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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

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Fostering Fitness Among Staff and Caregivers


What Can Agencies Do To Foster Fitness Among Staff?
Simple exercise, like walking, helps people maintain a positive attitude and take charge of their health. By walking, people can lower their risk of developing serious heart disease, osteoporosis, and arthritis. A daily routine of 30 minutes of brisk walking helps lower a person's weight, lowers cholesterol, strengthens a person's heart, and reduces the likelihood of serious health problems in the future.

The Challenge

  • Agencies have a vested interest in supporting the health of the people who work for them.
  • When people are well, they come in to work and work more productively.
  • When people feel well, they have a positive attitude and create a pleasant work setting.
  • When staff are physically fit and healthy, they set a good example of healthy lifestyles for the people they support.

Starting an exercise program and keeping it going seem to be the greatest challenges for both people and the agencies in which they work. Below are some tips to help get people started on an exercise plan:

  1. Create incentives for healthy lifestyles among staff. For example, provide an ongoing program to identify and reward staff who start and maintain healthy lifestyle choices at work and at home.
  2. Set realistic goals for staff to reach, such as 30 minutes per day of vigorous exercise. Encourage staff to take residents with them to get some exercise, even if they don't have a full 30 minutes available that day.
  3. Create a method of tracking the time staff and residents exercise every day.
  4. Strongly encourage staff and residents to eat more fruits and vegetables, and whole grains instead of processed foods.
  5. Provide ways that people can be active while watching television, such as a Wii to exercise with as a group, or a stationary bike that people can ride while watching a DVD.
  6. When someone in the house reaches his or her goal, provide recognition that is meaningful to him or her - something that motivates the recipient to set new and higher fitness goals to work toward.

Motivators
Think of a non-food based item that is something a person might not usually buy for themselves (such as a manicure or tickets to a movie), and use it as a reward. Or treat the person to an exercise-based activity, such as a day at the beach, a trip to the skating rink, or a bike accessory with or without residents.

One key point is that diet and exercise work together in building a healthy lifestyle.

How Diet and Exercise Work Together
People talk a lot about "losing weight," but what may be more important is losing fat and keeping (or building) muscle and bone density. Each pound that a body has stored represents a total of 3,500 extra calories consumed and not burned off in exercise. Losing fat depends upon two things: eating fewer calories and burning stored fat through exercise.

A 1,200-calorie diet with 4 servings of fruit and vegetables, 2 servings of low fat meat or fish, 4 servings of whole grain, and 2 servings of low-fat dairy are a way to reduce fat intake. Exercising for 30 minutes a day (dancing, walking, bicycling, or swimming) will help by burning fat calories that have already been stored in the body.

Experts recommend eating a minimum of 1,200 low-fat calories per day, and exercising a minimum of 30 minutes a day. A person can lose fat and lose weight by using more stored calories than they replace by eating.


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