OLYMPIC ICE SKATE MARIKA SUPPORTS GET FIT SCHEME

31 May 2006

A pioneering project looking at how a healthy lifestyle affects work performance could provide a boost for the Welsh economy.

Tesco Broughton

Staff at Tesco Broughton are about to become guinea pigs for a unique experiment bringing together the supermarket, local authority, sports chiefs and university experts.

Over the next 12 months, a team of 75 volunteers will have their physical health, psychological wellbeing and work productivity measured by researchers at Liverpool’s John Moore’s University.

In the first programme of its kind ever to be undertaken in Wales, the tests will be evaluated to produce a blueprint of physical activity that could be used by other businesses.

The Tesco staff have been split into three groups: the first will undertake a programme of activity specifically planned for them, the second will be encouraged to take regular exercise they have chosen themselves, and the third will carry on with activities they already enjoy.

The aim of the project is that not only will the employees enjoy and benefit from their lifestyle changes, but that analysis will also show that regular physical activity can help improve staff productivity, cut down on sickness and create a better workplace atmosphere.

The Sports Council for Wales and Sport Flintshire have devised the programme with the support of the store’s management.

"We’re delighted that Tesco has been so far-sighted as to agree to take part in this innovative venture," said Sports Council for Wales Chair Phil Carling.

"It’s well-documented that fit and active people make happier employees, lose less work time and have energy that rubs off on their colleagues.

"The staff have responded with enthusiasm and, with the professional support of Sport Flintshire and expert input from John Moore’s University, we’re hopeful of producing some results that will make other businesses sit up and take notice."

The programme was launched with help from Deeside’s own five-times British Champion and Olympic ice skater Marika Humphries, who recently starred in ITV’s popular Dancing On Ice programme.

Also attending was Sports Council for Wales Chief Executive Dr Huw Jones and representatives from Flintshire County Borough Council and John Moore’s University – along with the staff taking part in the project.

One of them, 29-year-old Service Manager Helen Thomas, has been selected as a workplace ‘champion’ to inspire her colleagues.

"You always think about trying to get fit, but need something like this to motivate you," she said. "I think it’s going to create rivalry among the different departments here – each one will be trying to do better than the others."

Case study

Helen Thomas – from fighting the fags to fighting fit!

Helen Thomas’s healthy lifestyle has fallen by the wayside somewhat since her time as a dance instructor with youth and community groups.

To further compound her feelings of guilt, the 29-year-old Service Manager at Tesco Broughton acquired a 15 to 20 cigarettes a day habit.

So when Helen heard about her employers’ plans to get their staff fighting fit, she jumped at the chance to become a workplace champion.

"You always think about trying to get fit, but need something like this to motivate you," she said. "I think it’s going to create rivalry among the different departments here – each one will be trying to do better than the others."

Before joining Tesco, Mold resident Helen completed an HND in dance. Her new work commitments meant she was no longer able to find the time to take her classes, but she hopes the opportunity to exercise during her working day will redress the balance.

With the campaign as an incentive, she’s already cut her smoking down to a daily three cigarettes – and hopes to go all the way to kicking it completely. She also wants to set a good example to her colleagues.

"A large number of staff already do the Race for Life. This will encourage a lot more to take part, while others will lose weight to raise money for our charity of the year, Whizzkids," she said.

"I think the scheme will improve team morale and encourage the staff to work more closely together. It will be great to see the results after a couple of months."