Fit for Duty
"The safest individual is physically fit and healthy. We strive to send all our crew home safe, injury free and maybe even ready for the beach," says Capt. Tom Power, whose crew has lost a combined 50 pounds by working out regularly.
Elena Brzhezinskaya, Natal’ya Prozhugan and Nadezhda Pavlova, the galley crew of the Overseas Beryl, strive to prepare balanced meals for the crew.
Thanks to modern technology, seafarers are no longer shoveling coal into the steam boiler, and in the office, work often means sitting for hours at a time hunched over a computer. We have so many labor-saving devices that it's easy to become sedentary and hard to stay in good physical condition, which is leading to some troubling health trends.
Just the Facts
To put the state of our health in perspective, in the United States, 33.5 percent of adults over the age of 20 are obese and 32 percent of adults over the age of 20 have hypertension1. The Philippines and countries of the European Union are also facing increasing rates of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease2, too. It's likely that everyone reading this article can claim at least one of the conditions or habits that put our health at risk, namely: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and smoking. While genetics play a major role in our health, as do cultural norms and economic status, lifestyle habits such as lack of exercise, poor eating and smoking all contribute to ill health. While we can't change our DNA, we can try to stack the odds in our favor by adopting a healthier lifestyle. OSG, like many companies, is helping by making an investment in the health and well-being of its employees.
Fit Seafarers—Safer Ships
Going to sea means long work hours but it doesn't always mean one is getting a sufficient amount of physical exercise. Physical activity not only contributes to one's improved physical health, but also to one's mental health, both of which make performing strenuous shipboard tasks easier and safer. Many crew members stay in good shape by taking advantage of the exercise and recreation equipment on board. All OSG ships are outfitted with gym equipment, and depending on the vessel size, this may include elliptical machines, stationary bicycles, treadmills and weights. Exercise is calories burned, but what about calories consumed? Boarding any vessel can be a culinary delight, with the favorite foods of different nationalities prepared by the cooks making mealtime a highlight of the day. In the international fleet, all OSG cooks and stewards are trained in preparing healthful menus, but given the constraints of purchasing fruits and vegetables over long voyages, it can be a challenge to offer nutritionally balanced meals. In the U.S. fleet, ATB cooks are encouraged to sign up for additional training offered by the unions to learn about nutrition and menu planning.
Tips to Get You Moving
In almost each issue of OSG Signal, we feature employees who are runners or the spirited basketballs teams on board our vessels. The U.S. Surgeon General's office says that as little as 30 minutes of brisk walking each day is enough to improve your energy level and mood, aid with weight loss and reduce your risk for a host of chronic afflictions. Here are a few tips from the American Heart Association on how to incorporate physical activity into your work day, adapted for our office and ships.
- Walk around your building or vessel for a break during the work day or during lunch. h Stand while talking on the telephone.
- Walk down the hall or across the vessel to speak with someone rather than using the telephone or email.
- In the office, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or get off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way. On board, climb those stairs.
- Walk while waiting for your plane at the airport.
While traveling, stay at hotels with fitness centers or swimming pools and use them.
- Take along a jump rope in your suitcase. Jump rope and do calisthenics in your hotel room or in your vessel's gym or where space allows.
- Participate in or start a recreation league at your office or on your vessel.
- Schedule exercise time on your business calendar and treat it as any other important appointment.
- Get off the bus or subway a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way to work or home.
Fitness Requirements for U.S. Mariners
In 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard revised the physical ability guidelines for merchant marine credentials, stating that if the applicant has a body mass index (BMI) of 40.0 or higher, the applicant must be judged able to meet 13 different agility, strength and range of motion activities. This includes the ability to move through a restricted opening of 24 inches in diameter. (To view a BMI chart, click on the related file below.)
Staying trim is a little more difficult on a U.S. Flag articulated tug barge (ATB), where, as the saying goes, there isn't enough room to swing a cat. While each tugboat has a stationary bicycle wedged into a corner, it's difficult to find space to stretch one's legs, let alone take a walk or work out. In the spirit of good health, the Tampa managing office challenged its ATB crews to lose some weight. Each participating ATB crew formed a team, with each team member contributing US$10 to a pool. The ATB that lost the most weight over a 12-week time period won the pool. The challenge was supported by Healthyroads, a health and wellness program sponsored by OSG. Healthyroads offers telephone and online coaching for weight loss and smoking cessation. Five ATB teams completed the challenge. The "biggest loser" was the OSG Constitution, losing a total of 80 pounds.
Shoreside Wellness Takes Off
To get 2010 started off on the right foot, the Company launched Initiative Health 2010, which is a full range of programs focused on helping shoreside employees establish a different mindset about their health and wellbeing and includes health fairs and health screenings, exercise, nutrition, smoking cessation, stress relief programs and weight loss. In some offices, OSG supports healthier eating by providing salad bars and fresh fruit. The Company promotes physical fitness through onsite sessions of yoga and Pilates, as well as office gym facilities or subsidies to offset the cost of offsite gym memberships. In addition, seminars and screening programs are helping to raise individual awareness on topics such as ergonomics, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Here's the Skinny in Tampa and New York
1United States Center for Disease Control
Particularly successful in New York and Tampa has been the Weight Watchers program. It's a proven method of controlling portions and eating healthy. Once a week, a Weight Watchers representative comes to the office where participants step on the scale for their moment of truth and they receive all kinds of good information, inspiration and motivation to stay on track to a healthier lifestyle. In just three weeks in Tampa, 18 people have lost a combined 60 pounds. In New York, participants six weeks into the program have shed 73 pounds. As the year progresses, both shoreside and sea-based employees can expect to see more health and wellness programs.
2National Statistical Coordination Board, Philippines, European Society of Cardiology
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