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John McMillan: It’s a good time to get healthier

John McMillan • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:43 PM

I had to pick the hottest, most humid time of the year to start exercising and attempt to lose some weight. Notice I said attempt. 

I wouldn’t want to put myself out on a limb and actually set a goal. 

By now you’ve heard me mention the Small Starts program to encourage healthier living in Tennessee. I’d like to shed a little more light onto this exciting program for employers, employees and individuals and how it can make the return to healthier living a little less difficult.

The basis of the program is about being physically active for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. It’s about eating healthier and not using tobacco. The Small Starts program is about “…working together as citizens, employers, school systems, community organizations, health-care systems and local government agencies toward a single, shared goal—a Healthier Tennessee,” according to the new healthiertn.com website.

Led by Gov. Bill Haslam and made possible by The Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness, the movement is one which United Way of Wilson County and United Ways across the state have been asked to join in and lend their support. So what is it?

Within the new website, Small Starts is introduced as part of a toolkit for employers and employees.  

This interactive wellness site is full of tips, ideas, and actions to help employees get healthier and help businesses get recognized as a Healthier Tennessee Workplace.

Not long ago, employee wellness programs were expensive and difficult to monitor. Now, once employers put the Small Start program into practice, they can encourage employees to monitor their own health through regular health check-ups, and reward and recognize those employees for their success and participation. 

Since United Way has been asked to promote not just healthier living, but the state’s new website, I decided I’d sign up as an employer. Having been involved with an employee wellness level in corporate America, I was impressed with how many options and tips there are to encourage employees. In all, 57 different categories of Small Starts to get into a healthier lifestyle. Sure some may seem simple, but that’s just the point.  There’s even a “My Stats” area for individuals to keep track of their progress.

In so many self-help programs, participants are told to make their bed immediately after they get up. Not because it’s difficult, but because it’s easy and it gets you into the habit of setting simple goals and conquering them. The same holds true with a healthier lifestyle. Motivation gained through repeated success is key to kicking the habit of tobacco use or learning to eat healthier.

In the end, healthier employees mean more productive employees and better insurance rates. For the employees themselves, healthier lifestyles mean being more productive, less doctor visits, more energy and, if you can quit the tobacco habit, more money in your pocket.

Your company isn’t interested? Not a problem, sign up as an individual. It’s free, simple and may set you on a path to a healthier you. Heck, I might just set a goal myself.

John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County. Email him at jmunitedway@bellsouth.net

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