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November 7, 2012

Newbury employees make every step count

NEWBURY — A group of Newbury employees is taking positive steps to improve their health by participating in the “Make Every Step Count” walking program.

The free, self-directed fitness program is designed to encourage healthier and long-lasting lifestyle behaviors, which may in turn help the community control its health care costs. Newbury municipal employees kicked off the walking fitness program on Oct. 1.

According to a press release, the Town of Newbury recognizes that encouraging employees and their family members to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors through engaging wellness and fitness programs offered at the work site may help them create new healthy living habits. Over the long term, officials are hoping such changes can improve employees’ health and quality of life and may lead to bottom-line savings on the town’s health insurance costs, according to the release.

The Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association, the town’s health insurance provider, offers the fitness programs at no cost as a membership benefit.

“We’re pleased that so many of our employees chose to take advantage of the walking program,” Town Administrator Tracy Blais said in the release. “The MIIA programs have provided us with many opportunities to make small changes that lead to healthier lifestyles.”

The employees’ first challenge is to walk 10,000 or more steps three times a week. Next, employees commit to walks of 30 continuous minutes or more five times a week, increasing distance, movement and intensity along the way. Participants wear pedometers that track and record their daily mileage from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed. The goal of the program is to help participants increase the amount of walking done every day and make it a regular habit.

According to MIIA Health Benefits Trust, individuals who do not exercise spend 10 percent more on health care and use twice the amount of sick time than those who do exercise regularly. The trust reports that regular exercise and lifestyle changes can help prevent the risk of many diseases that can be most costly to employers, such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. In addition to exercise, a well-balanced diet, an overall healthy lifestyle and regular doctor visits can greatly reduce the risk of these diseases and other chronic illnesses, the trust reports.

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