On June 20, 2002, President George W. Bush signed an Executive Order to promote personal fitness in the general public. The president's concern was the numbers of Americans suffering from lack of physical activity and poor dietary habits, and the failure of current practices to motivate the general public to improve.

The order was issued to the Secretaries of all federal departments to review and evaluate current policies, programs and regulations as they relate to personal fitness of the general public. Beginning with the Department of Health and Human Services, the order was passed to the Centers for Disease Control as the "Steps to a Healthier US." Under the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the initiative was renamed "Steps to a Healthier US Workforce" and tasked to encourage workplace programs that focus on two areas:

  • Preventing work-related illness, injury, and disability, and

  • Promoting healthier living and lifestyles to reduce and prevent chronic disease.

Why Integrate Fitness into Your Safety Program?

According to the Surgeon General, sixty percent of adults are overweight and out of shape and do not exercise enough to maintain basic health. This has a profound effect on chronic disease. For example, people who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or higher were more than seven times as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. They were more than six times more likely to have high blood pressure and four times as likely to have arthritis compared to those with normal body weightsi.

The Health Care Crisis

According to presenters at the Washington, DC Steps to Healthier US Workforce symposium, by the year 2013, more than one out four dollars of personal consumption will be spent on health care. In his keynote address, John Howard, MD, director of NIOSH, said that these costs are "unsustainable." Researchers at the symposium said when health care costs and lost productivity (due to absenteeism, for example) are bundled together, the cost per employee was $16,091 for 2002. If 60 percent of the 138 million workers in the U.S. fit this model, we are talking about a trillion and half dollar problem. In a global marketplace, this high cost of unhealthy workers and lost productivity will cause American industry to lose its competitiveness.

Aging Workforce

With Baby Boomers entering their fifties, employers are feeling the impact of an aging workforce. As we get older we become less active. A natural process of aging is loss of flexibility and strength. This increases risk for injuries to backs, knees, shoulders, and necks.

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