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How to successfully implement a Health, Wellbeing or Injury Prevention Program

Over the past ten years I have worked with a lot of employers in both government and private sectors in offering health, wellbeing and injury prevention services. Over that time, I found that the success of the program can vary a lot from company to company. Based on my experience, the following can provide some guidance.

 

  1. Commitment from the top

 If there is a genuine commitment from executives, senior managers, and supervisors then programs are more likely to be a success. Through my time, I have seen CEO’s and other executives participating in warm-up for work programs with all the other staff and conversely, I have had senior managers be disgruntled and saying a similar program was a waste of time and affecting work efficiency. Needless to say, the first group had a far greater participation rate than the second group.

 

  1. Opportunity for all employees to engage

Providing a genuine chance for all employees to engage in programs is also crucial. This means scheduling services that provide the opportunity for all staff to participate. I have had the experience of seeing lunchtime group exercise sessions being run where half of the workforce is out on the road at that time and no chance to participate. When I quizzed the program co-ordinator about arranging a time that would suit a greater number of staff, they brushed it off that ‘they wouldn’t want to participate anyway’. It was unfortunate to see half of the workforce being left out.

 

  1. Communicate to ALL staff

 Along similar lines to the previous point, it is important to ensure all staff are aware of the health and wellbeing programs that are being provided. Staff working in different areas will need to be communicated differently. A company wide email is great, but if half of the staff don’t have access or use their company email then it is pointless. Other options can include direct supervisors and managers discussing these programs at toolbox talks and encouraging staff to participate. A personal touch goes a long way to increasing engagement in these programs.

 

  1. Constant review and evaluation

What works for one company might not work for another. If the program you implemented was not as successful as you hoped it would be then it doesn’t necessarily mean it failed. Using some of the strategies above to help promote the program may assist such as better communication or encouraging greater support from senior managers. It may also be that your organisation is unique and needs a more tailored approach to run health and wellbeing programs.

 

Absolute Balance has a wealth of experience in running corporate health, wellbeing, and injury prevention programs. If you are struggling to engage your workforce and want some advice from someone with a vast knowledge of running programs, please contact Aaron from Absolute Balance at aaron@absolutebalance.com.au

Aaron McErlaine

(BSc – ExHealth, BSc – ExRehab, Dip WHS, Cert IV TAE)
Health & Injury Prevention Services Manager (AEP) (ESSAM)

 

Should you bother with pre-work stretching programs?

Pre-work stretching programs are commonplace in some industries, particularly in mining. It is engrained in the mining industry that these programs will prevent workplace injuries. From experience in other industries, pre-work stretching programs aren’t as popular and quite often they are seen as a waste of time amongst management and staff. If your company does have a program up and running, you will be happy to know that the evidence does suggest that they are most definitely worthwhile.

One of the big pushbacks on stretching programs from workers and managers that I regularly see is they can be time-consuming and employees would prefer just to get on with their work. A recent study on factory workers by Aje et al (2018) identified that an 8-minute stretching program that was implemented significantly reduced the rate of injuries. This shows that these programs don’t have to take a huge time commitment to get effective results. A small-time commitment and a reduction in injuries meant a net cost saving for the employer.

As well as the cost-saving nature of reduced workers’ compensation claims, stretching programs can have various other benefits to both workers and employers. A review by Soares et al (2019) found that workplace exercise intervention programs can reduce absenteeism, time-off requests, sickness absence, and improved subjective workability. This review also further backed up the cost-saving nature of workplace preventative exercise programs.

Like any preventative exercise program, a workplace stretching program should be designed specifically to match the requirements of the workers as well as the job role. That means a generic stretching program may not necessarily be effective in reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

Absolute Balance’s Accredited Exercise Physiologists are experts in tailoring targeted preventative exercise programs including stretching programs for organisations throughout Australia. For more information on how we can help, contact aaron@absolutebalance.com.au for more information.

Aaron McErlaine (BSc – ExHealth, BSc – ExRehab, Dip WHS, Cert IV TAE)
Health & Injury Prevention Services Manager (AEP) (ESSAM)

References:

Aje O, Smith-Campbell B, & Bett C (2018) Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in Factory Workers: Evaluating a New Eight Minute Stretching Program. Workplace Health & Safety 66(7): 243-347.

