Written by Nadia Ramadan, Public News Service (NC)
The pandemic prompted employers large and small across the state to focus on worker's health, and advocates are drawing attention to a new push for small businesses to offer more onsite fitness and wellness options for employees. Merle Green, executive director of the Association of North Carolina Boards of Health and owner of HEATED Seminars Health Education Consultants, pointed to studies showing boosting employees' physical activity can create a healthier workforce, increase productivity, and decrease employees' risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure. "And we're here now with actually ten worksite wellness centers at small companies throughout the Triad," Green explained. Green recently received funding through the American Heart Association and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina's community mini-grant program to help small employers build onsite wellness centers. According to the American Heart Association, at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity can maintain a robust heart, but experts say any amount of movement or physical activity is good for health. Rainbow 66 is a Greensboro-based social services agency focusing on home care, vocational rehabilitation and mental health. It recently worked with HEATED Seminars to set up a wellness center onsite. Vanessa Roddy, the company's medical billing and coding coordinator, said exercising at work was a game-changer after a recent injury. "I actually just had surgery on my knee," Roddy noted. "I had torn my ACL and ruptured my meniscus. And being able to have this facility was actually a blessing for me, because it was hard for me to leave work to try to go to the gym." Green added during the pandemic, North Carolinians realized they could exercise regularly and be productive while working from home, and many want the option to continue healthy habits back at the office. "It created an opportunity for them to realize that focusing on their health, along with their work, actually can occur," Green emphasized. "We really can do both things." Research from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health has found workers who get at least 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week are less likely to call out sick or miss work.