— Mark Crisci was going to the gym and trying to lower
his cholesterol levels, but it wasn’t until he joined
a healthy-lifestyle group at work that he found
weight-loss success and continued support to keep his
cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels in a
51, of Weirton, W.Va., works as a product line manager
at Bayer MaterialScience LLC, and he has nothing but
positive comments about the workplace program in which
he participated five years ago, which he credits with
helping him learn new habits for lasting weight control
and good health.
increased my activity levels with more elliptical
training, and I joined a spinning class. I go three
times a week for an hour at the gym now," he said.
"I lost 7 percent of my weight."
behavior is notoriously difficult, and stumbling blocks
often include lack of time and encouragement. For
working people, a lunch hour seems like a good time to
try a wellness program, but though many have tried, most
of these programs have reported uneven success.
Pittsburgh, that is changing. By modifying a well-tested
program that has been successful in helping people at
risk of developing diabetes, University of Pittsburgh
researchers report lasting success in the Group
Lifestyle Balance program. University of Pittsburgh
researchers teamed up with Bayer, tested it and found
that the program did indeed help participants reduce
their risk of diabetes and heart disease.
the group, I think we all made progress," Crisci
said. The lunch-hour program, which ran from 2010 to
mid-2012, gave participants a chance to learn and
encourage each other, he said. "You’re
accountable. ... You want to do well." And they
could keep their results private if they wanted to.
based on the landmark national Diabetes Prevention
Program, an evidence-based initiative with successful
outcomes lasting 10 to 15 years so far. Since its
results were first reported in 2002, adaptations of the
lifestyle intervention have been used in community
settings including doctor’s offices, outpatient
diabetes education clinics, senior and community
centers, the YMCA and churches. Some small and limited
adaptations in workplaces had shown success, leading to
the Bayer experiment.
a lot of interest, but a lot of confusion about what to
offer," said Kaye Kramer, director of the Diabetes
Prevention Support Center at the University of
Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health and lead
author of the Bayer study. It was published recently in
the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
alone is not enough," pointed out Andrea Kriska,
epidemiology professor at the school and principal
investigator of the study. Both Pitt researchers hold
doctorates in epidemiology.
still need behavioral support. It’s a long-range
problem to change behavior," Kramer said.
"There is no bad food, everything in moderation ….
You have to be realistic about lifestyle change. You’re
going to slip."
agreed: "There’s no judgment. If it takes you a
long time, it’s OK."
Bayer’s Robinson Township location on the outskirts of
Pittsburgh, 89 employees at risk for diabetes or heart
disease were enrolled in the program in 2010 and were
followed for 18 months. The program combined education,
support and helpful tools, and in the end they lost
weight, trimmed their waistlines and were more
program consisted of 22 sessions over a year, with two
groups each led by a lifestyle coach, trained by the
Pitt Diabetes Prevention Support Center. A nurse
practitioner employed by Bayer also attended the
workshop and observed the sessions. Twelve weekly core
sessions transition to monthly sessions. An alternative
option using a DVD, with the 12-core sessions material,
was offered to people who traveled or didn’t want to
be in a group or to those who missed a group session.
Weekly phone calls or emails with the coach supported
each in-person meeting, participants were weighed, and
everyone received session handouts, a fat and calorie
counter, self-monitoring logs, a pedometer and exercise
allow anyone who wanted to participate to do so, the
researchers randomly assigned people to either start the
program right away or delay their participation for six
months. Those who were delayed were the control group to
compare progress. The goal was to achieve and maintain a
7 percent weight loss and to safely reach a level of
moderate physical activity for 150 minutes per week.
chose the face-to-face program and was part of the
delayed group. He said he attended most of the sessions
and especially enjoyed the group discussions.
learned if you can talk yourself out of it — going to
class, going for a walk — you can talk yourself into
it. And you can talk yourself out of picking up that
calories became important when they learned that it
takes a reduction of 3,500 calories per week to lose one
pound, he said. After learning to read food labels, he
decided to substitute bottled salad dressing with
balsamic vinegar and a little bit of olive oil.
idea from the class: Research a restaurant’s menu
before going out to eat.
restaurants are off my list now," he said, citing
one place that has a 1,400-calorie chicken sandwich.
was a camaraderie; you could find someone to go with you
for a walk (on the Bayer campus trails). Our sessions
ran through the holidays. We talked about being in
charge of what we ate, how to make our menus and recipes
as light as possible." One tip: nonfat cream cheese
for the family’s favorite cheesecake.
the end of the first year, the intervention participants
lost an average of 5 percent of their body weight,
reduced their waists by about 2 inches and reduced the
levels of fat and sugar in their blood. They also
doubled their physical activity.
12 months, the groups were combined and there were again
weight loss and improvements in physical activity, blood
sugar control, blood pressure, waistlines and body mass
Franklin, Bayer’s U.S. corporate medical director,
said the company was very pleased with the lifestyle
makes this program very unique is this was a very
vigorous program done with a national university and the
National Institutes of Health," Dr. Franklin said.
"It’s one of the few out there that is in the
workplace. And it had a very long follow-up, at 18
1,300 people at Bayer’s Robinson site, Dr. Franklin
said, many fell under the study criteria in which they
were at risk of developing diabetes.
think it’s translatable to other companies, both large
and small," he said. "If they can take the
time. We’d like to see that happen."