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Alliance wants Kanawha workers to stay fit

Chip Ellis
Live Well Charlie West, a program to encourage healthier employees, kicked off on Sunday, in conjunction with the Charleston Winter Series, a series of winter runs and walks.
Chip Ellis Runners head down Virginia Avenue in Kanawha City for the 7th Annual Winter Series, which on Sunday doubled as the kickoff event of a program promoting employee fitness in the region.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Area Alliance wants to talk about the best ways to keep employees in the Kanawha Valley in healthy.

On Sunday the Alliance launched Live Well Charlie West -- a workplace wellness program meant to start conversation about employee fitness and give employers resources to further that goal.

"It has been a missing conversation piece," said Cullen Naumoff, campaign organizer.

The month-long program focuses on four areas of health: drug abuse, mental health, nutrition and physical activity. The Alliance will hold workshops, seminars and other activities in an effort to give employers the tools to make their workplaces healthier.

The campaign was launched in conjunction with Charleston's Winter Series -- an annual fitness event meant to get people moving during colder months. The Winter Series is a three-part run/walk that has participants increasing their distances as the season progresses.

"We support wellness in the Kanawha Valley -- walking running, any kind of fitness," said W.K. Munsey, race director.

Adam Flack, executive director of WV On the Move, participated in Sunday's 4k walk. WV On the Move is a statewide nonprofit that focuses on increasing physical activity, especially in areas where there are higher rates of chronic disease.

The organization is also a partner of Live Well Charlie West. Flack will lead its physical activity focus -- introducing employees to a variety of exercise opportunities in the area.

"We spend so much time at work, why not throw a little bit of exercise and some incentive in there?" said Flack, who has past experience with workplace wellness initiatives.

The incentive for employers participating in the program is happy and healthy employees.

"People that are physically active tend to like their work better [and] tend to be more efficient," Flack said.

For St. Francis Hospital, a Live Well Charlie West pilot site, the benefits of healthy employees are twofold: not only do they perform better on the job, but it lowers health insurance costs.

The hospital has had a workplace wellness program for 15 years, but wants to "take it to the next level," said Bevin Osborne, director of health promotions at the hospital.

"Our overall insurance rates go up annually and it's becoming less and less affordable for the everyday employee to buy our health insurance," Bevins said.

Live Well Charlie West will connect employers like St. Francis with resources in the community so it can continue improving its own program.

"One of the things [the Alliance is] really good about is setting up people to network with," Bevins said. "Even though this program only lasts through January, there's nothing to stop me from getting the fitness guru back in here."

For more information on Live Well Charlie West, including a full calendar of events, visit The Charleston Area Alliance online at bit.ly/Khzwab.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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