0

Airport officials promote healthier lifestyles for employees

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Officials from the Department of Aviation want to get their employees in shape through a three month fitness program.

More than half of the department's 516 employees are participating in the airport's annual health and fitness campaign, said Tracy Gilbert, program manager for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The theme for this year's campaign is "Keeping Balance One Step at a Time."

"We're trying to encourage our employees to adopt healthier lifestyles because studies show employees who take care of their health and watch their nutrition are higher performing employees," Gilbert said.

This year's campaign will culminate on April 28, with a health fair in the airport's atrium. It will be open to everyone who works for the Department of Aviation or for companies located at the airport. Health and fitness professionals will be on hand to conduct health screenings for attendees.

The campaign began in January. It includes periodical weigh-ins, nutrition classes, the health fair, and various fitness programs. One activity is "Fitness Happy Hour," where employees leave their offices 30 minutes early on Tuesdays and Thursdays and participate in aerobics and pilates classes at the airport.

There also is a walking challenge called "5,000 steps to fitness." Employees are given pedometers and encouraged to walk at least 5,000 steps while they are at work. The idea is to get the employees to walk from one concourse to another. Gilbert said a person who walked from the airport's "T" concourse to the "E" concourse and back twice has walked four miles.

Every employee who chose to participate in the campaign donated at least $10. The money that was put in by all of the participants will go towards a cash prize which will be given to the person who loses the highest percentage of weight.

"While the department's employees are getting in shape, they are also learning ways to incorporate fitness into their work days," Gilbert said.

The American Cancer Society recommends an adult spend at least 30 minutes a day engaged in moderate, to vigorous physical activity to help fight the risk factors for cancer. The ACS also recommends a person eat at least five servings of fruits or vegetables every day. It also recommends eating whole grains instead of processed grains, and limiting consumption of red meats.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says a person is obese when his or her body mass index (BMI) is over 30. Body mass index is a number which measures the correlation between a person's height and weight. If someone is 5- feet, 10- inches tall, and weighs 167 pounds, his or her BMI is 24, which falls in the normal weight range. If that person weighs 209 pounds, though, the BMI rises to 30.

More than 25 percent of Georgians were obese last year, according to data provided by the CDC.

Obesity puts a person at a higher risk of developing several diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, and breast or colon cancer, according to the CDC.

While the primary goal is to promote healthy lifestyle habits, Gilbert said promoting healthy lifestyles amongst the airport employees has benefits for the airport as a whole.

"Studies say people who live healthy lifestyles perform their jobs better because they have a better outlook on the work day," she said.

__

For more information:

Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov

American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org