Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Taking Steps

Every year, my employer offers a program whereby, if you complete a specified "health improvement" program, you receive a couple hundred dollars worth of money deposited into a health savings account -- the which in turn sends us a check in the mail whenever we have to pay for something related to health care such as a copay or prescription. The theory, which those who study the matter far more than I write is sound, is that paying your insured employees a few hundred dollars to improve their health ends up costing less in the long run since they then need medical care less. (Given that I've successfully avoided visiting a doctor's office for over two years, maybe there's actually something to this. Or maybe I'm just stubborn and don't get sick much.)

Anyway, this year the program is that if you sign up and receive a free, company-branded pedometer (or go buy your own), you can be paid $225 for recording the number of steps you walk each day (you are enjoined to strive for 10,000) and then showing an improvement in your amount of walking in the second and third months of the program over the first.

I'm of the theory that whenever someone offers to pay you to do something which you probably should have been doing anyway, you should take them up on it. So I gamely signed up and can inform you that thus far I average 7920 steps per day.

In order to try to retain a not-too-disgraceful walking total, I've added a pre-lunch walk around the office park to the daily routine. It's hot around here at the moment, and our office park is quite abominably large, so I don't circumnavigate the whole thing, but at least a building or two. Since the company is so kind as to keep the indoor temperature around 70 degrees, one is at least able to cool off quickly afterwards even on the hottest days.

Given that this is only a 10-15 minute walk (1500 to 2500 steps!), it's not exactly much of an addition to the daily routine, but over the last couple weeks I've found that taking ten or fifteen minutes to walk without being on the phone, going to or from anyway in particular, listening to music, etc. makes an increasingly discernible change in the rhythm of the day. Because it's not on the way to or from a specific meeting, and the I leave the iPod behind, it's a chance to let the mind wander and recharge -- if only briefly. Not that I find myself contemplating anything particularly deep. Anything from how the kids have been doing lately to the engineering involved in the parked motorcycles I pass to some argument I encountered online earlier to the need (far from acted on) to spend less time blogging and more time writing. Nothing very deep or profound, but I'm finding the new routine increasingly helpful in avoiding afternoon burn out. And I'm sure the extra walking doesn't hurt either.

Taking time out of the work day to go walking may not be at all the intent of the program, but given that the demands of work eat up a gradually increasing portion of my waking hours, I'm not about to consider the move unfair to the company. Indeed, if it keeps me more alert in the afternoon, it's probably a plus.


Anonymous said...

The Blackadder Says:

I hope you waited until your second or third month before you started your pre-lunch walk. Otherwise you're just making things needlessly hard on yourself. :)

crankycon said...

Even before my recent health kick I was an avid walker. I go for walks on my lunch break even if I eat lunch at my office (which is most days). In fact, I go nuts if I don't get at least for a few minutes a day. As you say, there's just something refreshing about it.

Good for you, and good on your company. If only mine would do that I'd be a rich man based on the past five months :)

Melanie B said...

Our health insurance has a similar program. Except all we had to do to get a total combined $400 worth of gift certificates to our choice of restaurants, stores or online retailers (hello, Amazon!) was fill out a couple of online surveys each.

I wish they had the pedometer thing, though. I could use another incentive to get me walking. It's so hard to motivate myself when going for a walk now means corralling two small children into the stroller. On Saturday when Dom was home and I could leave the sleeping baby with him, I did take Bella to the part. It was nice. Not nice enough to get me out of the house since then, though.

Anonymous said...

Sports Illustrated covered the MIT football team a couple years ago. Yes, MIT has a football team, without any scholarships. Every player is a walk-on. They asked one of the linemen, "You're paying a hell of a lot of money to attend one of the finest engineering schools in the world, and yet you take several hours a day to play football. Why?"

He said, "It makes me sharper. No, I'm serious. Spending a couple hours a day running around and knocking heads helps me to study better the rest of the time."