Leaders empowered to promote wellness, proper nutrition

By Alexandria Brimage-Gray Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support

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Today’s workforce is often faced with changing priorities, meeting-filled days and consistently increasing demands on their time and attention, leading some to feel they lack the time to exercise or eat nutritious food throughout the day.

In an effort to empower leaders to combat those challenges, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Command Support Office hosted a “Wellness in the Workplace” leadership forum Feb. 11 in Philadelphia to encourage supervisors to create a culture of wellness in their workplace.

DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Gavin Lawrence opened the forum by explaining the impact wellness has on effective leadership.

“Today, we want to discuss executive health and the importance of comprehensive health and fitness among our leaders and across our organization, because it is essential,” Lawrence said.

The organization invited Laura Mitvalsky, director of the Army Public Health Center’s Health Promotion and Wellness Directorate to explain the importance of three elements of the Performance Triad: sleep, activity and nutrition.

“Adults need 7-8 hours [of sleep] a day to sustain mental operations, she said. Exercise is proven to reduce the risk of depression and anxiety as well as [improve] cognitive function. A balanced and varied diet improves mood and sense of well-being.”

Mitvalsky defined wellness as a journey, and told supervisors that they are in a position to create an environment for change in the workplace.

“Create healthy behaviors like holding walking face-to-face meetings, encouraging employees to make use of their sit-stand desk and standing during meetings instead of sitting,” she said.

Joanna Reagan, a 30-year Army dietitian and Army Public Health Center employee was also on hand with tips to promote healthy eating behaviors.

“Ditch the empty calories by fueling your body every 3-4 hours; by eating smaller portions of lean proteins, carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables throughout the day,” Reagan said.

Reagan challenged the leaders to defend themselves against mindless eating.

“Make healthy foods more visible and available while making the less healthy food unavailable,” she said.

Mitvalsky also provided ways leaders can incorporate healthy eating in the workplace.

“Replace the office candy jars with healthy fruits or nuts,” Mitvalsky said. “Create policies that promote health, host healthy potlucks, and offer healthy food at meetings and events.”

Organization Transformation Branch Chief Patricia Lynch explained how wellness programs benefit the agency.

“Health and wellness are just as important to the organization as they are to the individual,” Lynch said. “It is proven that a healthy workforce results in increased performance, decreased sick time and lower healthcare costs.”

The leadership forum concluded with a brief discussion on reasonable accommodation and medical telework.