Wellness summit gives Nautilus program boost

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Deb’s story and other Wellness Program successes can be uncovered at the fourth annual Worksite Wellness Summit. The American Heart Association has joined forces with business leaders to provide companies with tools, resources and networking opportunities to aid in efforts to make work sites healthier.

The Worksite Wellness Summit will be Sept. 4 at the Nike Campus in Beaverton, Ore. The full-day summit features two keynote speakers, sessions that allow attendees to customize learning and a mobile case study.

Online registration is open; go to worksitewellnesssummit.org for more information.

Health care costs continue to soar, driven in large part by ongoing, preventable health conditions. Employers can play a key role in supporting employees in their efforts to live healthy lifestyles and reverse ballooning health care expenses by creating a culture of wellness at work.

One local company, Nautilus Inc., is doing just that, and their employees are losing because of it — weight, that is! As an American Heart Association Fit-Friendly Company since 2010, Nautilus has made a commitment to wellness in the work site.

Cathy Farian, senior benefits specialist at Nautilus, says that Nautilus was looking for more than the oft-used "biggest loser" challenge and wanted to reach more individuals to encourage healthy habits forever, rather than go for a one-time challenge.

Fortunately, as an annual attendee of the American Heart Association's Worksite Wellness Summit that provides companies with tools, resources, and networking opportunities to aid in their efforts to make their workplaces healthier, an idea sparked.

"After listening to Dr. James Beckerman at the 2012 summit, the dots began to line up for a companywide challenge to just walk," Farian said.

It was a simple challenge everyone could participate in, and it fit nicely into their existing Road to Wellness program. The challenge begins with a pedometer and employees aim for 100,000 steps. When they meet that goal, they earn raffle tickets toward a monthly drawing. Completion of 600,000 steps earns them a stamp for their health passport, which is part of the Nautilus participation-based Road to Wellness program.

In sharing the success of the Just Walk challenge, Farian notes that one employee, a Vancouver resident, stands out as an inspiration of how far one person can go with the help of a supportive workplace, encouraging employees, and a whole lot of spirit.

Deb's story began the month before the January challenge, at Nautilus' annual holiday party, where Road to Wellness Passport participants were celebrated with a drawing for completing the requirements.

"She was discouraged because her lifestyle had limited her physical capabilities," said Farian, and "she relied heavily on a walking cane."

She was not able to participate like others could due to her physical limitations. She had wanted to walk in the 2012 Heart Walk but feared there might not be a team shirt large enough for her.

"I shared with Deb that all it takes is 10 minutes a day, and before you know it, you'll be walking around the building," said Farian. "Then I promised her that if she committed to training and participating in the 2013 walk, a Nautilus American Heart Association team shirt would be hers."

When Deb came into the office after the first of the year and found the pedometer on her desk, she strapped it onto her shoe and began her 10 minutes a day. She started by walking up and down the hallway every day, then progressed into weaving in and out of the work areas, increasing it to twice a day, and so on. When spring came, Deb was walking outside around the building a couple times a day.

"Without saying anything, Deb was an inspiration to many," said Farian.

Deb no longer relies on a cane and joined the rest of the Nautilus team at the 2013 Heart Walk. Today, Deb is just shy of completing her 600,000 steps thanks to the support of her employer, the spark of an idea at the Worksite Wellness Summit, and a lot of dedication.


Rebecca Fancher is Director of Communications & Affiliate Digital Strategies for the American Heart Association's regional office in Portland. Jeff Bunch and Leah Fisher are volunteers for the AHA.