Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Health and fitness at work

Published:Monday | January 18, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Richard Deenah

With more than 1.3 million recognised workers in Jamaica, the vast majority of adult Jamaicans spend most of their waking hours at their workplace, or focusing on work-related issues.

With lifestyle diseases such as stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and chronic renal failure being responsible for more than 70 per cent of adult deaths in Jamaica in 2014 (according to the World Health Organisation), the workplace is undoubtedly a critically important place to tackle disease prevention, and provide a supportive environment for healthy living for a group who on a whole find it extremely difficult to live a healthy lifestyle.







The argument for a workplace wellness programme becomes one-sided when we consider the benefits that a correctly implemented workplace wellness programme offers. Research has shown that companies benefit from its workplace wellness programmes with improvements in employee health, increased morale, reduced absenteeism, reduced health-care costs, and, ultimately, increased productivity and profitability.

The above-mentioned lifestyle diseases are also responsible for the country's health-care costs spiralling out of control. There is a lot of evidence showing that the adverse impact of these frequently occurring chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) can be significantly slowed by a whole-society approach and response - individuals, health-care providers, policymakers, the business community, employers and workers' representatives all playing their part to create enabling environments for people to pursue lifestyles conducive to good health that will reduce the likelihood of developing chronic NCDs.

The provision of an appropriate workplace wellness programme offers access to the average Jamaican who would otherwise find it prohibitive to participate in activities that promote a healthy lifestyle.

While the research confirms that all companies - big and small - can benefit from a workplace wellness programme, the research also shows that engaging your employees is the key to the programme's success. Even state-of-the-art programming will fail if workers do not participate. Rather than pushing employees to make lifestyle changes and putting the burden on these employees, employers would do better to focus on what they themselves can do to promote wellness.

Here are some things that employers could do to promote wellness without alienating employees in the process:

Be inclusive

Be mindful of weight-loss competitions. Too often, many of us focus on weight loss when we address wellness. Some companies host weight-loss competitions, in which employees or teams compete to see who can lose the most weight. This can become problematic, since not everyone needs to lose weight. Too often these competitions do not address health issues such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and poor nutrition. Competitions, if present, should focus more on the participation in appropriate exercise activities than solely on weight-loss results.

Provide easy access to healthy meals and snacks

While visiting several offices in Montego Bay, I noticed that they were often well-stocked with candy and chips, with a steady stream of cake and other sugary foods for birthdays and other celebrations. People tend to eat those foods because they're there, but many employees would be delighted to instead have a regular supply of fresh fruits or other healthy snacks. Employers could even arrange weekly fruit deliveries for employees to share, or set up arrangements with local canteens or restaurants to make healthy soups and salads available at lunchtime. For companies that subsidise meals, they can insist on healthier food choices for their employees.

- Offer greater incentives

While monetary incentives are a common means of increasing the participation of employees in workplace wellness programmes, there are other incentives - such as paid time off, paid exercise time before or after normal work hours, subsidised medical coverage, etc - that are equally effective in promoting wellness participation among employees.

A corporation's employees are their most valuable assets. An effective workplace wellness programme for the entire staff is perhaps the most meaningful way of giving practical illustration to this assertion.




1 Improve the types of snacks you consume while on the job.

a. Ditch the candy and replace it with fruits and/or raw vegetables. Making this switch can reduce your daily caloric intake by a few hundred calories, thus increasing your chances of weight loss. The healthier snacks also keep you fuller longer, and help prevent the sharp blood sugar spikes followed by the rapid drop that we often experience after eating a candy bar.

2 Drink an adequate amount of water.

a. Drinking eight to 10 glasses every day (even more during the warmer months), can help keep you hydrated. Bring a 500ml bottle of water to work and try to finish it by lunch. Refill and finish that by 3 p.m. Try to finish a third bottle by 5 p.m.

3 Exercise - walk during your lunchtime and use the stairs whenever possible.

a. Walking with a partner or alone during lunch is an excellent way to not only burn extra calories, but also to de-stress and rejuvenate after a hectic morning on the job.

4 Eat a healthy lunch.

a. Eating a healthy lunch not only affords you the right calories to fuel your body to carry out the necessary tasks of your job, but it also helps you with practising proper portion control as part of a healthy diet

5 Take your vacation days.

a. Taking a healthy vacation will help you to recharge your battery

b. A healthy vacation helps you to take a break from the stressors of work, such as issues with boss, co-workers or work projects

• Richard Deenah is a wellness specialist at DEENAHLITE Multidiscipline Health Care Solutions; Shop #8 Montego Freeport Shopping Centre. Email: