A little known, little used program may be a ticket to a healthier you. And, Uncle Sam will pay civilian employees for working out, up to three hours a week, for six months.

The Commander's Civilian Health and Fitness Policy outlines the requirements for civilian workers to take advantage of paid time off to jump start their workouts and begin an exercise program that gives civilians who work, live and play on post a chance to get into better physical shape.

According to Karen Shepherd, fitness facility manager at Belvoir's Kawamura Human Performance Center, the Civilian Health and Fitness Program is designed to empower people to get fit during the work day, with three hours of command-approved fitness time per week for six months.

Get healthy

"This program was designed to help the workforce adopt and maintain healthy behaviors," she said. "The workforce can engage voluntarily in an exercise program of their choice to help improve their physical fitness and general health and to develop and maintain cardio-respiratory fitness, body composition, flexibility, muscular strength and endurance."

"MWR's Civilian Health and Fitness Program empowers you to get fit during your work day," added Charice Smith, KHPC fitness program specialist. "It's great for beginners and cost-free. There's no excuse not to give it a try. Plus, Sports and Fitness offers a wide-range of authorized activities, from group exercise classes and water fitness, to weight training. Participants can find the exercise routine that works for them.

Who's eligible?

All regular full- and part-time Appropriated-Fund and Non-Appropriated Fund civilian personnel assigned to the Belvoir Garrison can participate in the Civilian Health and Fitness Program, Smith said. Employees already engaged in a formal physical exercise program as a requirement of their occupation (for example, firefighter) may not participate in the program. This policy does not apply to contractors. Employees of partner organizations can participate, with supervisory approval.

"Army civilian employees are encouraged to engage in a regular program of exercise and in other positive health habits," Smith said. "On a one-time basis, an employee may be authorized those three hours of administrative leave per week to participate in a command-sponsored physical exercise training and education program for six months from the start of the program. The three hours of administrative leave are limited to one hour per duty day. The six-month participation time may not be extended, even if the employee fails to use all of his or her administrative leave in any given week. Employees are encouraged to continue a personal fitness program after completing the program to sustain their overall health and wellness."

The program also gives employees a number of choices, in terms of when they fulfill the program's requirements.

"These one-hour increments may be taken at the end of the duty day, at the beginning of the duty day, or added to the approved 30-minute lunch period to enable a 90-minute, mid-day workout block," Smith said. "Employees may not adjust lunch periods to take 90 minutes at the beginning or end of the duty day."

Shepherd stressed that prospective participants should consult with their personal physician before starting this or any other exercise program.

Workouts, more

MWR Sports and Fitness offers a range of authorized activities, including walking; jogging; running, outside or on a treadmill; fun walks and runs; using cardio equipment; elliptical/recumbent cycle/stepper; weight lifting; open gym activities; basketball or volleyball; fitness classes and workshops, racquetball and water fitness (through the Aquatics Program).

According to the policy, MWR Sports and Fitness specialists administer, track and document the program.

The start date for the six-month cycle is the date staff-member approval is received. Members may only participate one time. One fitness staff member will be appointed as a liaison to each participant to orient participants on cardio; stretching; machine; free weight and cable crossovers and provide guidance and motivation throughout the program. Dietetic professionals also provide nutritional guidance.

Punch cards will be issued for free aerobics classes; bike rentals; water aerobics and pool passes. Participants who record perfect attendance for a month may qualify for an extra punch card. Participants also get a health promotion program packet that includes health education information, goal tracking, a log book and prescriptive workouts.

The employee and his or her supervisor must enter into a written agreement and the participant must complete the enrollment packet obtained from the Sports and Fitness Civilian Health and Fitness program. Enrollment and medical-clearance forms are available at online at belvoir.armymwr.com.

Employees can register under RecTrac and scan in when working out. The RecTrac database will be used to track participation upon supervisor's request.

Members who do not use the time to work out may be removed from the program.

For more information on Civilian Health and Fitness Program contact the Fitness Program Specialist Team, 703-806-4430 or 4659 or visit belvoir.armymwr.com/programs/fitness-facilities.