Web Review:

Healthy Recruiting

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These articles by Melinda Sherwood were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on June 16, 1999.

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Strategies for a Healthy Office

When is the last time you halted an important project

to eat a balanced meal? Had a back-rub while on the job? Left your

office to meditate? If you’re like most people in competitive industries,

chances are you think hunger, stress and physical discomfort are just

as much a part of the daily grind as keeping a stiff upper lip among

your colleagues and higher-ups. After all, you’re only hurting yourself,


Wrong, says Vonda Kraus Sternberg of Corporate Care (877-469-8227).

"Stress costs corporate America billions every year," she

says. While it is well-known that stress-related problems drain corporate

healthcare and result in employee absenteeism, few companies, says

Sternberg, are aware of just how much it’s costing them. Corporate

Care has gathered some startling figures:

Between 60 and 90 percent of medical office visits in the U.S. are

for stress-related disorders, according to Herbert Benson, a

physician at the Center for Corporate Health in the Mind/Body Medical

Institute. At least 100 million work days each year are lost to lower

back pain, at a cost to employers of $20 billion, according to a 1994

survey by Goldhirsh Group Inc. More than 1 million people a day call

in sick, resulting in losses of $150 billion a year in lowered productivity,

medical insurance, rehiring and retraining (Inc. magazine, August


Conversely, Sternberg says that studies show that for every $1 a company

spends on fostering healthy habits among employees, it gets $5 back

in productivity. "When a company encourages healthy habits in

its employees, the benefits trickle down to the community and the

company," she says.

Sternberg, a private massage practitioner for 12 years, co-founded

Corporate Care, based in Monmouth Junction, with Colleen Murray

Seig. She and seven other therapists in the company hope to bring

both traditional and alternative methods of healing, preventative

medicine, and stress management into the workplace. This includes

on-site massage, nutritional workshops, stretching exercises, and

even humor. The company also consults on matters of ergonomics and

injuries like back pain and carpal tunnel.

Proactive companies — companies that take care of their employees

— are already seeing positive results, says Sternberg. "You

can bring in a nutritionist, do a one-hour lecture once a month, and

make a world of difference," she says.

That’s exactly what Liz Claiborne did, according to Business

and Health magazine. An on-site weight-loss program resulted in employees

losing an average of 27 pounds each.

"New Jersey is rather slow at catching on," Sternberg says.

"It tends to be a very fast-paced state. They’ve forgotten that

to be productive you need to slow down."

Sternberg, a native of South Brunswick, opened her own private massage

practice in 1987. In the past 12 years she has seen people’s health

decline rapidly because of stress. "You see over the years that

the situation is getting more critical. People are working way after

hours, bringing home work on the weekends — working on their own

time," she says. The result: aches, pains and constant visits

to doctor. "They catch every little thing that comes along because

they can’t relax. I see how hard it is for them to relax on the massage

table because it’s hard for them to turn their minds off."

Sternberg had tried to reach the corporate community before; she even

opened her own center for meditation and yoga. "The only people

who came to my center were already doing yoga and meditation,"

she says. "People in business don’t seek it out because they’re

not in that mindset. That’s what made me think, if you bring it directly

to corporate America you can educate them."

Whether you’re an employee or employer, Sternberg says you can improve

health and productivity in the office by encouraging or practicing

the following:

Take five. A five-minute quiet break — NOT a coffee

or cigaret break — where you focus on your breathing and tune

into your body is the best thing you can do for yourself in the office,

she says. "People get so caught up in their heads that they forget

there’s an actual functioning body."

Put down the sandwich. Certain food combinations, particularly

the combination of proteins (meat) and carbohydrates (bread) —

make you very sleepy or worse, gassy. Sternberg advises people to

eat one or the other — proteins or carbohydrates. Do not mix the

two together.

Take lunch. "If you’re eating while you’re working

you’re not doing a lot for yourself health-wise," she says. In

some cases, companies enforce bad habits by offering free lunches

and asking employees to eat at their desks. "That’s giving with

one hand and taking with the other," Sternberg says. "Your

body can’t possibly go through proper digestion when your mind is

focusing on the computer. It’s very unhealthy."

Watch your posture. Keep things at eye level, and if you

don’t have lumbar support, put a pillow behind you. "People don’t

even realize that their lower back is shot because of the way they’re


Employers who encourage employees to relax, laugh and guard their

health send out a simple message: the company cares. That is enormously

valuable, says Sternberg. "A company’s relationship with an employee

is just like a relationship with a friend," she says. "Employees

feel that they owe something back to the company. When someone takes

good care of you, are you going to be there for them or not be there

for them?"

Top Of Page
Web Review:

Fitness Site

Health and fitness magazines are an endless source of

broken promises. Headlines like "Firmer abs in four weeks"

and "Eat what you like and still lose weight" nonetheless

capture our imagination and seize on a universal hope: maybe this

is the real thing.

Phys.com (http://www.phys.com), a new website devoted

to health and fitness, recently employed the same gimmick on a quarter

page newspaper ad promising "Five weeks to a better body."

