I just walked off the racquetball court and as I try to catch my breath, I can’t help but think about how much I enjoy and need this exercise. I have always been athletic, playing football and running track in high school. Throughout my life I made a conscious decision to make sure that I participate in individual or group exercises four or five times a week. Between playing basketball, racquetball and doing some aerobic exercises in my basement, I consider this physical activity to be essential for my health and wellness.
It is one of the reasons I enjoy overseeing EPA’s Health and Wellness Program to encourage employees to lead healthier lives. At EPA, over 94 percent of our office and laboratory locations have access to an onsite or nearby fitness center. We have numerous programs to help employees with their weight management, provide information on preventative care and nutrition, and offer health screenings.
We also sponsor numerous wellness events and activities, such as our annual Walk to Wellness program. This past May, more than 1,600 employees agency-wide, supported these events by taking a break at lunch to exercise and walk. In our laboratory in Manchester, Washington this event inspired employees to start walking together at lunchtime regularly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being physically active can reduce the risk of some cancers, help prevent falls, and improve the ability to perform everyday activities. The CDC also has documented that regular physical activity can help enhance employee productivity by keeping thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp, boosting mental health and mood, and improving sleep.
If you currently engage in some type of physical activity I encourage you to keep it up. As I mature, it really makes a difference in increasing my energy, my strength and reducing my stress. If you have not yet joined in the fitness craze, why not start now. There are many easy things that you can do at home or in your own workplace to help improve your physical fitness and health.
Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a quick and easy way to add physical activity to your daily routine. There are many simple exercises that you can do right at your desk or kitchen sink for a few minutes, that will help to keep you limber and increase your productivity. But if you can do nothing else, take a break and go for a short walk at lunch either alone or in a group. Once you make the commitment, it really does get easier – and it becomes fun.
Craig Hooks currently is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Administration and Resources Management (OARM) at EPA. In this capacity, Craig also serves as EPA’s Senior Accountable Official for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which seeks in part to spur technological advances in science and health and to invest in environmental protection and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits. Before joining EPA, Craig worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a physical scientist. He received a Masters degree in Oceanography from the Texas A and M University in 1987, and a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Florida in 1982.