There's nothing quite like a test drive to tell you whether something will work for you. That's true with cars, trucks, scooters, reclining chairs, buffets, a good napping spot, and healthy living programs. Even if you haven't considered the latter, you may have been curious about Mayo Clinic's new Healthy Living Program, which debuted this spring. We got a tour of the program's new space shortly before it opened, and we were impressed. But we didn't work up a sweat. Fortunately, FORTUNE magazine writer Lawrence Armour put on his sweats, gave it a true test drive, and then wrote all about it. (More than 3,000 words' worth, it turns out.)
Armour was invited to sample Mayo's "fresh approach to helping patients stick with a fitness program" by Donald Hensrud, M.D., medical director of the Healthy Living Program. "It was a no-brainer," Armour writes. He was already a fan of Mayo, he says, but did have some doubts. "What, I wondered, does Mayo have up its sleeve that's new and different enough to make its brand of healthy living sink in?" he writes.
He began to find out shortly after arrival. During a tour of the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, Armour was wowed by the facility, the technology and (especially) the people. "The dining room is lovely. Ditto for the meeting rooms, the kitchens … and the nooks and crannies where we'll be able to hunker down and chill out," he writes. Even the locker room "is seriously beautiful," he says. And, the people? "The men and women who staff the center are slim, trim, upbeat, and friendly," he writes. "I've never seen so many healthy bodies and smiling faces. Scary."
One of those smiling faces was that of Warren Thompson, M.D., who neatly summed up the purpose of the program. "We intend to help you design and implement an individualized wellness plan that will help you achieve optimal health," he told the group. Then he drove the importance of that point home by noting that folks who are optimistic, physically active, don't smoke, drink alcohol in moderation, and eat their fruits and vegetables "can expect to live 14 years longer than those who don't." Those are familiar themes, Armour says, "but the numbers were sobering."
Armour then documents his education on nutrition and managing stress, the "serious" and "impressively high-tech" testing, yoga and resiliency training, hands-on cooking class, and discussions with his wellness coach, Kristin Vickers Douglas, M.D., among other things. "Slowly but surely, it began to sink in," Armour writes. After noting positive changes to his diet, exercise and attitude that he's made since participating in the program, he concludes with this thought: "I still don't talk to strangers on the subway, but I'm smiling and saying good morning to people on the elevator in the Time/Life building. And no one has slugged me yet."
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