Soares C, Pereira B, Gomes M, et. al. (2019) Preventive factors against work-related musculoskeletal disorders: narrative review. Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Trabalho 17(3): 415-430.

 

PREHAB: Posture, Pain and Function

Muscles, tendons, joints and nerves are extremely susceptible to injury, when under stressful situations or traumatised over an extended period. Regardless of the occupation, most of the working population are involved in completing repetitive movements and maintaining postures for long periods of time. Based on current literature the most common injuries in the workplace are the lower back, neck and shoulders. These affected areas then cause a reduction in the productivity of companies, therefore implementing health and safety strategies may reduce the likelihood of workplace injuries.

At the end of August, Absolute Balance conducted an initiative for Iluka Resources to address pre-existing injuries and/or physical goals of the current employees; this program was called “PREHAB”. The program involved conducting an initial assessment for 30 minutes, which included a health and lifestyle questionnaire and a functional assessment (Range of motion, special tests and manual muscle testing). This allowed the Absolute Balance team to construct a comprehensive exercise program to address physical discrepancies or imbalances of each of the employees. Each employee was provided with an exercise program addressing sets, repetitions and rest periods, accompanied by self-managing equipment (foam rollers, spikey balls and resistance bands). This provided the employees with the tools to tackle any pre-existing injuries they may have.

Most injuries that were assessed by Absolute Balance included lower back pain, bursitis, tennis or golfers’ elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, general tightness/soreness, postural imbalances and many more. The main goal of the initiative was to empower the employees with exercises that would provide symptomatic relief of the area of concern, while strengthening the surrounding musculature. When completing the functional assessments, a common re-occurrence of the employees were postural imbalances of the upper and lower limbs e.g rounded shoulders. This may be caused either from poor ergonomics and or repetitive movements in sustained postures under load (Wang, 2016).

Corporate wellness programs have received a rejuvenating jolt in the past several years whether it be group classes, nutritional advice and or health checks. Another area that should not be overlooked is the employees’ physical posture. Like physical activity, good posture is linked with a range of health and well-being benefits. Several studies have concluded that implementing exercises such as resistance-based and or stretching has a positive effect on postural imbalances, reducing the impact of workplace musculoskeletal pain (Kim & lee, 2004; Kim et al., 2015). The main goal of PREHAB was to empower employees with exercise programs to address underlying musculoskeletal injuries, that cause discomfort in working tasks or other activities. The program received good feedback from the employees as it provided education and the tools to complete the exercises at home or at work.

If you believe that your company would benefit from a program such as “PREHAB”, get in contact with us today either by emailing info@absolutebalance.com.au or calling us on 9244 5580.

 

David McClung, B.Sc. Exercise Science and Rehabilitation (AEP, AES) (ESSAM)
Accredited Exercise Physiologist

References:

Kim, J. K., & Lee, S. J. (2004). Effect of stretching exercise as work-related musculoskeletal pain of neck and shoulder. J Kor Alliance Health Phys Edu43(43), 655-62.

Kim, D., Cho, M., Park, Y., & Yang, Y. (2015). Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain. Journal of Physical Therapy Science27(6), 1791-1794.

Wang, C. (2016). Good Posture and its Wealth of Benefits to the Workplace. Lumo Bodytech.

 

 

A NEGATIVE Lift Has POSITIVE Results

Resistance training consists of two main movements, concentric and eccentric. Concentric movement is when the muscle shortens whilst producing force, an example of this is the pushing phase of a bench press. Eccentric movement is the lengthening of a muscle whilst under tension, this occurs on the lowering of a bench press. More often than not a resistance training program will focus on the concentric portion of the lift as this is known to be the ‘best’ way to increase muscle size and strength. However, recent studies have shown that if your main goal is to increase overall muscle size and strength, then eccentric training may be more beneficial. There are several ways a program can implement eccentric training, the most common and widely used variation is tempo.

Tempo is used to alter the speed in which a movement is performed putting particular focus into the eccentric portion, resulting in a greater time under tension (TUT). Along with other variables, TUT is important for promoting a greater stimulus which increases both muscle strength and size. Depending on experience level and current training phase, the tempo used will change accordingly. When focusing on muscular endurance the eccentric phase of exercise is ideally between 2-6 seconds (s). However, if your goal is more focused toward hypertrophy or strength the eccentric portion is between 2-4s and 1-2s respectively (P.Mcall, 2019).

