Jen McKeown (left) with the American Heart Association presents Nikki Ver Steeg with the Avera Heart Association the 2009 Fit-Friendly Company Award.
On Tuesday November 10th, the American Heart Association named the Avera Heart Hospital a fit-friendly company for promoting physical activity and health in the workplace. We found out why heart hospital employees work hard at practicing what they preach to their patients.
Recently, the Avera Heart Hospital was given the Fit-Friendly Company award by the American Heart Association for the 2nd year in a row. They are also the only fit-friendly company in the state. It's a simple gesture that means a lot to Registered Dietitian Nikki Ver Steeg and the Heart Hospital's Wellness Committee.
Nikki Ver Steeg says, "We work really hard to have a wellness organization and get everyone involved thinking about bettering themselves. Whether that means a change in behavior, if they smoke, maybe they want to change some of their food habits, or get more education about nutrition, plus, getting more physical in life."
They encourage walking meetings and extended their wellness program from 8 weeks last year to 12 months this year. Every month they had a different theme, including free yoga classes twice a week one month.
Jen McKeown is the Communications Director of the American Heart Association for the Dakotas. She says, "60% of CEO's site healthcare as their top cost pressure. If you have active employees you can save $500 in healthcare so it helps their bottom line if they are fit-friendly."
The President and CEO of the Avera Heart Hospital Jon Soderholm told us, "We spend, as a group of employees, more time here at our second home than we do in our real home. We've learned to eat better for one and it just makes good business sense. It costs us less money over the long run. People that work here are healthier and I think they are happier."
Why walk? The American Heart Association says it's good for a number of reasons. It's safe, free, easy on the body, it doesn't take any equipment and you can do it over your lunch hour. Leave a pair of tennis shoes at work and pack your lunch. Walk for a half an hour, eat at your desk for a half an hour. Best of all, you might even lose some weight.
Research shows 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day, like walking, can reduce your risk of coronary disease. Something these folks definitely get and get a move on during any down time they may have.
Nationally, the American Heart Association recognized more than 1200 companies this year involving 2 million employees. The local chapter of the AHA hopes other companies in South Dakota follow the Heart Hospital's lead.