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Create the next healthiest workplace

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People in the United States are getting dangerously heavier. The incidence of diabetes is on the rise, climbing to 11% of adults, and our health care costs continue to be among the world’s highest.

The solution: Get healthier to live a longer life. It requires eating right and exercising, of course. But that’s not all.

A recent effort called the “Vitality Project,” sponsored by the United Health Foundation, set out to create the healthiest hometown in America.

In January 2009, Vitality Project experts began working with town leaders in Albert Lea, Minn., to transform the way residents eat, work, exercise and play. Together they started adding community gardens, making over restaurant menus and vending machines, creating “walking school buses,” and building new walking trails.

You wouldn’t believe the results: For the one-quarter of residents who participated, their life expectancy rose a little over three years, and their weight and health care costs dropped.

Boost the health and well-being of the people in your office by following Albert Lea’s best tactics:

Start a walking group. In Albert Lea, nearly 600 citizens signed up to join the town’s new walking groups.

Ask employees to take a “20-Point Pledge,” listing 20 simple ways for employers to live healthier.

Request that vending-machine suppliers add healthier foods. Replace soda machines with water coolers. To encourage water drinking at one office, staffers were given their own stainless-steel water bottles with the company logo on it.

Move snack jars out of reach. Research shows that if you move a candy jar six feet away, snacking goes down 50%.

Encourage “mindless movement” by decorating staircases, and attracting more stair-walkers, and encouraging standing meetings.

Fact: Your body falls into a hibernation state in as little as 90 minutes.

Do a break room makeover, so more people stick around for lunch hour. It’s surprising what a coat of paint, and comfortable tables and chairs can do.

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