Sitting for long periods of time is a health hazard.  Sedentary behavior has been linked to higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and early death, leading experts to call sitting the “new smoking.”  To encourage more physical activity among Mount Sinai Beth Israel (MSBI) staff, the hospital’s labor management wellness committee inaugurated six indoor and outdoor walking routes on National Get Fit Don’t Sit Day in May.

The walking routes are an early success of the wellness committee, which was established last August with the help of the Labor Management Project’s Workplace and Community Health Program (WCHP).  The WCHP provides ongoing coaching and technical assistance to the committee and its co-leads.

Speaking at a weekly operations meeting, committee co-lead Jean-Luc Coletta called on managers to encourage their staff to use the routes throughout their workday. The committee then led an enthusiastic group of about 30 managers on a walk around picturesque Stuyvesant Park, one of the designated outdoor routes.

Joining the walk, Mount Sinai Downtown’s president, Jeremy Boal said, “The walking routes are great. The signs are all around the hospital.  Now it’s important to promote and publicize the routes to all employees.” Managers participating in the walk promised to endorse the use of the routes among staff.

Union co-lead Eva James, a Contract Administrator with 1199SEIU’s RN Division, told Partnership Matters, “I was excited and inspired as I walked one of the routes.  I frequently walk the route that ends in Fierman Hall. My Fitbit is very happy with my accomplishments.”

To encourage route awareness and usage, the committee created a walking route guide. Maps and signs, like the one at the top of this page, mark every 25 steps on the indoor routes. Each sign features an interesting fact about walking or stair climbing, such as “A 2000 study reported that walking regularly saves $330 a year in health care costs.” Prompts such as signs are proven to motivate people to engage in physical activity.

Workplace walking programs are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) which provides a walking program kit.

Regular walking has a wide range of health and mental health benefits, including:

  • Prevention of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Maintenance of a healthy weight
  • Decreased stress and depression
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Stronger bones and muscles

The CDC and AHA suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, like walking briskly, every week, preferably spread out over several days (e.g. 30 minutes a day at least five days a week).

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