Improving New Jersey’s Health Through Physical Activity

March 23, 2017

When the 2016 America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report came out, it gave New Jersey residents cause for celebration. New Jersey ranked ninth as the healthiest state across the nation due to a number of factors, including a low percentage of smokers, a healthy infant mortality rate and a low rate of infectious disease.

Despite the many reasons to cheer, an alarming trend is developing in the state. Physical inactivity levels have risen since 2015 with 25.2 percent of adults reporting no physical activity in the past 30 days. So, why isn’t 25 percent of the population moving?

When it comes to companies and organizations promoting and encouraging healthy and active lifestyles, there is certainly room for improvement. According to the CDC, employees spend 7.6 hours a day on average at their place of employment. This provides worksites with a unique opportunity to positively impact the health of millions of adults.

Oftentimes people who work in an office environment don’t leave their desks enough throughout the day. And while it can sometimes be challenging to force people to take breaks, organizations can do a better job of encouraging people to do so, even if it means taking a longer lunch break to allow time for a short walk. Some companies grant employees flexible work hours, which can help accommodate physical activity.

Additional ways to increase physical activity, include:

  • Joining a corporate gym membership program
  • Arranging team activities that require exercise
  • Encouraging participation in local events like walks, fun runs and road races

UnitedHealthcare is encouraging physical activity through its Oxford Sweat Equity program. Under this initiative, fully insured Oxford medical plan members in New Jersey receive reimbursements for participating in various exercise programs, such as yoga, kick-boxing and Zumba. By offering people the opportunity to take part in new and different activities that are not necessarily tied to a health club, Sweat Equity rewards people for how, not just where, they stay active.

The benefits of exercise speak for themselves. Employees who exercise regularly are more productive and more likely to show up to work than those who are not physically active. Physical activity gives people more energy throughout the day and can also decrease the likelihood of getting sick. Further, the reduction of stress that regular exercise brings can lead to a better physical and mental balance, and thus higher employee morale.

While physical inactivity in New Jersey presents a challenge, it is one trend we can easily turn around. Employers that promote healthy lifestyles can have a significant impact on an employee’s well-being, especially given the amount of time the average worker spends at their workplace each day. We all have an opportunity to do our part in making New Jersey a healthier state and we can’t do it sitting down. So, let’s get up, get out and move as part of working towards an overall healthier and active lifestyle.

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