Employers in the Oak Park area are realizing the benefits of a healthier lifestyle for their employees.

A new program, Workplace Wellness, is one of the many ways the West Cook YMCA is proving to be a “Y without walls” by taking its messages and methods into workplaces to help employees and employers realize the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

Oak Park Township is the Y’s first Workplace Wellness partner.

Supervisor David Boulanger says his employees were looking for ways to increase their health. He notes that while he prefers to bike around the village and that Township Manager Gavin Morgan is an avid runner, employees of the township were looking to do more than exercise.

“We already had a group of employees who had been doing wellness activities on their own and there was a wish to expand that and add a fitness component. When we explored what the new Workplace Wellness program offered, it was a natural fit.

“Overall, we have found that healthy employees make happy employees, which contributes greatly to our environment. On the financial side, our health insurance rates are affected by how many health care visits employees make,” Boulanger said.

Jonathan Lever, Vice President for Health and Innovation for the YMCA of the USA, agrees with Boulanger that the benefits of wellness can extend to the financial side of a business as well. “It’s better to prevent conditions before they manifest. It’s more expensive to treat a disease than it is to prevent one,” he said.

Employees who are fit are less likely to become sick, have more energy to focus on the task at hand, greater self-confidence, set and achieve goals and are less stressed. Increasing physical and mental health of employees can have a direct relationship with work performance and workplace environment, Lever said.

Lever, an Oak Park resident, points out ways the West Cook YMCA is helping employers like the Oak Park Township improve their health environment. “We bring the Y to the place people go every working day. We offer worksite classes. There are ‘Lunch and Learns’ to help educate employees on a number of health topics from fitness, to disease prevention, to nutrition,” he said.

Fitness classes in Tai Chi, Yoga, and Stretch and Relax bring the gym to the workplace. Nutritional seminar topics include weight management, carbohydrate information, the impact of nutrition on disease prevention and emotional stress and eating. On-site health risk assessments are offered which include evaluations of body mass index (BMI) waist circumference, blood pressure and body fat percentage, Lever said.

In addition, workplace wellness employees can take advantage of all the benefits of the West Cook YMCA at discounted prices. A free fitness consultation with a wellness coach is included in the program to help participants map a personal plan for success.

Employers seeking information about the Workplace Wellness program, contact Phillip Jiménez at phillip@westcookymca.org.

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