EDINA, Minn. -- Heather Peters and Craig Bader focus on their work in a sunlit office at Dairy Queen's corporate headquarters in Edina.
As their computer keyboards are clicking, their feet are walking on LifeSpan treadmills, one of several products on the market aimed at a growing market, office workers.
"A lot of people have been hearing the term -- "sitting disease" that researchers are calling it," said Megan Weizel, who manages the wellness program for Dairy Queen.
A call from LifeSpan prompted Weizel to take a closer look at not just the product, but also how to convince more employees to take steps to improve their fitness.
"The one thing that I hear in that skepticism piece is that people say 'I have no time to go down there and use the treadmills,'" Weizel said.
Peters, who is also part of the wellness committee, found the treadmills do what they advertise, let you work, and squeeze in a workout.
"You can really accomplish a lot of work at the same time as walking," said Peters. "And it really helps you get through those more tedious tasks."
Employers are wise to look at ways to encourage fitness among workers. With healthcare costs a major concern, employee fitness is a bottom line issue.
Steven Benton, M.D. is a cardiologist with HealthEast Heart Care. he says all the hours office workers spend sitting at their desks takes a toll on health.
"It reduces our metabolic rate, so it makes us more likely to gain weight. If we're not bearing weight, our bones may not retain the density that they should have to be strong and to avoid injury," Benton said.
Benton said sitting for eight hours a day can also have a negative impact on blood pressure, and blood sugar.
"We're not intended to be still all the day long," he added.
The good news is, change doesn't have to be dramatic to make a difference.
"The American Heart Association has recommended that everyone try to exercise for at least thirty minutes, three times a week," said Benton. "They say you can break that up into ten minute segments."
Enough time to squeeze in a quick run on a treadmill at work. Dairy Queen is making other changes to it's workspace as well.
Weitzel says the company is adding showers and locker rooms so people can freshen up if they exercise on their lunch hour, or bike into work.
They're also renovating a space to have classes in fitness and wellness. The company already offers a weekly yoga class.
Weitzel says the hope is these moves will help keep down health costs. The company also recognizes a robust wellness program is a perk for both current and future employees.
"We're looking at not just these, but our whole wellness program as a recruitment tool," Weitzel said.
Weitzel says there are good resources for wellness programs that are inexpensive, even free. She says Dairy Queen has been working with Hennepin County, which offers numerous options for employers.
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