Cisco, Gwinnett Medical 'fit-friendly' companies

DULUTH - The statistics involving heart disease are scary enough, but to launch a program to get companies to create fit-friendly work environments, health advocates spoke in terms of dollars Tuesday.

With the cost of health insurance on the rise, CEOs can do a lot to reduce costs by simply providing outlets for diet and exercise, said Judy Waters, chair of September's Gwinnett Heart Walk.

"It is preventable if we just get moving," said Waters, who had her own heart issues several years ago. "You can really change the lives of a lot of people by emphasizing this in your workplace."

During Tuesday's kick-off breakfast, she congratulated Cisco Systems and Gwinnett Medical Center on being named "fit-friendly companies."

Cisco's Lawrenceville campus includes a walking track and heart-healthy options at its cafeteria. The company has put together kits for the American Heart Associations Start! walking program, which includes giving pedometers to staffers.

"We talked about changing the focus to advocacy and teaching our employees, our community, our children, about leading a healthy lifestyle," Cisco's Renee Byrd-Lewis said. "It's a culture change. ... It's effective and fun."

The annual heart walk is scheduled for Sept. 20 at the Duluth Town Green. Officials have a goal of raising $200,000 as well as awareness through the event.