Interpreting tempo is very simple, more often than not it will be written in a four-figure configuration. The first number of the sequence represents the first movement pattern of the exercise. For example: 3/2/X/1 in a squat will be a 3s lowering phase, 2s pause, X (explosive) upward phase and a 1s reset before the next repetition. However, if this same tempo was to be implemented into a deadlift due to the different starting movement the tempo will be interpreted slightly differently. For example: 3/2/2/1 where 3s is the upward phase, 2s pause, 2s lowering phase, and a 1s reset.

Implementing tempo into your training program is an effective way to progressively overload a muscle fibre without having to add extra weight. Next time you hit a plateau try giving tempo a go, alternatively, you can contact us at info@absolutebalance.com.au for more information.

Cameron Galati 

Accredited Exercise Physiologist

B.Sc. Exercise and Rehabilitation, B.Sc. Exercise and Sport Science, (AEP,AES) (ESSAM)

References:

 G, Dudley., P, Tesch., B, Miller., & P, Buchanan. 2016. Importance of eccentric actions in performance adaptations to resistance training. Journal of European Medicine, 62(6).

Brandenbrug, J., & Docherty, D. (2002). The effects of accentuated eccentric loading on strength, muscle hypertrophy, and neural adaptations in trained individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 16(1), 25-32.

Vogt, M., & Hoppeler, H. (2014). Eccentric exercise: mechanics and effects when used as training regime. Journal of Applied Physiology.

McCall, P. (2014). Weightlifting tempo and amp: sets: how to select the right tempo counts. American Council on Exercise.

 

Weight training – How many repetitions should I do?

One of the most common questions we get asked from new or existing gym members is “How many repetitions should I do?”. The answer, like most questions about the human body is, “it depends.” The level of resistance used, and the number of reps performed have an inverse relationship with each other and choosing different combinations of these two will lead to different results. The optimal rep range and weight load for you will depend directly on your specific, unique training goals and which are most important to you.

Training for muscular size:

If you’re training for muscle size (hypertrophy), choose a weight at which you reach muscular failure between the 8-12 rep range. In other words, after your warmup sets, you should select a load that you can complete at least 8 reps but not more than 12. That means, if you can only do 6-8 reps, the weight is too heavy, so reduce for the subsequent sets. It also means that the weight is a little too light if you are able to do more than 12 without failure. The rest period is between 1-2 minutes between sets to avoid full rest for the working muscle.

Training for strength:

When focusing on maximising your strength, you want to train with even heavier loads but less reps, ranging from 1-6. This is how the strongest men and women train. Obviously, with this type of training you will need to program it so you can progress on decreasing your reps eg: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 in a 3 – 4 month program – especially if you’re new to heavier loads. The rest time between sets is 3-5 minutes. This will allow the muscles to rest a little bit longer ready for the next coming sets to be performed.

Training for muscle endurance:

Focusing on muscle endurance means that you’re working on light weights that can be done for 15-20 reps or more. The light weight allows you to maintain the activity for a longer period. This type of training would be great for distance runners or swimmers whose goal is to be able to endure as many strides or strokes as possible to support their desired results. Regular endurance training makes your body more efficient at clearing lactic acid from the muscles hence why the rest period is shorter; 45 seconds – 1 minute, to keep the muscles active.

So why do reps and resistance levels matter? Different repetition ranges trigger different kinds of adaptations in the muscle tissue being trained. These different rep ranges can and must be used to attain different goals. Anyone with a general goal becoming more fit would be best served by incorporating all three rep ranges into their workouts to make sure they are getting all the benefits of resistance training.

Norlina Yakin

Exercise Physiologist

 

References:

https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/what-is-the-optimal-time-between-sets-for-muscle-growth.html

https://www.strongerbyscience.com/hypertrophy-range-fact-fiction/

Fit to Waist away: A workplace exercise program to improve health benefits of employees.

