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Brookings Health System – Physical Activity Encouragement, Equipment, and Easy Access

Brookings Health System (BHS) serves the needs of Brookings, SD and surrounding SD communities. Brookings Health System is a non-profit, city-owned health system that offers the community a full range of inpatient, outpatient, surgery, home health, and extended care services. On the main campus, over 475 employees make up this large employer.

BHS received the South Dakota Department of Health Steps to Wellness Grant to improve the physical activity environment at their worksite. The wellness committee at BHS set a goal to help staff increase their physical activity levels overall, with a specific focus on their work environment. To achieve this goal, they wanted to provide encouragement, equipment, and easy access to physical activity opportunities for all employees.

The BHS Wellness Committee accomplished three major environmental changes to meet this goal:

  1. Walking path maps
    The maps show ¼, ½, and 1-mile walking routes around the Brookings main campus and are hung in places easily visible for both employees and visitors. Brochure-style copies of the map are also on display at the facility’s front desks. To encourage use of these walking paths, BHS built different employee challenges around these routes.
  2. Bicycle racks
    BHS purchased bicycle racks to encourage active commuting to and from work each day.
  3. Small exercise equipment
    They also purchased hand weights, a rack, and plyometric platforms to provide another opportunity for movement each day. Employees use the equipment in the staff exercise room or bring them to their desk for quick physical activity breaks.

In addition to the environmental supports, BHS implemented a Worksite Physical Activity Policy. The policy supports and encourages employees to engage in physical activity through an onsite fitness center, gym membership reimbursement program, bike racks, walking paths, ongoing employee wellness challenges, and an employee wellness reward program.

Additional Successes

  • Financial incentives. The BHS facility was also in the process of implementing financial incentives for employees who participate in wellness activities throughout the year (as mentioned above in the policy component). Thus, implementation of the new environmental supports for physical activity had perfect timing. Participation increased after BHS implemented these interventions.

Challenges & Barriers

  • Major construction of the main campus. With some delays in the overall construction timeline for the facility, the wellness committee wasn’t able to implement all grant items in an appropriate timeline. Although this barrier was significant during the project period, they easily achieved their 3 environmental changes once construction was finished.

BHS is continually working to keep employees engaged through challenges, programs, and additional wellness opportunities.