Corrections or additions?
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
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."
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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:
exercise specialist, group fitness instructor, lifestyle and weight
management consultant, http://www.acefitness.org, (619) 535-8227.
(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.
strength and condition specialist and personal trainer, http://www.nsca-cc.org.
and aerobics, http://www.dvwits.com or 215-679-6062.
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.