An East Texas organization earns the American Heart Association's Platinum Award for Fit Friendly worksites. The recognition is for a company or school's commitment to its employees' health.

The Northeast Texas Public Health District provides healthy living programs and services for 21 East Texas counties. They're also involved in healthy initiatives, such as Fit City and Lighten Up East Texas, but it's what NET Health is doing for their employees while they're working that's helping them stand out.

Employees at the Northeast Public Health District are walking the walk.

Arnetta Garner is part of the Community Outreach staff. They recently started the walking club at the Center for Healthy Living in Tyler.

"We talk about people being unhealthy and not walking and exercise, and I wanted to be the one who does exercise," Ms. Garner said. "We want to not just talk about it, but be about it."

Adrianna Lugo is part of the group, which meets every Tuesday and Thursday at Noble E. Young Park. They invite the public to join in on their walks.

"When I heard about my co-workers doing the walking club, I wanted to join in if I wasn't able to go back to the gym," Ms. Lugo said. You don't always have to go to the gym to get your workout," Ms. Lugo said.

The American Heart Association finds walking is the most simple, positive change you can make to improve your heart health and it has the lowest dropout rate.

"When you see the competition and all the people walk, it helps motivate you," Ms. Garner said. "You are not trying to come out here and do a marathon, you are just trying to come out here and stay fit."

NET Health encourages all of their employees to take advantage of two 15-minute breaks a day to move away from their desk and get moving. It's part of the criteria to earn the American Heart Association's Fit Friendly distinction.

"At each of our locations in Tyler, we have measured the sidewalk around our building that equal a quarter of a mile. We encourage our employees to take a lap," Terrence Ates, with NET Health, said.

Ates said there are other factors that helped gain Platinum Fit Friendly status. They have an employee wellness coordinator, a tobacco policy and they distribute a monthly newsletter with a dose of healthy advice.

"We instill a strong culture for our employees to take walking breaks, choose healthy food options, to drink water, healthy employees build healthy worksites," he said.

Ms. Lugo said, "I feel good. I have more energy in the morning."

They're taking important steps to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke. Healthy eating is also important to NET Health and the American Heart Association. That's why nutritious meals are provided at leadership meetings and at luncheons. One of their WIC nutritionists also provides a healthy recipe in the monthly newsletter.

Tyler Police Dept. also earned Platinum Fit Friendly status.

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