What is your definition of a healthy lifestyle?
You don’t have to be bodybuilder or a vegetarian to make choices each day that promote a healthy active lifestyle, says City of Westerville Wellness Committee Chair Mike Herron.
“Health is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone is at a different level,” said Herron. “For one person the decision to quit smoking or taking a 30-minute walk everyday could be a huge step in their journey toward better health.”
Herron is also Fitness Manager for the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department. He explained these types of healthy actions are just what the City of Westerville hopes to promote not only to residents, but employees as well.
“We provide numerous opportunities for the public to take advantage of Parks and Recreation facilities, parks and wellness programs. It is vital this focus is carried throughout the entire organization, starting with our own City employees.”
In 2012, the City assembled a Wellness Committee comprised of a representative from each of the 10 departments. Their mission: to develop stronger internal health initiatives centered on physical, mental, financial, medical and occupational wellness.
“Once a year, we do free health screenings for employees. These collective test results, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, helped us understand we needed to better engage our employees in more preventative opportunities,” said Ann Lund, City of Westerville Human Resources Manager.
Through the work of the committee, workshops ranging from cancer prevention to office ergonomics and even financial planning are exposing employees to well-rounded approaches to wellness.
“Health is not just about being fit or eating right,” said Herron. “We strive to provide resources on a variety of health topics. For example, if you are stressed about your finances then that stress carries with you to work and continues to weigh on your overall state.”
Beyond frequent wellness workshops, the City organizes a fitness class for employees at the Community Center and the Electric Division.
“About a year and a half ago, we started doing high-intensity training in the electric building twice a week, and I have tried to make every class possible since,” said Dan Amato, Engineering Technician.
During that time period, Amato has seen measurable improvement in his overall health by cleaning up his diet in addition to exercising with coworkers.
“For the first time that I can remember, my cholesterol and BMI are within the good range and I have lost 14 pounds,” he said.
The positive changes Amato has experienced are more than numbers on a chart.
“These classes set the pace for my day and wake me up. I have more energy to power through that afternoon slump; and I am sleeping more soundly. Overall, I am more focused and am maintaining higher quality work. I feel great and people notice it,” he said.
Amato isn’t the only one seeing results from the wellness initiatives. The effects of his transformation have inspired others around him.
“One of my coworkers is consistently working out at these classes with me. He is trying to bring down his high blood pressure and slowly but surely he is making progress,” said Amato. “And my daughter is now living and breathing fitness too.”
This snowball effect is just what the City was striving for.
“We value our employee’s health and happiness, so it is important that we invest in them now. It benefits the employee, their families and the City to have a better quality of life, be able to get off unnecessary medications, be more productive and even take less sick days,” said Lund.
The City aims to keep wellness activities mostly fun and games. For three years, the City of Westerville has hosted Summer and Winter Olympic Games among the departments, who are organized and grouped into “Nations.”
“We have different competitions throughout the week that promote team building and appeal to people of all fitness levels. This winter, our challenges included a hockey skills shootout, HORSE basketball and an aquatic obstacle course to name a few,” says Herron.
The Winter Games just wrapped up and “Nation Electric, Water & Service” took home the traveling trophy this time.
“Every time I participate in the Olympics, it cultivates a really good sense of comradery with coworkers. We laugh, joke around, cheer each other on and even get some exercise. How many work environments truly try to build up their employees like this?” said Electric Utility Finance Manager Chris Monacelli.
All these wellness efforts are now being recognized. The City of Westerville was recently nominated by Columbus Business First as one of the 2015 Healthiest Employers of Central Ohio for the first time. The honor was officially announced at the Healthiest Employers Awards Program and Wellness Expo on Tuesday, March 10 at COSI.
“We know that our efforts have been making a difference in the lives of our employees, but it is wonderful to get that validation from an outside party that we are on the right track in comparison to other businesses and municipalities in the region. We’re very excited to see how our wellness initiatives will continue to positively impact Westerville,” said Lund.