Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL


March 18, 2010

Clay County residents losing pounds through employer- sponsored fitness programs

FLORA — A growing number of Clay County residents are shrinking their waistlines thanks to an upspring of employer-sponsored fitness programs.

The weight loss craze started last summer, when 23 Clay County Hospital employees lost a collective 1,000 pounds as part of a new Weight Watchers at Work program funded by the hospital.

Their success caught on fast. The Clay County Health Department and Clay City schools started their own Weight Watchers at Work sessions, and the Health Department’s Women Out Walking program surged in popularity.

Last week, county courthouse employees became the latest to jump on the fitness bandwagon after the county board agreed to pay for courthouse employees to attend the hospital’s latest Weight Watchers session.

“Success is contagious, and I think the community has seen how successful the hospital employees have been, and it’s spread like wildfire,” said Weight Watchers leader Kristie Periman, who leads sessions at the hospital and health department.

Even as new fitness groups sprouted up around the county, the hospital’s program broadened its reach, opening up to community members at large. The hospital is currently beginning its third session of Weight Watchers at Work and is quickly closing in on 2,000 pounds worth of lost weight since its first session in July 2009.

As part of the employer-sponsored program, the county pays employees’ $186 sign-up fee with the condition that they attend at least 15 of the 17 meetings, held weekly in the hospital conference room. But the county expects its investment to pay off in the long run.

“If we have a healthier population, we’re going to reduce sick days and insurance costs and have a happier group of employees,” said Hospital President Bob Sellers.

Clay County Board President Sue Pettit pitched an expansion of the program for courthouse employees at the last board meeting using the same logic.

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