Washington State Nutrition & Physical Activity Plan
Physical Activity Obj. 1: Priority Recommendation C
Increase the number of worksites, including healthcare and school settings, that have policies to enhance physical activity opportunities.

In 2006, 63 percent of all civilian, non-institutionalized Americans over the age of 16 worked at some time during the year.(1) Commute times in Washington continue to grow, and many adults have caretaking responsibilities for children and other family members that limit physical activity opportunities. Lack of time and access are major barriers to physical activity.(2) Worksites and worksite policies can have a profound impact on physical activity. Worksite “exercise” programs typically attract a limited number of participants and often have high dropout rates over time.(3) However, long term success can be achieved by modifying the total work environment and adopting corporate strategies that support more active lifestyles for all employees.(4)

Graph: Physical Activity Policies & Practices - Washington Worksites

Examples of Activities

Provide employee benefit packages that include coverage for physical activity.

Physical activity enhances wellness and worker productivity.(3) Several Washington employers recognize the economic benefits of active employees and encourage physical activity through their benefits plans. The worksite wellness program for Spokane city employees includes a fee waiver and a discounted membership to a local gym. Hollister-Stier Laboratories in Spokane increases health club reimbursement for employees who work out eight or more times in a month, and Providence Mount Saint Vincent in Seattle provides fitness center discounts and reimburses employees who walk to work. Sysco Food Services Company offers fresh fruit to employees who work out during lunch or work hours.

Offer lower insurance premiums or rebates for employees who can document participation in regular physical activity.

This policy is recommended in Promoting Physical Activity: A Guide for Community Action,(5) and builds on the success of similar efforts that have worked in tobacco control. Regular physical activity is associated with lower health care costs even over a relatively short period of 18 months.(6) Hollister-Stier Laboratories in Spokane offers a 10-percent discount on medical premiums to employees who lower their risk levels as defined in their wellness program "My Life".

Provide worksite facilities and flex time to allow for physical activity before or during the workday.

Worksite facilities can foster sustainable behavior change.(7) Increasing numbers of employers in Washington provide facilities that encourage physical activity as part of commute trip reduction or during the work day.

At REI corporate headquarters, employees have access to showers, lockers and bicycle hangers. Each day, group bike rides take place at lunch time and on Friday –“jump in day”- new cyclists are encouraged to participate in the group rides. For a small monthly fee, employees can use a van pool program that uses vehicles with bike racks and serves a wide geographic area. Flexibility is allowed in work schedules to encourage physical activity before, during and after work. WRQ, an Internet information management company based in Seattle, offers kayak dock space for water-based commuters.(8)

Washington’s worksites offer bike racks, gyms, yoga classes, sports teams, fitness centers, and interactive tools for monitoring physical activity. Wizards of the Coast, an adventure game company in Renton, offers an on-site dojo to practice active self defense.(9)

Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters in Olympia encourages employees to use bicycles for business travel between the roastery and stores. The company provides bikes, helmets, and bike locks for employees to use at work and for physical activity during breaks.

Everett's Eisenhower Middle School, under the leadership of principal David Jones, began their Coordinated School Health approach by focusing on staff wellness, specifically nutrition and physical activity. They formed a School Health Council to promote a healthy school and partnered with the American Cancer Society who helped plan and implement a wellness program, Active For Life. The program provided health and nutrition education, incentives and reminders that staff are role models for students. The program also tracks combined weight loss and encourages staff to exercise at school along side students.

Provide point-of-decision prompts to encourage people to use the stairs.

Many people will take the stairs when they are reminded of the health benefits of increased activity throughout the day.(10) At the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center, high school and college students created a stairwell mural that continues for three floors and depicts colorful landscapes and ways to be active. Evergreen Healthcare and partners have created posters that say, “Raise your fitness level, one step at a time. Take the Stairs!