On the subject of staying healthy, when something seems to work well, most of us are naturally inclined to share it.
So it is with a growing group of “Wellness Champions,” employees at Christiana Care Health System who are helping their colleagues and some patients develop healthy habits for daily living, especially on the job, where they might have left their own health care needs at the door.
Take Wellness Champion Meghan Wilks. “You know that fitness and nutrition work—and so you want to pass that on to other people,” she says. “It’s not about being skinny. It’s about being healthy and having a better quality of life.”
Wilks knows from personal experience that exercising and eating right pays off over the long haul. She keeps her energy level high by working out four or five days a week. The mental-health associate lost 40 pounds and went from a size 12 to a size 4 dress by learning to control her portions and add more protein and fiber to her diet—and still enjoy a healthy dessert.
Wilks and other Wellness Champions are using their positive experiences, as well as information on fitness, nutrition, stress-management and weight-management programs, to motivate others on the job. She shared the good news in the inpatient psychiatric unit at Wilmington Hospital, where she laid out a 1/25th mile horseshoe-shaped walking trail that helps patients to keep fit.
She posted motivational quotes along the route. Wilks also put together a collection of upper-body stretches that help to relieve tension and stress. She posted healthy menu choices in the patients’ dining room and a wellness board in the employee break room with nutritious recipes and exercise tips.
A champion on every shift
Joe Novack, exercise fitness technician at Wilmington, says Wellness Champions embody Christiana Care’s commitment to supporting healthy lifestyles for employees.
“The goal is to have at least one Wellness Champion on every shift in every department throughout the system,” Novack says.
At Reads Way, in the New Castle Corporate Commons, where Christiana Care has hundreds of employees, Brady V. Johnson Jr. leads colleagues in 10-minute workouts at their desks, twice a day.
“In our department, we sit a lot,” says Johnson, a human-resources service representative. “So we take water bottles and do curls. We walk in place to get our heart rate up.”
Johnson organized a healthy potluck lunch, in which colleagues shared dishes such as turkey chili, whole-wheat pasta salad and fresh fruit pizza. Soon, Johnson will roll out Fit 15, a program that will be offered twice a day, in the morning and the afternoon.
“Instead of labeling what we do as diet and exercise, we like to call it living a healthy lifestyle,” he says. In addition, breaks during the work day help to reduce repetitive stress injuries, promote greater awareness of the benefits of fitness and a balanced diet, and encourage coworkers to support one another in building positive habits.
Named breaks create call to action
At the Health Care Center at Christiana, Payroll Specialist Rodney Burruss leads his colleagues in brief exercise breaks in the morning, midday and afternoon. These brief sessions are dubbed “The Wake Up,” “Keep It Rolling” and “Safe Journey Home.”
“At 9 a.m., we work on our legs, at noon we work on our upper body and at 3 p.m. we focus on our core,” says Burruss, whose team is using elastic exercise bands for resistance training. “That is going really great. We encourage people to power walk. We encourage each other to eat salads when we order out and to pack healthy lunches when we brown bag it.”