My Job Made Me Healthier: 4 Inspiring Stories

Last Updated Sep 9, 2011 5:43 PM EDT

Work these days can certainly be stressful, and that stress can eventually lead to burnout and even health problems. But can the growing number of wellness programs at work make employees healthier than they would otherwise be?

According to recent research, such programs around the country save $1.9 trillion in healthcare costs per year. Makes sense, since a large portion of healthcare costs are spent treating preventable conditions.

Here are the inspiring stories of four people who participated in such programs and got healthier on the job.

1. Steve Purkapile, Vice President-Employee Benefits, Van Gilder, Denver, CO The Program: Contributions to HSA for wellness program participation and competitions/challenges that focus on nutrition, stress, and fitness. Company provides fruit to employees on Monday and encourages employees to join biking and hiking clubs.
His Results: "My goal was to drop down to at least 190 pounds and to lower my body fat percent to a "normal" level (I was at about 32 percent body fat when I started and over 220 pounds). During a six-month weight challenge in which I weighed in each week using a video kiosk, I dropped to 171 pounds and lowered my percent of body fat to about 23 percent. I went from almost no physical activity at age 45 to exercising 60 minutes five days a week and hiking on a regular basis on the weekends, and began climbing 14ers (14,000+ peaks in Colorado). In addition, my cholesterol improved from a high range to just at the top of normal levels without the use of any prescriptions."
2. Ashlee Popka, Assistant Project Manager, Brasfield & Gorrie, Marietta, GA The Program: Gym, fitness instructor, chiropractor, and "Leanest Winner" competition
Her Results: "I went to the workouts in our office gym during lunch. I didn't win the competition, but my wedding dress had to be taken in. I have done two sprint triathlons and am working towards my first half marathon. The company program was a huge part of me accomplishing my goals and staying fit. Both the convenience of the gym in the office and the available advice have helped educate me a lot on healthy eating and personal fitness. Not to mention the money I save by not having to have a gym membership and pay a personal trainer!"
3. Mari Escamilla, Account Executive, Marketing Maven Public Relations, Inc., Camarillo, CA The Program: Personal trainer, with eight workouts available per employee each month
Her Results: "I usually work out with the trainer, Ron, twice a week. Working out with him was very helpful! Before I wouldn't regularly do weights or anything other than 
cardio. Now I have visible, more defined muscles in my arms. I don't think I would have made certain changes on my own. Yes, I would have exercised but I wouldn't have the consistent workouts that I do because of the trainer."
4. Michael C. De Lucia, Worldwide Product Manager, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics (a Johnson & Johnson company), Raritan, New Jersey The Program: A comprehensive wellness program, including a $500 credit toward the annual medical premium for J&J employees who participate in health screening and follow up with targeted health improvement programs
The Results: "I was completely transformed. Following the healthy style of eating and engaging in physical activities for 12 weeks put me on the road to making these changes a habitual routine. I have maintained a nearly 40-pound weight loss and went from a size 52 suit to a size 46, and from a pant size of 44 to 38. My blood pressure is normal as is my cholesterol on medication, which went from 185 down to 155 (I'm still on medication, but at a reduced dose). My job performance has improved and I have received exemplary performance reviews for the past two years. I have a completely different outlook on life and have attained things I would have never thought about in the past. I took up road biking and completed my first triathlon this past June."
What wellness programs does your company have? Please sign in below and share.
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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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