Federal Workers Get Health And Fitness Programs

BALTIMORE For three hours each work week, Bert Rice walks laps around Burba Lake at Fort Meade part of a mission by the federal government to build a healthier workforce.

Rice, 76, a retired Army colonel and former Anne Arundel County councilman working as a civilian on the garrison staff at Fort Meade, is one of thousands of federal workers who participate in health and fitness programs designed to lower the government’s health care costs, increase productivity and better recruit and retain employees.

The three-hour allowance is available for six months once in an employee’s career to help set a foundation for healthful living. For Rice, it gives him a break from his desk, gets his blood pumping and helps him maintain a physically active lifestyle.

“It’s great and really essential,” said Rice, acting director of public works at Fort Meade. “My walking keeps me active, moving. Every time I get a chance to walk I do.”

The Office of Personnel Management helps guide government agencies in establishing health and fitness initiatives, which include smoking cessation programs, blood pressure screenings, health fairs and exercise classes.

Services are designed by individual agencies. Some provide on-site gyms or access to nearby fitness clubs, while others offer walking groups, weight lifting instruction and fitness assessments that measure a worker’s ability to run a mile or do a push-up.

At Fort Meade, Deputy Garrison Commander John Moeller says, civilian employees may choose from several physical fitness programs. About 1,000 of the 56,000 men and women on the Army base are part of the garrison staff, which maintains the building and grounds and provides emergency and security services.

“We’re concerned about the wellness of our employees and the resiliency of our employees,” Moeller said. “We realize that a good physical fitness program is a benefit to our employees. It not only makes them better employees. It makes them better people.”

An exercise regimen is a job requirement for active-duty service members.

In addition to the three-hours-per-week allowance for on-the-clock exercise for six months, the Army gives civilian workers free access to two gymnasiums with basketball courts, treadmills and other machines.

Workers also have access to mental health services and nutrition advice, stress and anger management classes, and smoking cessation programs, Moeller said.

The garrison staff is also encouraged to participate in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award and the Presidential Champions Awards, fitness challenges issued to all Americans.

Rice has won bronze, silver and gold medals for the active lifestyle awards.

He walks as many as 14 miles a week, including exercise on his own time. It’s the latest workout routine in a lifetime filled with exercise, including 30 years of Army workouts, six marathons and a childhood spent on a sugar beet farm in Montana.

“It does encourage folks and should be an encouragement to maintain their fitness as a preventative measure,” Rice said.

The Department of Defense isn’t the only federal agency offering wellness initiatives.

The Social Security Administration, based in Woodlawn, provides on-site fitness centers, referrals for discounted gym memberships, healthful food in the office cafeterias, bike racks on campuses and online resources for nutrition and workout tips.

Carla Barry, a Social Security human resources supervisor, said wellness programs can boost employee moral and increase productivity.

And, she said, “healthy employees tend to be happier.”

An annual offering is “Commit to be Fit,” a one-month program that drew 12,000 employees last year. The program challenges employees to pledge to exercise for 30 minutes a day for a certain number of days during the month. Barry said workers can keep an online journal, team up with co-workers and share success stories.

An online “cafe” shares low- or no-fat, low-sodium and cholesterol-free recipes.

Barry said Social Security workers also have access to behavioral resources, including a smoking cessation program, stress management resources and referrals for counseling.

The Defense Department’s efforts are centered on a directive from the president, the National Prevention Strategy, launched in 2011. The military aspires to be a national leader in building a “prevention-oriented society,” said Laura Mitvalsky, portfolio director for health promotion and wellness at the Army Public Health Command.

The command serves Army soldiers, their families, military retirees and Army Department civilians. Councils at Army bases chaired by senior commanders coordinate tools for healthy living initiatives, Mitvalsky said.

The Defense Department launched the Healthy Base Initiative as a pilot program at 11 military installations and two other defense sites earlier this year. None are in Maryland, but Mitvalsky said Aberdeen Proving Ground helped develop some of the elements.

The Healthy Base Initiative is intended to help individuals make informed dietary decisions, increase physical activities, learn and practice weight management and quit smoking.

“Our Army leadership is really engaged at all levels to assist and create these [healthier] environments,” Mitvalsky said.

Treatment and loss of productivity related to obesity and tobacco use cost the Defense Department $3 billion a year. Failure to meet weight standards is a leading cause of involuntary separation from the military, and obesity in America may be limiting the Defense Department’s recruitment efforts.

“The business of changing lifestyles takes a community-wide approach,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. “We need to make sure you have the tools available to succeed. Organizations that look the other way fail their people.”


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  1. Reply

    Any Fitness Tips For People With Asthma? Just need some fitness tips to help with my asthma. I want to be able to run for a longer period and have an overall better fitness level. I start losing my breath after about 1 minute of running. Any ideas and tips would be very much appreciated : )

      • HealthNut
      • June 16, 2013

      First, you have to choose a certain kind of exercise that they really can handle well. Some exercise that might be great choice for asthma sufferers are walking, swimming, riding a bike, as well as hiking. These kinds of exercise needs less physical move than tennis, hockey, gymnastics, long distance running, and many other else. You could also consult their doctors to choose the most appropriate type of exercise for you.

