BUSINESS November 2nd, 2007

By Kelly Gadzala

Workplace wellness consultant walks the walk

Linda Lewis-Daly knows first-hand the benefits of practising what she preaches. The health and wellness expert suffered a heart attack when she was 39.

A national wellness manager at one of Canada’s major telecommunications companies for almost a decade, Lewis-Daly credits attitude as vital to her recovery.

“It was because I was attempting to be healthy that I lived through that,” she says.

Now a Heart and Stroke Foundation “survivor” spokesperson and eight months into her business venture as an independent workplace wellness consultant, Lewis-Daly recognizes it is sometimes more difficult for people in leadership positions to adopt the wellness message they are trying to teach.

The principal of Linda Lewis-Daly and Associates says many of her clients are in the educational sector and find it a challenge to stay fit even when encouraging their pupils to do so.

A program she often suggests for such clients is based on an exercise she used when recovering through a cardiac rehabilitation program: walking.

Lewis-Daly’s signature program, the Circle Canada walking program, encourages clients to walk 10,000 steps a day in their goal towards walking “around” Canada.

Clients use a pedometer to track their daily steps, and then enter their totals using a Web-based program that can be customized for the company’s internal site.

Lewis-Daly says the program is effective for workplaces as companies can create inter-departmental challenges, something that can sustain the momentum and excitement.

“Once you have a tool, you become aware,” she says.

Though Lewis-Daly offers a range of wellness programs, in a nutshell, she says, she helps companies look at how they can reduce absenteeism by planning and implementing healthy programs.

“It’s really about health promotion in the workplace,” she says, noting there is a shift in attitude in the business world as companies come to realize that the health of employees is vital.

More and more companies approach health promotion as a “strategic” imperative that can impact their bottom line, with many highly successful businesses having wellness programs in place.

Lewis-Daly says she can help companies develop comprehensive wellness plans, but it’s always best to begin with a few initiatives.

She advises companies just starting on the wellness-programming path to “start small and grow”, because attempting to implement a comprehensive program can be overwhelming at first.

A fitness class or walking club at lunch is a good way to start, as are implementing healthy eating and stress management programs, she says.

Even if employees don’t participate in wellness initiatives at work, a workplace wellness program can influence people to make positive changes outside of work.

About to celebrate her sixth year of recovery, Lewis-Daly is quite literally walking proof of that.