Cottage Health System has been recognized as a Platinum-Level Start! Fit-Friendly Company by the American Heart Association’s Start! movement for helping employees eat better and move more. This is the third year that CHS has been recognized as a Start! Fit-Friendly Company, and their second year at the Platinum-level.

“Physical activity and employee wellness are important priorities at Cottage Health System,” said Ron Lafrican, Director of Benefits & Compensation. “We’re committed to providing the best workplace environment possible and helping our employees lead healthier lives. We are honored and excited to be recognized by the American Heart Association’s Start! movement.”

Start! Fit-Friendly Companies implement at least nine criteria outlined by the American Heart Association in the areas of physical activity, nutrition and culture. Cottage Health System has been recognized for meeting these criteria through such offerings as:

* A nutritional counselor who is available to employees to discuss healthy eating habits and guidelines to assist them in healthy choices.

* Annual Wellness and Health Fairs where attendees receive exercise tips, recipes and nutritional information.

* An onsite fitness center that employees can use for a small fee. Benefit-eligible employees can also go to outside fitness centers and get reimbursed under their Wellness Benefit.

* Yoga classes & seated massage services for employees. Employees with benefits can go to an outside massage therapist or take Pilates, aerobics, swim and water aerobic classes and get reimbursed under their Wellness Benefit.

* A Healthy Balance Program which includes fitness and nutrition.

* Healthy cafeteria lunches that are less than 500 calories. Organic options have been added to the salad bar and they have added two cooked vegetables to the steam table. They have started to buy local grass fed beef.

* Smoking cessation classes, plus mental health fairs, cancer and stroke seminars.

Start! Fit-Friendly Companies also promote a “culture of wellness.” One of the ways Cottage Health System achieves this is by offering employees an online tool called My e-PHIT. This program inspires employees and their family members to focus on their health. It is a comprehensive health improvement program designed to help the participant get healthy and stay healthy. Through this program, participants have access to health assessments, fitness activities, health coaching and a comprehensive library of health information that provides incentives for participation in the program. This site offers a variety of tools:

* GetFIT: a customized cardiovascular, strength & flexibility plan.

* EatPHIT: a personalized nutrition plan, consisting of meal planning, daily calorie tracking, recipes & shopping lists to help meet personal nutritional goals.

* FamilyFIT: helps children start learning healthy habits while having fun, and provides nutritional & exercise tools that encourage parent-child interaction & help develop healthy habits for the entire family.

* LivePHIT: a personal self-improvement plan to help one effectively meet life’s challenges.

The Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program is a catalyst for positive change in the American workforce by helping companies make their employees’ health and wellness a priority.

American employers face increasing healthcare expenses and health-related losses in productivity that cost an estimated $225.8 billion a year. Many American adults spend most of their waking hours at sedentary jobs. Their lack of physical activity raises their risk for a host of medical problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Employers face $12.7 billion in annual medical expenses due to obesity alone. Start! helps change corporate cultures by motivating employees to start walking, which has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity.

Recognition is a critical component of the Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program. Employers that join this program qualify for official recognition by the American Heart Association. They are listed on the program’s national and local websites, as well as recognition at the Start! Executive Leadership Breakfast and the Start! Heart Walk. Qualifying companies also have the right to use the program’s annual recognition seal for internal communications and with external, recruitment-related communications.

Participating companies also get free access to program resources such as the free Start! Walking Program, materials to help promote company wellness programs to employees, internal newsletter templates and consultation on CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) programs.

Start! also offers MyStart! Online, a free Web-based fitness and nutrition tracker for companies and individuals. A “dashboard” feature lets HR or wellness managers view employee participation in Start!

“The Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program offers a unique, easy-to-implement opportunity for corporations to increase employees’ physical activity, which will help improve their health – and their employers’ bottom line,” said Ron Lafrican. “Even people who haven’t exercised regularly until middle age can reap significant benefits by starting a walking program. A study published in 1986 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that individuals could gain two hours of life expectancy for every hour of regular, vigorous exercise they performed.”

Start! is sponsored nationally by SUBWAY® Restaurants. For more information about the Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program and how it is helping to improve the health of Americans by focusing on an activity that is convenient, free and easy, call (805) 963-8862 or visit online.


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