Exercise Your Way to a ‘Better U'
Program aims to get employees away from their desks
BY REBECCA KENDALL
With work, family and the myriad responsibilities that people juggle each day, it's easy to let exercise fall down on our list of priorities. But that's something Annie Eleveld and her colleagues in Occupational Health and Wellness are working to change.
Six years ago, Eleveld rediscovered daily exercise after joining a downtown running group and participating in a learn-to-run program. Within a few months, she was fit enough to run a five-kilometre race.
“It was amazing with the group atmosphere,” she says. “I just felt like I had to go because the rest of the group was waiting.”
Since then she's been running three times a week and has found a way to bring this opportunity to others during the course of their workday.
In 2005, Occupational Health and Wellness launched the “Better U” program, a wellness initiative designed to put exercise programs into the lives of U of G employees.
The program offers a variety of stretching, walking and running groups, each with an occupational health coach and a volunteer coach. Participants can choose from a leisure walk, a Nordic walk, a learn-to-run program and a 30-minute run.
The leisure walk is a 30-minute stroll around campus. The Nordic walk is a fast-paced power walk that burns 20 to 40 per cent more calories than a normal walk. Participants carry Nordic poles and swing their arms as they walk for a total body workout. The learn-to-run program is a 12-week program that takes a non-runner from walking to running five kilometres. It requires a commitment of three or four times a week, with some of the runs done on your own. The 30-minute run is for people currently running who would like some company.
“Better U” runs Mondays and Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m., with participants meeting in front of the Powell Building.
“We do lots of fun things,” says Eleveld, noting that earlier this year the program hosted a lilac picnic and ice cream social for members.
“It's not just about the exercise. It's about getting away from our desks and doing something active and social with people we may never have had the opportunity to meet.”
Last year, the program had an enrolment of 60 people, and this year she hopes to surpass that.
There are lots of benefits to exercising, says Eleveld. “We know that exercise is huge for our mental and physical well-being. It is important for our heart, blood pressure control and diabetes prevention, and changes how our bodies look and feel. A lot of the people who have joined in the past are now exercising on their own.”
The 2008/09 “Better U” program kicks off with an event to be held Oct. 15 at noon in Room 168 of the Axelrod Building. Motivational speaker Connie Jasinskas, a cancer survivor-thriver, will share the benefits of a positive outlook on life.
For more information, visit the website www.uoguelph.ca/hr/ohs/thebetteryou.php.