Fort Lewis, Wa — To promote more productive civilian employees, several branches of the military began hosting wellness programs that allow workers to focus on health and physical activity during working hours.

The Navy's Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Pearl Harbor, HI, officially established an Employee Health and Wellness Program last month. Employees can designate three hours per week during the official work day to participate in the program, though supervisors are authorized to suspend participation if critical mission needs warrant it.

The Army also started an employee wellness program at the Sheridan Sports and Fitness Center for Installation Management Command at Fort Lewis, WA.

Participants in this program also are allowed to work out for three hours per week during duty hours and are offered the services of a personal trainer. In addition, program organizers monitor their blood pressure, cardio fitness, body fat and flexibility.

About 140 civilian employees graduated in April from the six-month fitness program. A second group of employees started the program the same month by taking benchmark evaluations to track their progress.

Most participants showed improvement in some, if not all, evaluated areas, says Cindy Branton, the Fort Lewis health promotion officer, who said the overall feedback from program participants was positive.

“Statistics say if they're exercising, employees are more productive,” Branton says. “There is ‘presenteeism’ when you're present at work but you're not actually doing anything. Statistics show that when they're exercising, they feel better, they're healthier and they're more productive the hours they are at work. And stress levels decrease.”