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.

Comments on: "Not In My Job Description" (3)

  1. If workplaces want to encourage more activity during the day, why not just give employees options and permission for it? Like letting it be known that people can get up and go for a short few minute walk throughout the day when they need to stretch or whatever (also taking a break can help with concentration)?

    Walking meetings sound terrible to me. If I’m walking I can’t take notes and that’s a problem for me. Also trying to stay in a formation while walking so that everyone can hear the whole group without outside noise issues, which would not be possible on city sidewalks. There is just so much that is bad about that idea to me.

    Also I’ve been curious about issues with disability and employers being required to know. I actually did have an issue like that at my last job. I was having a flair up and was literally in tears from the pain of just walking to the location of an event for work. After the event my supervisor asked me to carry some boxes and I told her I could help but I was ill and couldn’t carry too much very far. Later we had a meeting with me, her, and our director about this and me not being a team player by not wanting to carry boxes. I explained that it was a medical issue and a flair up, not an issue of not wanting to help, and they said “well how were we supposed to know that!” … because I told you at the time it was an issue? Carrying boxes of stuff happened for events but it was never a primary part of my job. And not even usually a problem for me- only a problem when I have a severe flair up like that. Was I obligated to reveal my health issues when I was hired?

  2. When I worked at Whole Foods, they had a health incentive plan. They would bring a nurse in once a month and employees could volunteer to have their blood pressure, weight and cholesterol checked. And then, at the next screening, if their numbers improved, they would actually get a bonus on their paycheck. Employees that smoked were encouraged to quit and those that did received money as well. Our store had a no-smoking policy requiring you leave the property to light one up so it did make quitting easier.

    Ironically, when I worked at a Heart Clinic..I was told that I couldn’t smoke at all, even off the clock on my own time, because we wanted to set a good example for the patients that were smokers needing to quit for health reasons. Yet these same employees paraded through the halls of the clinic with big slabs of Birthday cake (Seems like we had one every week) or plates of Fried Chicken and mayo engulfed potato salad…all the foods that our patients were being told to avoid. I felt like such a hypocrite.

    I think if employers wanted to encourage employees to be health, put a gym in the office (don’t need a lot of space) or offer a stipend to get gym memberships to a local club. Most clubs will offer big discounts to membership packages of 10 or more.

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