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Employee wellness plans deliver healthy returns

It’s a common line for the 21st century working class. “I do not have time to work out, I am caught in between delivering my daily work targets and at the end of the day, I am beyond exhausted, all I want to do is shower, eat and sleep,” they will say.

It’s a common line for the 21st century working class. “I do not have time to work out, I am caught in between delivering my daily work targets and at the end of the day, I am beyond exhausted, all I want to do is shower, eat and sleep,” they will say.

And then: “But I try to eat a healthy diet.” Alarm bells! And you do not need to be a magician to see this. We are increasingly living in a world where we take to the desk, everything else becomes meaningless. We are served tea at the desk, we eat junk lunch at the desk and only get up to answer call of nature.

But this kind of work, for many who are employed in the formal sector, does little to improve health. It is a rather large contributor to major health complications when compared to somebody whose work routine involves a lot of physical activity, according to health experts.

The latter burns thousands of calories while the calorie count of the office worker will likely not reach into the hundreds.

What does this mean in terms of one’s health and risk exposure to the so called ‘lifestyle diseases’?

Dr Marie Aimee Muhimpundu, the head of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Rwanda Biomedical Centre, says while some NCDs take long without detection they can be avoided through regular exercises and dietary watch.

Dr Rachna Pande, a specialist in internal medicine, in a previous interview, urged that we all need to do regular health assessments to help detect the diseases earlier.

Incorporating regular exercises in daily routine can be done at home. For instance, jogging or skipping rope.

Experts say lifestyle diseases are common today because of poor eating habits and lack of exercise.

A wide range of fitness exercises can help one meet their needed fitness levels so as to uplift wellbeing and health to the optimum levels, something that will go a long way in helping prevent lifestyle related diseases.

“Diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cancers, arthritis, obesity and cardiovascular diseases are slowly eating their way into our society, NCD’s share common risk factors like unhealthy diet, smoking, excessive alcohol use and physical inactivity,” Dr Muhimpundu says.

Making the correct lifestyle choices could stop non-communicable diseases like hypertension and diabetes–which the World Health Organisation (WHO) reckons are neglected globally from striking early.

Worrying statistical trends indicate that by 2025, the burden of NCDs will reach epidemic levels, which will be largely due to demographic transition, a population that is increasingly aging with urbanisation, mechanisation and sedentary lifestyles.

Doctors insist that our health is more important than office work. This calls for adjusting work routine. If you are not healthy, then you are probably not going to work, let alone taking care of your family. This means the desk should not compromise your health just because of the obligations weighing your shoulders.

Wake up early in the morning and take a jog or skip rope. This will not only rejuvenate your day but will go a long way in burning up the calories. You can also opt to do the same in the evening after work.

But owing to the rigours of the formal sector desks, the best option is for employers to come into the picture by providing wellness programmes at work. Employee wellness programmes provide workers with healthy lifestyle choices and may just be the cure for firms struggling to keep up with rapidly rising healthcare costs.

In addition to saving companies money, the programmes are an effective way to help employees live healthier lives.

Such company initiatives that promote worker wellness – from on-site yoga classes to smoking cessation programmes—are becoming more widespread in the Western world.

Companies can do a simple thing such as encouraging employees to participate in sports. Registering sports teams in wellness activities such as swimming, running, football, volleyball or even signing up with health clubs; amenities like cafeterias that provide workers with healthier foods like vegetables enhances healthy living at workplace.

Such programmes will not only help the employees stay fit and healthy but also have an impact on their output, so both parties reap multiple benefits.

“To the employer, the benefit will be reduced medical insurance costs and absenteeism from work because of illness while the employee benefits in terms of a healthy body and mind, in effect keeping disease at bay,” says Patrick Waweru, the employee benefit manager at Aon insurance firm in Kampala, Uganda.

“It is a smart and cost-effective way to promote employee wellness and morale, which in the long run reduce a firm’s medical costs. If the workers are healthy, they don’t fall ill too often, therefore the premiums on the medical insurance will reduce.”

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