As we have been told for many years implementing exercise into your daily routine has many potential health benefits, however, despite knowing the benefits, most of the population do not meet the recommended guidelines. Sedentary jobs are common in employed adults with approximately half of all waking hours spent at their workplace, therefore, the implementation of exercise programs during this period is known to be an effective strategy to reduce sedentarism and improve overall health (Conn et al., 2009). Incorporating a workplace program can also promote group cohesion, build friendships and improve the overall social climate (Jakobsen et al., 2017; Berry, Mirabito & Baun, 2010).

Over a 12-week period, consisting of two 6-week blocks, Absolute Balance undertook a workplace exercise program at the Shire of Mundaring. The aim of the “Fit to waist away” program was to improve physical fitness while also increasing the social interaction of the participating employees. Prior to the group sessions, all participants completed an initial assessment which included baseline (heart rate, blood pressure, body mass, body fat percentage, circumference measurements etc) and functional assessments (push-ups, squats, step up test, flexibility). These assessments allowed the Absolute Balance consultants to address any physical discrepancies that presented themselves, while also allowing for goals to be set. Whether it be for body composition, functional improvements or both, the Absolute Balance team worked alongside the participants to provide a comprehensive approach to exercise. The assessments were then re-taken after each 6-week block and to track progression.

The group exercise sessions that were run by the Absolute Balance team, included a variety of exercise formats which included; boxing, circuit classes, bodyweight movement, and mobility. This allowed all participants to be introduced to a range of different training styles, which in turn provided for a uniquely physical and mentally stimulating environment. Over the 12 weeks, all participants had positive increases in their functional assessments, with both upper and lower limbs increasing in overall muscular strength and endurance. A large proportion of participants also had changes in body composition over both 6-week periods. Specifically, one participant lost 5 kgs off their total body mass, with a reduction in both waist and hip circumferences. This program conducted by Absolute Balance identified that by implementing workplace programs directly into the daily routine of employers leads to improvements in both physical and psychosocial factors. This is supported by several academic research articles that have all concluded that; through the implementation of structured workplace exercise programs, improvements in physical, mental, and social health of employees can be seen (Conn et al., 2009; Jakobsen et al., 2017; Berry et al., 2010).

On completion of the structured 12-week program, all employees involved responded positively and stated how ‘they had thoroughly enjoyed the workplace program’. This program has clearly identified the importance of implementing exercise into daily working routines, with both body composition and functional changes seen throughout all participants.

If you think that your workplace would benefit from this program please contact us on 9244 5580 and or email at us info@absolutebalance.com.au.

David McClung (B.Sc. Exercise Science and Rehabilitation)
Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)

 

References:

Berry, L., Mirabito, A. M., & Baun, W. (2010). What’s the hard return on employee wellness programs?. Harvard Business Review, December, 2012-68.

Conn, V. S., Hafdahl, A. R., Cooper, P. S., Brown, L. M., & Lusk, S. L. (2009). Meta-analysis of workplace physical activity interventions. American Journal of Preventive Medicine37(4), 330-339.

Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., & Andersen, L. L. (2017). Psychosocial benefits of workplace physical exercise: cluster randomized controlled trial. BMC Public Health17(1), 798.

 

Standing up to your Sitting Habits

It’s Wednesday morning at the Forrest Centre gym and one of the weekly Mobility, Stability and Flexibility sessions are about to get underway. Within minutes of sinking into their first mobility exercise (wall-supported deep squat), varying levels of discomfort are displayed across attendee’s faces as they attempt to overcome stiff spines, tight adductors, rigid ankles and adhesive hip capsules. Like many workers in the modern-day workforce, the majority of our duties are performed from a seated desk. Subsequently, this position can cause shortened and tight hip flexors, making it difficult to enter and sustain fundamental movement patterns that express full ranges of a joint (such as the deep squat). In addition to this common example of musculoskeletal maladaptation, there is also a growing body of evidence that highlights other concerning health conditions that can be developed as a consequence of prolonged sitting such as:

  • Lowered cognitive performance
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Cancers (lung, uterine and colon cancer)
  • Decreased metabolism
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes

Evidently, it is quite clear that too much time sitting poses a significant risk to our health. The below infographic from the National Heart Foundation illustrates the amount of time that an average Australian adult spends in a seated position:

 

Source: “Sit Less, Move More” info sheet. National Heart Foundation

 

In light of these alarming statistics, how can deskbound workers possibly win this ongoing war against the chair?

