Fiscally Fit

Healthier, happier employees a side benefit for Alliance Bank exercise initiative

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Feb. 16, 2007 - While most of us are busy breaking our New Year's resolutions, at least 80 percent of Alliance Bank's employees are making good on their pledges to lose weight, get fit or exercise more for the New Year.

In mid-January, the bank kicked off a new fitness initiative. The program encourages employees at all five branch cities to participate by providing fitness and healthy menu tips, but also incorporates ways to better manage stress and incorporate healthy choices into regular routines so that they become regular habits.

As an added incentive, each month a new fitness topic is introduced and rewards are offered to individuals and teams with the best overall health results.

Staff have been very encouraging not only of other members of their group and friends, but of all other bank employees who are also working toward fitness and health. 

Alliance Senior Vice President Keith Shurtleff and Vice President/Director of Marketing Jake Caddell said connecting different groups within the bank and getting them talking and encouraging each other is an integral part of the program. The idea is that it will bolster fitness and individual health, which according to research is proven to bolster self-esteem, which leads to happier more productive employees and a more productive work environment.

They admit that while cash rewards and friendly bank contests help play a role in the program, it's the employees themselves and the camaraderie and determination that make the difference. 

And while healthier, happier employees mean a more productive work environment and can help reduce health care costs, the bank officials said those are only side benefits of the fitness program.

The bank began developing the program during the middle of last summer. The idea for a voluntary program to improve employee fitness was introduce at the executive level and was well received, Caddell noted.

From there, it was pitched to the bank employees, who also expressed interest. And they had no shortage of volunteers to help head up the project. From a main committee came several subcommittees, with each group tackling a health topic related to the program. Lots of research and plans to facilitate the program took a few more months.

In mid-Janurary, each participating employee was given a folder containing health packets, topical research, plans for the health program and information about area gyms and fitness centers, special rates offered for the bank employees and special events.

For instance, the new fitness facility at Texas A&M University-Commerce was opened one Saturday for bank employees to tour, use the facility and take advantage of on-sight trainers.

They're already seeing results. The first month has been dedicated to walking. The bank furnished all participating employees with a pedometer to measure the number of steps they take daily, and prizes were to be awarded this month to those with the highest numbers. 

At the request of employees, they are allowed inside the bank after it closes so they can walk the interior, bolstering their pedometer readings as well as becoming more physically fit. Some employees have opted to park farther from the building than usual in order to increase their daily "ped count" or just for improved fitness. Some have walked to relay messages within the building instead of using the phone.

"One example is I've noticed assistants at the fax machine not just standing there but moving their feet. They're burning more calories," Caddell said. "That's something they didn't do before."

Shurtleff said that the activities for the health initiative will focused on "things that nearly everyone can do."

The goal for some is to increase their stamina. For those who get tired easily from walking, it's just being able to travel through the building and to the back parking lot without becoming winded. Hopefully, others will choose to "take it to the next level," opting to run half a stretch instead of walking or take advantage of the corporate gym rates, using the Stairmasters then other equipment, or work out a fitness goal with a trainer at the facility, they added.

Next month's challenge is to drink more water, up to 8 glasses a day. Some have already begun working it into their daily routines, giving up that extra cup of coffee or soft drink.

The marketing department has opted to offer fruit, granola bars or other healthy treats during their regular meetings instead of the usual donuts.

Some really took the program to heart after a younger coworker recently suffered a heart attack, showing "how bad it can be if you do not take care of yourself," Shurtleff said. "If you have a history or health problems and don't care, you should."

Of course, some employees are already fit and have been very encouraging of those just starting the bank program, offering tips and ideas and answering questions about health topics.

Other events on tap are a big, bank-wide softball tournament that includes the Wolfe City and Rockwall bank branches as well as Galyean Insurance, a potluck event featuring healthy foods, and a walking day.

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