Health at YOUR size

Not In My Job Description

lumberghThe American College of Sports Medicine (the authority whose certification is the gold standard for personal trainers, and which has certified me) is holding their 19th Annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition in Phoenix this week.

Fitness trainers are my people, but today I’m feeling betrayed, because some of the folks at ACSM are putting things into the Twitter stream that are downright harmful, and which have me pushing back.

Earlier today, a speaker introduced the #getup hashtag, based on a talk that encourages employers to encourage coerce sedentary employees to engage in physical activity during the workday. Here’s their Tweet and my response:

walking meetingsHello? Is the ACSM Summit so high that these trainers are not getting enough oxygen to their brains? Think about the implications of “walking meetings” in your workplace for more than five seconds and you will realize that it is a terrible idea, for myriad reasons. Here are a few:

  • Not everyone can walk. (Duh!)
  • Not everyone who can walk, can walk far or fast. When your employees are spending the entire meeting focused on putting one foot in front of the other without falling on their faces, or worrying that the pace is going to provoke their exercise-induced asthma, or just being embarrassed that they are having trouble keeping up, what kind of contribution will they be able to make to work-related discussions? Little to none.
  • Not all disabilities are visible, and employers are not entitled to medical information about employees’ disabilities unless accommodations are needed to do the actual job. For example, if Susie in Accounting has Crohn’s Disease and can’t walk a mile immediately after lunch because it would take her dangerously far away from a desperately-needed toilet, her employer is not entitled to that information. So when Susie’s boss jumps on the “walking meetings” bandwagon, Susie now has a terrible choice to make: 1) She can share her deeply private and embarrassing digestive horrors with her boss; or 2) she can be labeled “not a team player” on her next annual review because she refused to participate in this “wellness initiative” sponsored by her employer. Congratulations, boss! You have taken a well-performing employee and made her body a barrier to success for no reason.
  • Coercion is not OK. Even if your  employer is coercing you to do something that, in the end, improves your cardiorespiratory conditioning, it is still not OK, because coercion is never OK. As long as employees are performing at their jobs, their bodies are none of the employer’s business.
  • I’m sure you can think of many other reasons why “walking meetings” are a terrible idea. Feel free to share them in Comments.

Note: Please don’t think for a minute that I don’t believe in workplace wellness initiatives — I do. However in order for them to be truly beneficial and fair, they need to be both voluntary and inclusive.

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