One prominent strategy that has gained momentum in recent years has been utilising sit to standing desks.  Despite its popularity, standing to work has also been shown to be problematic when utilised for extended durations, as it demands ~20% more energy than sitting.  Additionally, it has been shown to place additional load on the circulatory system, whilst also increasing the risk of varicose veins. Ultimately, standing desks seem to be an intermittent strategy to employ, only to be utilised in moderation and not solely relied upon.

 

The Solution? Microbreaks!

For many years, ergonomists have recommended interrupting sitting by periodic standing and movements throughout the day.  An ergonomics Professor from the University of Cornell, Alan Hedge, has extensive experience researching workplace ergonomics and its impact on health, comfort and productivity. Based on his findings, he strongly advocates a 30-minute formula designed to keep worker’s joints, muscles and metabolism healthy: 20 minutes sitting, 8 minutes standing and 2 minutes of movement (see below).

Source: http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/CUESitStandPrograms.html

 

The underlying notion is that no ergonomic chair, strategically placed peripherals or standing desk can protect you from the danger of hours of sitting every day. Regardless of the position, movement is imperative for all humans, as we are not designed to be stationary for long periods. Therefore, identifying these opportunities to create incidental movements in the workplace (e.g. hourly water breaks, standing for meetings, parking further away from the building or taking the stairs) each day may very well be the key to avoiding the potential dangers of prolonged sitting on your health.

If you’re interested in learning more about effective strategies to counteract the negative health effects of extended sitting, please email us at info@absolutebalance.com.au.

 

Nic Gallardo

B.Sc. Exercise Science and Rehabilitation
Exercise Physiologist

References:

Owen, N., Healy, G. N., Matthews, C. E., & Dunstan, D. W. (2010). Too much sitting: the population health science of sedentary behavior. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews38(3), 105–113.

Thorp, A. A., Kingwell, B. A., Owen, N., & Dunstan, D. W. (2014). Breaking up workplace sitting time with intermittent standing bouts improves fatigue and musculoskeletal discomfort in overweight/obese office workers. Occup Environ Med71(11), 765-771.

Getting the most out of Corporate Wellness Programs

Corporate health and wellness programs have been around for a number of years now, particularly in larger businesses. There is evidence to back up the benefits to employees for corporate wellness programs with a meta-analysis of the literature finding that for every dollar spent on wellness programs, medical costs fall by $3.27. The literature also suggests a benefit to employers, with a fall of $2.73 in absenteeism costs for every dollar spent. Most corporate wellness programs have voluntary participation, so whilst the benefits look good on paper, it is evident anecdotally that the ‘higher risk’ workers don’t tend to participate as much in these programs. So, what can be done further?

From experience, one of the biggest factors impacting participation in programs is the lack of diversity in programs that companies tend to run with. It tends to be the same health assessments or group yoga sessions year in year out with the same people participating every year. From the perspective of a service provider, it can also be the lack of diversity of options for employers to choose from as well as the lack of malleability with programs to tailor to company needs. What may work for a group of office workers, won’t necessarily work for a group of labourers. A one size fits all approach definitely won’t work.

Absolute Balance likes to innovate and tailor it’s programs so that companies get the best return on investment with these programs. This can only be done by sitting down with the client and identifying their specific needs and requirements. On the back of one such occurrence, Absolute Balance was able to create a specific program called ‘Ask the Expert’. The client identified that their employees had poor uptake in programs and were having trouble engaging. The idea of the program was to have our consultants attend their work regularly for small periods over a number of weeks, chat with the workers casually around health and build rapport. Over the course of the program, more and more people started participating with workplaces having over 75% of their workers participating in different aspects of the program.

Whilst wellness programs are beneficial, be sure to find something that works best for your employees and your business to get the best return on investment. For more information on the Ask the Expert program and other wellness services that Absolute Balance can provide, contact us at info@absolutebalance.com.au

Aaron McErlaine (BSc – ExHealth, BSc – ExRehab, Dip WHS, Cert IV TAE)
Senior Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)

 

References:

Baicker, K., Cutler, D., & Song, Z. (2010). Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings. Health Affairs 29 (2)

Ha, T., & Mayrell, R. (2010). Employer Wellness Initiatives Grow, But Effectiveness Varies Widely. National Institute For Health Care Reform