MUSC shares how they are making fitness more accessible at work

Sitting is the new smoking. Researchers report that the amount of time a person spends sitting each day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even death. Unfortunately, regular exercise may not be enough to offset this risk. The challenge for many is that their job responsibilities require them to be seated for most if not all of their work hours. For that reason, it’s important that both employees and employers take steps to create an environment that helps them move more.

Through participation in the SC Working Well program, MUSC’s Office of Health Promotion has been working to establishing a culture of wellness where being active is the norm by providing access and opportunity for physical activity during the workday. On July 12, 2013, MUSC was awarded the Gold Medal for achieving the highest standards in creating a physically active workplace. Their work in this area has been supported by a resolution passed by the MUSC Board of Trustees, which encourages employees to “participate in healthy activities such as preventative screenings and assessments, physical activity, weight management, tobacco cessation, healthy food, and stress management” during their breaks during the workday. In addition, one of the goals of the Imagine MUSC 2020 strategic plan is to build healthy communities, beginning with our own. 

MUSC Moves! is their physical activity campaign designed to provide changes in policies, improvements in the environment, and increased opportunities and resources to promote physical activity at work. Recognizing how difficult it is to have staff members leave their areas, they have created a wellness on wheels program to bring wellness to employees. Not only do they benefit from short breaks focusing on their health and wellbeing, but the entire department/unit benefits by working together and encouraging each other to adopt healthy habits. 

As a designated Center of Excellence for the Working Well grant, MUSC Employee Wellness has received a stipend to aid their efforts in creating a culture of wellness. They have designated part of those funds toward the purchase of fit gym equipment. MUSC departments who have an interest in promoting physical activity within their department, and have a dedicated space for this purpose, can apply to have fitness equipment for an onsite Fit Gym. These “break room” fitness areas range from rooms with a treadmill and weight training equipment to smaller in-office stations with stretch bands and other fitness accessories that have been very popular among employees. Once the spaces are set up, a fitness instructor demonstrates how to get the best out of the equipment in a safe and productive manner, ensuring employees benefit most from use. 

To date, they have provided Fit Gyms for eight departments across campus, including Health Information Services/Medical Records, Pediatric Burn Nurses, Neurosurgery, and Department of Surgery, among others. More than 500 employees have access to and regularly visit these areas to take physical activity breaks throughout the day. According to Adam Taylor, human resources manager for the Department of Surgery, adding computers to treadmills provides an additional incentive to visit the Fit Gym as employees can work while they workout. 

Thinking about creating fitness break rooms at your hospital? Here are a few tips to consider: 

Create a policy encouraging physical activity during the workday.

Encourage managers to promote use of physical activity breaks.

Start with departments who have an enthusiastic wellness champion and supportive managers.

Ensure the equipment is in a space that can be accessed by many employees.

Create a screening form and require employees to sign a waiver.

Evaluate use of equipment and move as necessary.

MUSC Office of Health Promotion serves as an organization-wide resource for multi-disciplinary health promotion and wellness programs and initiatives. Full-time staff includes Dr. Susan Johnson, Director of Health Promotion; Suzan Whelan, Wellness Coordinator; and Debbie Petitpain, MS, RDN, LDN, Wellness Dietitian.

For more information, visit or email Dr. Susan Johnson at 

01-26-2016 03:00 (EST)