01/20/2004

Dawn-Elise Snipes(Always) Thinking About Wellness
with Dawn-Elise Snipes

Small Changes for Healthy Living

More than half of U.S. adults are overweight and nearly one-quarter of U.S. adults are obese.

As the prevalence of obesity has increased in the United States, so have direct and indirect health care costs. In 1994, the cost of obesity was a staggering $99.2 billion per year according to the National Institute of Health. Direct health care costs refer to prevention, diagnostic, and treatment services (for example, physician visits, medications, and hospital and nursing home care) for obesity and related illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and exacerbation of illnesses such as arthritis and osteoporosis. Indirect costs are the value of wages lost by people unable to work because of illness or disability, as well as the value of future earnings lost by premature death. For more information and more statistics, please see: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/statobes.htm

Law enforcement officers know the benefits of being healthy, but knowing and doing are two completely different things. In order to motivate officers to be fit and healthy, it is necessary to get them to see a problem with remaining unfit and the benefits in their minds must outweigh the costs (soreness, even less time with their family, less time to work overtime, boredom etceteras). If people are not currently experiencing negative consequences in their health or job due to obesity, convincing them to exercise as a preventative measure is going to be an uphill battle. It is worth noting that most departments' physical fitness test can be passed without having to workout.

Many departments have financial incentive programs to encourage officers to get in shape, but when you figure the number of hours they put in to maintaining a certain fitness level versus the payoff, it usually does not even average out to minimum wage. Larger departments have found that letting officers workout during their "meal break" has been one way to make it more financially beneficial to officers. The question remains, does the officers' improved health and productivity outweigh the costs of letting them do this? Other departments have worked out partnerships with fitness centers so the officers and their immediate families can workout for free or for a reduced membership. This improves the health of the whole family and provides a means by which officers can workout and still spend some time with their significant others.

The other major reason many people cite for not getting in shape is that it is overwhelming. When agencies educate their officers about nutrition, health and fitness, they often fail to highlight the fact that multiple small changes over time are more successful than trying to completely change ones whole way of life. For instance, do not completely eliminate any food, and any movement is better than no movement. If you have not been exercising, start slowly. If you are moving your body you are exercising. Simple suggestions to start living more healthfully (choose just one or two):

  • Eat breakfast (even if it is just a cereal bar on the way out the door)
  • Try to have one healthy meal each day
  • Do 3 increased patrols on foot each shift you work
  • Go for a 20 minute walk with your family (or your dog) after supper a few days a week
  • Set a goal to do 100 crunches, 100 push-ups, and 100 squats each day—health permitting of course
  • Play with your children or your neighbors children
  • Work in the yard
  • Go dancing with your significant other
  • Reduce habit, boredom and comfort eating. Eat for hunger.
  • Keep a food diary. You will be surprised at how much you consume.
  • Pack snacks
  • Try to eat a small meal every 3 to 5 hours

Just remember, small changes will pay big dividends!

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Contact Dawn-Elise: wellness@policeone.com

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