Creating Healthy Communities Through a Healthy Workplace

A short while ago I was asked to present for one of our communities largest non-profit on the topic of health and creating a life of wellness.  Prior to the talk, I questioned why the office wanted to bring in a presenter on such a topic and what they wanted to get out of the experience.  The conversation that followed gave me warm fuzzies.  Yes, just as a computer nerd gets excited discussing gigabytes, a heat sink, kilobytes, megahertz, and ports; I get very excited ranting about goal-setting, body-fat, striations, and protein to carbohydrate ratios.

Case Study

Anyway, it was brought to my attention that this non-profit was dedicated to creating a healthy workplace.  Over the years I have heard a number of businesses attempt to do this, but few have accomplished this successfully.  What was different about this situation?  For starters, all the junk in the vending machines were replaced with healthy alternatives.  Candy bars for whole grain crackers, Twix for trail mix, soda for water or juice.

A large economical refrigerator was installed to accommodate packed lunches. An exercise and nutrition information board was posted with weekly tips.  A healthy newsletter is printed on a regular basis with information about health and local events.  Employees were encouraged to join the newly formed lunch-time walking group.  Guest speakers were invited to come and present.  Now, do you see why I was so excited?  It is so rare to hear employers support and implement a healthy workplace program.  With rising healthcare costs, workers compensation through the roof, it’s surprising more employers aren’t doing what they can to promote healthier employees.

So, what’s an employee to do?

Applaud management when they offer programs to help employees develop healthful lifestyles, and work constructively to support these programs.  Find a friend at work that will walk with you at lunchtime or go to the fitness center after work.  Schedule exercise time into your work week.  Tell co-workers exercise helps you manage stress and get them to join you!  Volunteer to organize a walking group, and take a healthful dish to the next potluck instead of the quadruple fudge caramel double chocolate brownies.

It takes a village to create a healthy environment, and, we have to promote it in every corner.  Outside of work, think about what else you can do to make San Luis Obispo a healthier place?  Pick a project that would be rewarding.  Encourage schools to offer quality physical education programs.  Volunteer to coach a sort or teach an after-school program.  Help plan and build a bike path.  Let your children walk a safe route to school!  If everyone does a little bit, our community will provide a better support for healthier lifestyles.


Julian J. Varela holds an M.S. degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist.  Julian also holds an M.A. in Clinical Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy and is a registered MFT intern with the Center for Human Understanding and Growth.
He can be contacted at

How Healthy is Your Workplace?
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