MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. -- Getting healthier can get a bit easier for full-time civilian employees thanks to the Civilian Fitness Program, which allows Department of Army employees to use three hours of work time each week for personal fitness.

"Living a healthy lifestyle drives success; it drives wellbeing," said Madigan Army Medical Center Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Laragione.

The Civilian Fitness Program (supported by Army Regulation 600-63) gives employees an opportunity to sign up for a one-time six-month training program which allows them to use three hours within each 40-hour workweek in paid time to complete physical fitness training, said Dr. Teresa Bruder, director of the Armed Forces Wellness Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Something that leaders need to take into account is that six-month investment may help a lifetime of success for an individual that gets that opportunity to do that," said Laragione. "Leaders need to really look at can they not afford to let them go? Maybe they're out sick more often, or they're not resilient, or they're not very productive in their work because they're not healthy. So that six-month investment now may benefit the Army or the military for a lifetime."

Morale also goes up with workplace health promotion programs, said Bruder, who explained that when employees feel the organization invests in them, they tend to invest more in their work in return.

"When the supervisors took an invested interest in their employees, what was happening was the whole environment changed. We're going to do this as a group; we're going to get fit; we're going to exercise together; we're going to hold each other accountable; we're going to help each other reach each other's goals," Bruder said. She's seen workplaces start to eat healthy lunches together, even hosting lunch and learn events, and start walking programs. Some participants even get their whole families involved in making cooking together in the kitchen a fun activity, or deciding that more family outings should be active ones.

The personal benefits of increasing fitness are immeasurable.

"They've also proven that when you're healthy and fit, then you have less problems and less disease. It's not only for disease prevention, but it's also for quality of life," she said. "If you're overweight, you're more at risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, (and) more problems with your joints."

All DoD ID-card holders, including DA civilians, can get extra fitness support at the Armed Forces Wellness Center with services such as their bod pod (to measure body composition), resting metabolic tests, a class on increasing metabolism, an individual stress management class, exercise consults, fitness testing (along with personalized fitness plans), sleep classes, and more.

"I've always believed in the Civilian Fitness Program because I've seen it make such a difference in people's lives. We have some people who still come back here and they tell me, 'When I started that civilian fitness program it changed my life,'" Bruder said.

Since it is a supervisor's program, staff who want to take part in the Civilian Fitness Program can start the process by talking to their direct supervisors and filling out the related forms (found at https://jblm.armymwr.com/application/files/5215/1750/2308/Civilian_Fitness_Program_Forms.pdf).
Bruder recommends that the employees and supervisors decide together how often and when the employees will exercise (i.e. by coming in later or leaving earlier, or working out over extended lunches); she also recommends the exercise takes place on base for accountability. While the medical clearance simply confirms employees can safely exercise, she recommends that anyone with medical conditions consult with their physicians before starting any fitness program; physicians can even recommend modified workouts if appropriate.