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Oklahoma State University

B.A.L.A.N.C.E. program improves employees' health and lifestyle

Wed, July 24, 2013


The Oklahoma State University B.A.L.A.N.C.E. (Building a Lifestyle on Activity, Nutrition, Confidence and Energy) program, designed to help employees fight disorders like diabetes and heart disease, is already showing positive results.  Launched in Fall 2011, the comprehensive 14-week program consists of health screenings, fitness assessments, physical activity, nutritional counseling and lifestyle modification classes. 

Many B.A.L.A.N.C.E. participants have shown improvement in one or more of the risk factors for Metabolic Syndrome, which increases risk for coronary artery disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes.  Risk factors include: high blood pressure, high fasting glucose or blood sugar, low HDL-cholesterol, high triglycerides and abdominal obesity.  Twenty-seven percent of participants improved their health so greatly that they no longer met the criteria for Metabolic Syndrome, and several participants have reduced or even eliminated medications for blood pressure, diabetes, or cholesterol. Participants also reported improvement in non-measurable factors such as more energy, increased knowledge about physical activity and nutrition, better sleep and more motivation to exercise and make healthier choice  

“Our goal in the B.A.LA.N.C.E. program is to help participants develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle and achieve their optimal level of health and fitness,” said Mary Talley, employee wellness program manager within the Department of Wellness. “We are thrilled that every B.A.LA.N.C.E. participant graduated the program with improved health, but are especially heartened by the fact that such a high percentage improved so dramatically. ”

Twelve OSU-Stillwater benefits-eligible employees are accepted into each  B.A.L.A.N.C.E. session. Health screenings and fitness assessments are conducted in weeks 1 and 14, while weeks 2 through 13 consist of a physical activity plan, nutrition counseling and lifestyle modification education.

Health screenings include a fasting blood lipid panel, blood pressure, abdominal circumference and weight. The screening also documents other health concerns including acid reflux, headaches, migraines and joint or back pain.  Fitness assessments conducted include cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility.

B.A.L.A.N.C.E. participants engage in individual and small group cardiovascular endurance and strength training.  Personal trainers work with participants to develop safe, effective programs to reach their individual fitness goals. Participants must accumulate 150 minutes of activity per week, 60 minutes of which must be as part of in Department of Wellness activities.

To improve nutritional habits, each participant receives three individual consultations with a registered dietitian at the beginning, halfway through the program and at the end. In addition, weekly group meetings are held focusing on topics such as label reading, portion control and healthy dining options. Participants keep daily food journals and turn them in weekly for review.

Any benefits-eligible OSU employee may apply for the program, but preference is given to those applicants with the most risk factors.   Offered at no charge to  employees as long as certain levels of compliance are reached, the program is underwritten by Blue Cross Blue Shield, OSU’s insurance carrier.  B.A.L.A.N.C.E. is one of many ways OSU is “Striving to be America’s Healthiest Campus” through employee wellness initiatives.     

“I think the program is fantastic! Anyone having health issues, especially someone with high risk factors should be in the B.A.L.A.N.C.E. program.  I would recommend it to anyone,” said Ed Kirtley, B.A.L.A.N.C.E. participant. “One thing I have learned is that it’s not simply what you put into your mouth, it’s how you view yourself, it’s exercise, it’s a lot of things that come together to make you healthy,” Kirtley said.

“No matter the background or story of someone, everyone deserves a chance to better themselves and prolong their life, and that is what the B.A.L.A.N.C.E. program accomplishes,” Tabi Deal, health educator within the Department of Wellness.

The OSU Department of Wellness is committed to creating a healthy campus culture for faculty, staff and students. The department seeks to promote healthy lifestyles and lifelong learning through the highest quality Wellness programs and services. For more information about the B.A.L.A.N.C.E. program, please contact Mary Talley at 405-744-6907 or