The site boasts "online tools:" calculators to determine ideal

weight, body fat percentage and caloric need, plus a personal nutritionist,

illustrated workouts and forums.

Is a "virtual fitness trainer" actually more reliable than

the stuff on newsstands? At first glance, Phys.com more or less looks

like a compendium of women’s magazines (the site is copyrighted by

CondeNet). There are links to articles on everything from the latest

beef on eggs, to fitness during pregnancy. Sources on the site are

intelligent. Dr. Mirriam Stoppard, author of several books on

pregnancy, is the online pregnancy expert, and a link to Tufts University

Health and Nutrition Letter pumps out answers to common health questions.

There’s also a pregnancy A to Z encyclopedia, and links to all kinds

of sites for hiking, walking, and the YMCA. At no point do you have

to register.

The big selling point for this web site, however, is interactivity;

online fitness tests, calculators, and the services of a virtual nutritionist.

People should be more than wary of these "fitness tools."

The virtual calculator makes a rather crude assessment of body fat

percentage based on age, weight, height, and waist size. Body mass

and ideal weight are calculated similarly. As almost any expert knows,

this is far too little to go on.

Age seems to be weighted disproportionately. For example, a 25 year-old

woman weighing in at 115 pounds with a height of 5′ 2” is slightly

over the normal range of body fat, but by no means considered at risk.

That same woman at 50 is, according to the site, in the "danger"


The calculator leads you to believe that complex medical conclusions

can be drawn from inches and pounds alone — hardly the case. For

the most part, the calculator is a misleading and worthless feature.

The virtual nutritionist can tip you off to some better eating habits,

however. That is if you don’t mind going through the rather lengthy

process of mousing over everything you’ve eaten today.

For the most part, these online gimmicks don’t in any way amount to

working with your doctor, trainer, nutritionist, or just a friend

on a program personalized for you. It’s also unlikely that you’ll

get a better body in five weeks using Phys.com. At most, you’ll read

the occasional noteworthy article, find some good links, and develop

more defined mousing muscles.

— Melinda Sherwood

Top Of Page
Healthy Recruiting

Few people can turn a hobby into a $50 an hour business,

but if exercise is your personal vice, you’re more than healthy —

you’re marketable as well. Getting certified as an instructor can

boost your income and provide a rewarding fitness experience. A handful

of organizations provide relatively quick and inexpensive certification

for fitness instructors, personal trainers, aerobics instructors,

weight management consultants and more.

You don’t have to be a hardbody either, says Karl Dauphinais,

vice president of operations at the International Fitness Professional

Association (IFPA), a national organization that provides personal

trainer certification. "Interest and motivation in the field is

more important than anything else," he says. "If you’re trying

to motivate someone else, you have to convince them that you follow

that lifestyle."

The IFPA faculty of 40 instructors, all with masters degrees in sports

medicine or a related field, certify individuals to train other healthy

people. Textbook study (one month preparation) is required before

taking the two-day instructional course and final exam. The two-day

course is offered on Saturday and Sunday, July 17 and 18, in Brick

Township, location to be determined. Call: 800-785-1924. Cost: $299.

The IFPA distance-learning program — two video tapes — costs


Certification is good for reasons of credibility and liability, says

Dauphinais, who received a BS in biochemistry from Colgate University,

Class of 1992. "Most facilities won’t allow someone to train unless

they know what they’re doing and can’t hurt themselves," he says.

It can also help you gain a competitive advantage over others in the

field. In a private setting, personal trainers can make as much as

several hundred dollars in the Los Angeles area, and an average of

$25 to $50 elsewhere. By contrast, trainers in the gym make the least

amount of cash, $6 to $8 an hour.

Certification is also necessary for training individuals with special

health considerations. The American College of Sports and Medicine,

for example, focuses on issues of cardiac rehabilitation, while the

IFPA focuses on training people who are relatively healthy.

The following is a list of fitness certifications:

American Council on Exercise: personal trainer, clinical

exercise specialist, group fitness instructor, lifestyle and weight

management consultant, http://www.acefitness.org, (619) 535-8227.

American College of Sports Medicine: clinical track certifications

(for individuals with cardiovascular, pulmonary or metabolic disease)

and health and fitness track certifications (for apparently health

individuals), http://www.acsm.org, 317-637-9200.

International Sports Sciences Association: personal trainer,

http://www.issa-usa.com, 1-800-892-USA.

Aerobics and Fitness Association of America: aerobic instructor,

http://www.afaa.com, 1-800-446-2322.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association: certified

strength and condition specialist and personal trainer, http://www.nsca-cc.org.

The World Instructor Training Schools: personal trainer

and aerobics, http://www.dvwits.com or 215-679-6062.

For those interested in training the trainers-to-be, the IFPA

is always looking for new faculty members. A masters degree in a related

field is necessary. Faculty members, contracted for a number of workshops,

are selected according to both fitness philosophy and health education.

Corrections or additions?

This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

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