Putting The Walk In Work

Diet, dieting, obesity, fat, weight, tape ruler
Wearing his pedometer, 37-year-old Andrew Harrison does a lot of walking around the office. And that's by design — literally.

"I put on a good 2 1/2 miles every day in walking from space to space," Harrison, an archivist at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J., said. "My office in the archive room where I work out of is a decent haul. It's in the opposite side of the building so I do that at least four or five times a day so it adds up."

When the foundation, the nation's largest health philanthropy, renovated its facility two years ago, planners intentionally created an environment that emphasized physical fitness, reports CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras.

"One of the things we want to make sure is that we had the offices, the meeting locations, the amphitheater and our large meeting rooms to have them spread around in such a way that people would have to get up and move to them," said the foundation's Peter Goodwin.

The building is part of an architectural trend aimed at fighting America's obesity problem.

The number of overweight Americans has nearly doubled in the last 20 years, leading to increases in diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

A recent study found that obesity in the workplace costs companies $12 billion a year in additional medical bills, higher health and disability insurance premiums, increased absenteeism and reduced productivity.

"Obesity is now catching up with smoking in terms of cost to the individuals involved," said Helen Darling of the Washington Business Group on Health.

This month, a large group of employers including the Ford Motor Company announced the creation of an institute to study ways to get overweight workers to slim down.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation could be a model. Its headquarters houses a fitness center and a cafeteria that offers low fat meals, as well as a jogging trail.

There's even a weight watchers program for employees. Jeff Meade lost nearly 40 pounds since he's been working at the foundation.

"When I started here, I was 206 pounds and I'm…a little under 170 right now," Meade said.

Architect Phil Dordai who designed the building says the foundation's layout helps stimulate creativity as well as physical activity.

"If you have a workplace where people are active, people are moving around. There's a buzz," Dordai said. "It's a much more enjoyable place to work and it's socially more interesting place to work."

Harrison says his workout at work has helped him achieve a healthier lifestyle.

"An archivist can be a very sedentary job, but because of the layout of our building it forces me to exercise and get up and move," he said. "It does help break up the day."
He thinks more businesses will be persuaded to follow the Johnson model.
"It really makes sense from an employer point of view. Employees will be happier and they'll take less sick time," he said.