      Second, you can take advantage of your inhaler. You can use your inhaler about 15 minutes before you start to exercise. Besides, makes sure that your inhaler is always close enough to you. You will never know when the attack might hit you. Therefore, providing inhaler as first aid near you is very important.

      Third, breathing through your nose during the exercise is also important. Mouth breathing tends to trigger asthma attack since it causes you to inhale cold air right into the bronchial tube. In contrary, the air that you heal will be filtered well when you are breathing through your nose. Besides, nose breathing also allows the air to be warmer before reaching the lungs.

      The fourth thing you need to do is looking for a certain area that free from pollutions and allergens. However you should also avoid area with too many trees or grass. Then, you should also be aware of the symptoms of asthma that occur during the exercise. If you feel very tired and your chest begins to be tightening, you should be notice that those are the initial symptoms of asthma. Usually, those symptoms will be followed by wheezing. Stop doing any physical activity when these symptoms occur.

      By following those tips, asthma sufferers could still have exercise with less risk of asthma attack. Do not let asthma attack prevent you to have regular exercise activity.

  2. Reply

    What Are Your Best Tips To Live A Healthy Life? Health tips in any area would be great. Especially what foods to eat, fitness tips, avoiding colds or being sick, and being happier.

    Sorry it’s so broad, but I just wanted some really good tips or secrets, or anything. Thanks!

      • HealthNut
      • June 16, 2013

      One has to be happy, not worry about everything little thing that goes wrong, think of others who have life a lot worse or the ones who are gone who whould like to swich with you, but most importantly, you must cleanse your body of toxins and take suppliments.

    • Isy
    • June 16, 2013

    I Want To Lose A Few Kilos But Not A Heap, Dieting And Fitness Tips..? I weigh 58 kilos, and I don’t really want to lose too much weight, maybe 5 or 6 kilos, but I mostly just want to tone up. Do you know any dieting/fitness tips? I’m going to the gym 5 times a week, and on the days I’m not there I’m going for a run. Any tips on what to spend my time on at the gym? Thank you x

      • HealthNut
      • June 16, 2013

      Dear Isy,

      One thing you need to understand is that you have to work hard if you want to change the shape of your body. That means a balance of medium-high intensity cardio exercise along with challenging strength training workouts.

      For weight loss, you’ll need to get about 5 cardio workouts each week at a medium-high intensity for at least 30 minutes. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start slow and work your way up but, if you’re in good condition and have no restrictions, challenging yourself with harder workouts is the best way to burn more calories. Interval training is a good choice because studies show you continue to burn calories even after you’ve stopped exercising.

      In addition to your cardio workouts, you’ll need to lift weights for all your muscle groups at least 2 non-consecutive days a week. And, by lifting weights, that means using enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired number of reps. For example, if you’re doing 12 bicep curls, you need to use enough weight that you can only do 12 bicep curls and not one more. Most people don’t lift enough weight to really challenge their muscles.

      What you need to engage in is a well balanced all rounded diet with considerable physical exertion over a prolonged time period. Food can be broken down into 5 major groups. These groups are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals and water. The body needs varying amounts of these types of food so that the adequate amount of nutrients is supplied to the body. A well-balanced diet does not mean an equal amount of each type of food, as our body requires more of some nutrients than others.

      Each type of food plays a significant role in our body but excesses or deficiencies of certain types of food can also harm the body and produce a negative impact on our health.

      It is very important that we know how much of each type of food we are supposed to consume and that we eat in a sensible way. This means eating regular meals at “least” three times a day and drinking plenty of water, but what I would suggest is breaking it down to 5 smaller meals a day and having your last solid meal before 6pm after that you are only allowed to have pure low fat milk a mug or two would be a good idea to cut down on excessive cravings.

      Hope this answers your question.

  3. Reply

    Is It Healthy If I(saysitbelow)….. Please I Need To Know!Fitness Tips? What Do You Eat Daily To Lose Weight? Is it healthy if i walk around for 30 mins each hour (for 6hours) and drink muscle milk for the morning to lose weight ? Im 4’7 and 108 pounds any fitness tips out there?? Diet tips? What do you eat daily to help lose weight?

  4. Reply

    How Can I Increase My Metabolic Rate? Which exercise/fitness tips can you give me to increase my metabolic rate? Also if you can explain the science behind it, I would appreciate it.

      • HealthNut
      • June 16, 2013

      -Eat breakfast. You metabolism is slow in the morning becasue you have been fasting all night. Eating breakfast revs it up.
      -Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day. Same principal, when you go to long without eating your metabolism slows. Eat something at least every 3 hours.
      -Build muscle through resistance training. The more muscle you have the higher your metabolic rate because muscle is active tissue and burns calories even at rest.
      -Drink lots and lots of water. Being sufficiently hydrated makes you body carry out its metabolic processes more effiecintly.

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