Monday, October 13, 2003

Some companies are designing their workplaces to force employees to exercise.
"It's, if you will, a forced wellness program," said Dan Jeakins, an architect in Dallas who has designed office buildings that encourage walking and stair-climbing. "We've had fitness centers, but that varies on who really uses those things."
As a health psychologist, I strongly approve of lifestyle modifications to promote healthy behavior, rather than short-term diets or "exercise programs." Most people, realistically, can't or won't take up high-intensity exercise in a gym, whereas most people can probably increase the amount of walking they do in their daily lives.

But as a disabled person, I have to wonder when the first ADA challenge will be brought against one of these companies. How are their employees with orthopedic disabilities, arthritis, asthma, emphysema, or severe seasonal allergies doing with all the required extra walking and time outdoors? What about female employees who are nine months pregnant? It's all very well to argue that the average employee is sedentary but nondisabled and could benefit from extra exercise, but public design is supposed to accomodate the needs of the entire population, not just the needs of the modal person. The ability to walk a half-mile to one's desk should not be a requirement for an office job. Period.

And as a woman, I wonder whether these new walking-intensive company campuses have dress codes for female employees which permit them to wear comfortable walking shoes, or whether women are expected to walk these "wellness-promoting" extra half-miles in the high heels typically required with women's formal office wear.