For years, Shannon Gast didn’t exercise; she was recovering from an injured back and fitness wasn’t part of her daily routine.

An employee of Colorado Springs Health Partners, Gast was intrigued when the company started Vitality, a health-and-wellness program aimed at creating healthier employees.

“I love it,” she said. “The points and awards really gave me an incentive to create a workout routine and stick with it.”

The program was so successful it led her to nominate CSHP for the Business Journal’s 6035 Healthiest Companies award. The company was named this year’s 6035 Healthiest Extra-Large Company.

“It was a perfect fit,” she said. “We have this comprehensive wellness program, and we’ve been working hard to implement internal wellness that everyone can take part in and feel good about. We spend so much time at work, it makes sense to incorporate wellness and fitness.”

CSHP’s employees who receive insurance benefits also can participate in the Vitality program — a wellness rewards program that provides points and prizes for fitness activities.

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More than 20 employees meet regularly to plan the wellness program, including Vitality. The program is interactive and personalized for each employee’s fitness level. In addition, the organization puts on a 12-week program called “Move it” that encourages people to get out … and move.

The administration provides pedometers to participants so they can track how much they’re moving, with the goal of increasing activity by 10 to 20 percent. By week 12, participants should be walking at least 10,000 steps every day.

It’s all done with the support of CSHP leadership.

“We couldn’t do this without [CEO] Debbie Chandler’s support and guidance,” said CSHP spokeswoman Lynne Jones. “She’s very active herself, so she appreciates the need to have fit, healthy employees. It’s one of her passions.”

It’s important, Jones said, because healthy employees have fewer sick days and are more productive at work.

“Studies show that healthier people are happier at work, and they get more done,” she said. “That’s why we do what we do.”

“What they do” covers more than just a single program. The organization supports hiking and yoga clubs; it has displayed mile-marker signs at each location so employees can walk during breaks and lunch hours.

“Through the Move It program, people have to get their steps in,” Jones said. “So we’re just helping them along.”

CSHP also supports an employee wellness fair that covers things like appropriate exercise and diet, as well as cyber security and preventing identity theft.

It all equals a happier workplace, said Jones, adding, “We want to serve as a role model for our patients. If we’re living a healthy lifestyle, it benefits both ourselves and the population we serve.”

But health care workers aren’t immune to the same excuses everyone uses when it comes to exercise.

“It’s all about time,” Jones said. “We’re pretty busy here, and people have to make time for exercise. It’s just something that you have to make up your mind to do — if it’s important, you find the time.”

Participation in Vitality or Move It isn’t mandatory, she said. The goal is to have 50 percent of CSHP employees involved. Jones isn’t sure they’ll make that goal this year.

“We’re working on it,” she said. “And we gain a few every time there’s an event. We do have support from the leadership, who are very passionate about the program. That carries through to the employees, who will make it a priority.”

For instance, one of CSHP’s cardiologists was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. As the Race for the Cure comes up this month, Jones said employees across the organization were signing up.

“We expect we’ll have a pretty large group for that,” she said. “And we’re sponsoring mini 5Ks [races] to get people ready, to get them to know what to expect and how well they’ll perform.”

Essentially, active, healthy lifestyles are part-and-parcel of the culture at CSHP, Jones said.

“It’s not just about health exercise, we also encourage preventive services, food diaries, workout training,” she said. “Basically, we want to give our employees the chance to be successful, to make lifestyle changes that benefit them and the workplace.”

Colorado Springs Health Partners •
Contact: 719-528-2900
Type of business: Health care and services