Did you know it is Global Employee Health & Fitness Month? What better way to celebrate the freshness of spring than by taking a fresh look at your own overall wellness? And what better time to do that than during Global Employee Health and Fitness Month (GEHFM)?

GEHFM is an international observance of health and fitness in the workplace created in 1989 by the National Association for Health and Fitness (founded by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness). Its mission is to make “healthy the norm” by generating a persistent demand for healthy living among all sectors of society. The goal of GEHFM is to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to employers and their employees through workforce health promotion activities and environments.

Workplace wellness programs have grown to an $8 billion industry in recent years, thanks in part to employer incentives put in place by the Affordable Care Act. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53% of small companies and 82% of large companies have adopted wellness initiatives in at least one of the following areas: smoking cessation, weight management, and behavioral or lifestyle change.

If you are an employee who has access to wellness initiatives at work, be sure to take advantage of them. Some employers even offer bonuses such as gift cards to those who participate in their wellness programs; in these cases, participants advance their financial wellbeing as well as their health.

If you are an employer, consider that you don’t need to adopt a formal wellness program that requires significant effort to administer to make a difference. Even small steps can go a long way in helping your employees improve their health and fitness. A few simple measures might include:

Smoking cessation programs: This is perhaps the single most important way employers can tackle chronic disease and preventable health issues in the workplace. Contact your health insurance carrier, local hospital or community center to inquire about programs they might offer, which you can promote at work.

Walking groups: Perhaps nothing motivates folks to get outside more than the feeling of warm sunshine after a long, cold winter. Take advantage of the late spring and early summer weeks to encourage your employees to go for walks on good-weather days.  Remind them that every minute of movement counts toward the 150-minute weekly goal of moderate aerobic activity recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Quiet rooms: Designating small areas or conference rooms as “quiet spaces” sends a message that you fully support meditation and rest breaks as a way to manage stress. Encourage employees to download guided meditation apps onto their smartphones to use during these breaks.

Healthy snacks: Keep such choices as fruit, nuts, raw vegetables, and yogurt in the break room to provide nourishment that contributes to clear minds and strong bodies.

And finally, be sure to reach out to SimplaFYI to learn how we can bring wellness offerings directly to your workplace.  www.simplafyi.com/employers

For more information on Global Health and Fitness Month, visit the initiative’s web site at healthandfitnessmonth.org.

Written by: Carol Swanson, a health & wellbeing writer based in Rhode Island. Carol can be reached at: cegoodswan@gmail.com