Employee Wellness Program offers options for campus community to get active

Members of the CWRU Walking Club take a quick break on their lunchtime walk this spring.

Exercise challenges … Zumba classes… cooking demonstrations—Case Western Reserve’s thinkFit program has offered all manner of opportunities for campus constituents to enhance their health.

So who would have thought that an activity as elementary as walking would prove to be this summer’s biggest draw?

Robin Brown, for one.

The university payroll clerk had tried traditional workout options without success, but somehow the simplicity of basic walking turned into her ticket to major weight loss—and much more.

“[I have] lost a total of 31 pounds, met tons of wonderful people and never had a dull moment,” Brown said.

Launched this spring, the CWRU Walking Club has attracted 180 participants in one- to three-mile lunchtime sessions around campus. The group’s activities even have grown to include local community walking events and fundraisers, such as Relay for Life or the Walk to Cure Diabetes.

Of course, plenty of people still prefer more ambitious exercise options, from running and strength training programs to adventure racing and even an eight-week initiative known as “Get Fit For Life.” The university covers half of the “Get Fit” costs for the first 20 participants in each of four programs offered.

Employees take part in the free Yoga on the Quad classes, the last of which will be held today.

“Common excuses for not pursuing better health are money and time said Bryn Mota, director of 121 Fitness and organizer of the university’s Employee Wellness Program, “so we wanted to offer free activities during the workday, and to encourage healthy lifestyles and connect people on campus to enhance a positive, successful, supportive, energetic and healthy workplace.”

To date, more than 150 university employees have participated in the “Get Fit for Life” offerings, losing a total of 860 pounds.

Sridevi Cherukuri, a bioinformatics project manager in the Center for Clinical Investigation, said she initially joined “Get Fit for Life” to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle. Through the help of her trainers, she moved past her “indifference” to her health and now regularly pushes herself and her coworkers to be healthier.

Others also are encouraging colleagues to get active. After starting “Get Fit for Life” in July 2011, Marc Rubin, director of Environmental Health and Safety, encouraged members of his department to consider participation. Six are now active at 121, while three more are regular exercisers. As a result, Rubin said, his coworkers seem “happier, healthier, more willing to get involved and much more active.”

Employee wellness extends beyond exercise, however. Bon Appetit Management Co. chefs conduct complimentary cooking demonstrations, while university faculty and other experts offer free health sessions.

All events rely on donations and assistance from members of the Case Western Reserve University community. For example, the Office of Human Resources manages the program, Bon Appetit donates the food, chef and supplies for the cooking demonstrations, and 121 Fitness provides fitness instructors for activity classes.

For more information on the Employee Wellness Program, visit the group’s Facebook page. For feedback or suggestions, contact Mota.