City Lights: Staying fit while on the job

It's a dirty secret about reporters that we don't run as much as we do in the movies.

If you've watched "State of Play," "The Paper" or "All the President's Men," you may think a large part of a staff writer's day is spent literally chasing leads around town, trying to grab hold of that speeding car or corner that elusive source before deadline.

In truth, though, a lot of journalistic work is pretty sedentary — especially now that computers have put so many sources at our fingertips. And that goes for most other indoor professions I know about.

So I was intrigued last week when, at a Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce luncheon, I got to talking with a group of staffers from Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center and found out that they had a program in place to keep employees fit on the job.

In some cases, that means literally speed-walking on a treadmill while typing on a computer or answering the phone.

Orange Coast Memorial, part of the MemorialCare Health System, started its fitness program in 2006 after an employee survey showed a desire for more health emphasis in the workplace.

Vice President of Operations Emily Randle, who spearheaded the project, started by creating maps that outlined walking routes — one "beginner" and one "advanced" — for employees to take around the campus during breaks.

Five years later, "The Good Life" program has expanded to include yoga and kickboxing classes, fitness competitions and a cafeteria health station where employees can check their blood pressure, heart rate and more. During long meetings, the staff often breaks for 10 minutes of stretching.

Chief Executive Marcia Manker said the workforce had changed visibly in the past few years — in habits, if not necessarily muscle tone.

"I see a lot more people in the stairwells," she said. "They used to wait for the elevator and get bored."

Visiting the hospital Monday, I talked with staffers who exercise with resistance bands while on the phone and use foam-rubber cylinders to keep their backs in shape. Still, I was most intrigued by the walking work stations, which reside at the MemorialCare headquarters in Fountain Valley a few blocks from the hospital.

The four stations, situated in a row at one end of a vast room of cubicles, each feature a PC, a phone and a small electric fan. Employees can reserve them for time slots but use them indefinitely if there's no one waiting. There are also incentives beyond fitness; for every 20-minute session, the walker can enter for a monthly prize drawing.

Having never walked and typed at the same time, I asked to give it a try. I found it a little awkward at first, but got the hang of it soon enough. I got a true demonstration, though, from Kate Kee, a payment review specialist who uses the treadmill every day and sets it on maximum speed.

"I've lost 15 pounds, so I'm happy," she said. "I want 15 more."

So that's the end of my column, and I wrote it, as usual, at my stationary desk. If you'll excuse me now, I'm off to go jogging.

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

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