coach for guidance and support.

Employees who did not want to participate with a group, or who traveled, found the option of using a DVD with support from the lifestyle coach to be most beneficial. It was also a great way for employees that missed a group session to get caught up.

The results speak for themselves

workThe group of participants for the program was comprised of 89 employees from Bayer Corp. who were considered to be at risk for heart disease or diabetes. They started the program in the fall of 2012 and continued in it for 18 months.

Within a year, participants had trimmed two inches from their waistlines, lost an average of five percent of their body weight, and lowered their blood sugar levels. All these changes are considered significant in decreasing the risk of developing diabetes or heart disease.

At the end of the demonstration program, 99 percent of the participants stated they would recommend it to coworkers, and 96 percent felt it was beneficial to offer such a program in the work environment.

What do you think? Could your workplace benefit from a health-focused program like this?

-The Alternative Daily


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