WIESBADEN, Germany - Like the Army's focus on maintaining physical fitness among its Soldiers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ensuring its civilian employees are maintaining healthy lifestyles.

In April, the Europe District implemented the Army Health Promotion Program to encourage employees to participate in healthy fitness activities to improve morale, relieve stress and minimize health risks, said Raelene Hampton, the district equal employment officer and program coordinator.

"If we're not stressed out at work we'll feel better, and we'll be more productive at work," she said. "Staying fit increases the work performance and decreases the chance of illness or injury."

So far, 52 employees have signed up for the program, which allows civilian employees to be excused from work for three one-hour sessions each week for up to six months, including Heidi Boone, chief of the district's finance section.

"This gives me the chance to keep physically fit, but still do my job," she said. "My days go much better now. I think the exercising helps me get rid of my stress so that I'm more productive at work each day."

Sibylle Ballnath, a district project manager, said the program helped her find ways to incorporate a healthier lifestyle into her busy days.

"I'm a full-time employee managing million-dollar projects and a wife and a mother so it's hard to find time to eat right and exercise," she said. "This program made me realize how much better I feel after working out, which will help make me find time to squeeze in workouts after the six months is over. I'll be fit and I really want to stay that way."

Raquel "Q" Blankenhorn, a district contract specialist, said the program gives her time to incorporate elements into her workout she didn't previously have time for.

"I do aerobics in the morning, but I didn't have time to incorporate weight training, which is necessary for improving my overall fitness," she said. "Now I have time for it. I'm very grateful for the program."

Blankenhorn along with Katie Ergenekon, a district program manager, also run the district's Healthy Living Support Group, which meets every two weeks, where employees can learn how to incorporate healthy living habits into their lifestyles with the support of others to meet their goals.

"We've had a chef come teach us how easy it is to make a quick, healthy lunch, and with the help of the Safety Office, we were able to hold a Health Fair for all employees to participate in," she said. "This isn't just a weight-loss group - we're all here to help each other meet whatever goal each person makes for his or herself."

Short periods of excused absences for fitness events, health screenings, smoking cessation programs, stress management, flu shots and nutrition programs are also authorized through the program.

"The program is designed to help employees jumpstart a personal health and fitness plan to motivate employees to exercise and live a healthier lifestyle," Hampton said. "The program is a one-time deal to get people started while they are here and, hopefully, encourage them to continue on."

Extensive research has shown that improving overall health, and thus preventing disease and premature death, is as easy as making small improvements and adjustments in the activities of daily life, said Col. John Kem, district commander.

"It's win-win for the Army and for employees," he said. "Investing more money and effort into prevention and nutrition for employees means the Army will spend less money on treatment over the long run."

To participate in the program, employees must coordinate the terms of their fitness program times with their supervisors. Exercise periods may be combined with either one of the employees' breaks or their lunch periods.

A health assessment must also be conducted by health professional. Hampton said she is working with the garrison to schedule the next health screening for the end of summer.

"Taking care of yourself and staying fit is an investment in the future," Kem said. "Both the district and the [Wiesbaden] garrison offer superb fitness facilities, health education, suicide prevention training. I highly recommend employees take advantage of this one-time opportunity."

Page last updated Wed May 26th, 2010 at 04:24