IT works out, gets fit

Plenty of fitness programs are offered to IT employees, but it takes a top-down commitment to get results

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Indeed, rank-and-file employees, wellness program administrators and IT leaders themselves agree that the best way to get techies to participate in a company's fitness activities is to make wellness part of the department's culture.

"It often comes down to breaking down the barriers as to why people aren't doing it on their own," explains Debbi Brooks, the employee wellness program expert at Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC). Companies need to make it convenient for workers, offer incentives and find the programs that appeal to particular groups and individuals.

Brooks says she finds that IT workers tend to "feed off each other and cheer each other on," so they like to exercise together and compare results. They like their gadgets, so social networking tools and smartphone programs that let them track fitness progress have been popular, too. And considering the demanding hours that IT often works, flexibility is key.

Tom Walsh, a telecommunications analyst at HCSC, says management's willingness to let him work a flexible schedule really helped him when he took part in a 10-week nutrition and wellness program offered through his employer.

"Having it at work made it much easier to be part of it," as did his manager's support, he says. His manager adjusted his morning start time by a half-hour to accommodate morning workouts. The ROI was impressive: Walsh dropped 60 pounds, was able to stop taking his blood pressure medication and might be able to get off his cholesterol and diabetes medicine, too.

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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