MANATEE -- After Manatee County residents have gorged on December holiday food and beverages they will be offered the chance to really get serious about fitness, maybe even getting approval from their bosses to exercise at work in 2017.
A new program called Worksite Wellness Recognition sponsored by Blake Medical Center, the Florida Department of Health, Manatee and the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce, will kick off in January and will focus on changing workplace culture in Manatee to embrace walking meetings, stretching at desks, planking in hallways and other freedoms to exercise at work, said Dr. Jennifer Bencie, administrator of the Florida Department of Health, Manatee.
Although launch is about four months away, the program got a kick-off of sorts on Monday with the arrival in Bradenton of Dr. John Armstrong, state surgeon general and Secretary of Health, who is a one-man-fitness-band, to inspire people to get their blood pumping.
"Everywhere I go in the state I ask people, 'What do you really want in life?'" Armstrong told a crowd of 100 at the Bishop Planetarium Monday. "And I hear it over and over again. 'I want to live as long as I can with the quality that I want.'"
And then his speech turns motivational.
"Good news. You can do it. You can do it as an individual. You can do it
as a team, as a family, within your organizations, your businesses, your community," he said. "You can make it truly a group effort and the results are nothing short of remarkable."
Armstrong was gaga over Manatee's upcoming "exercise at work" initiative and his first look at Riverwalk Monday. He walked it halfway with a group.
"If I lived here I would brown bag it every day and come here," Armstrong said."My hat is off to the people who keep Riverwalk clean. This place is pristine."
Recognizing the importance of health in all places, including work, is important, Armstrong said.
"We own our health decisions," Armstrong said. "We need to start saying, 'Yes,' to the healthy decisions that are right in front of us. The reality is that we have, within our own grasp, most of the ownership of our health because it comes down to behavior and choices. So much of what we face in our future need for health care comes from the choices we are making now that lead to chronic level diseases that are very hard to manage. Ultimately, without changing our behaviors, we are cutting our lives short."
Armstrong said he was delighted Manatee rolled out the 2017 workplace program at Bishop Planetarium.
Key Fitch, owner of Key 2 Life Training, showed exercises that can be done at a desk. She brought her own music and got the crowd doing squats, pushups, planks, triceps dips and shoulder presses.
Chief Executive Officer Dan Friedrich of Blake Medical was doing pushups, lots of them, in his white dress shirt.
Natalie Johnson, wellness manager for Manatee "Your Choice" Health Plan, said sitting just six hours a day cuts a person's life short.
"And most Americans are sitting 12 hours and more a day," Johnson said. "And if you work out at a gym and still sit six hours a day it still cuts your life short."
Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, was moving to Fitch's exercise commands.
"I worked up a sweat," Boyd said afterward. "Seriously, as a business owner myself and a state representative, I think having exercise at work is a great idea. I plan to look into it for my business."
Luz Corcuera of the Department of Health, Manatee, who helped put Monday's program together, said exercise in the workplace must start at the top, with the bosses sweating.
"Seeing Dr. Bencie and Dr. Armstrong modeling the behavior was wonderful," Corcuera said. "We did it in the Planetarium to show you can do exercise in limited spaces."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.