Working on My Fitness: An Interview with Wellness Guru Walter Lewis #SHRM18

Reprinted from SHRM’s blog

Every year leading up to SHRM’s annual conference, I get the daily digest emails and see threads and chats going back and forth. There’s the excited conference newbies wondering how to take it all in, people looking for deals on hotel rooms and professionals in certain states or industries organizing meetups. I understand their enthusiasm and appreciate the camaraderie these threads afford them. But there’s always been one group I don’t understand .. .the 5 a.m. runners. To that group, I ask: what are you guys thinking?

No, seriously. Tell me what you’re thinking. I’m so jealous. Philosophically, I support your right to run at the crack of no-one-should-be-awake-right-now o’clock, but I do not have that level of motivation. I need a good kick in the pants. That’s why I’m planning to head to the Smart Stage to see Walter Lewis, owner of Walter Lewis Fitness Solutions in Washington, D.C.

Lewis is a certified fitness trainer, speaker, author and corporate wellness specialist. He’ll be presenting about inexpensive wellness programs, leading a boot camp, hosting a 5K and leading a walk to kick off the SHRM Foundation Step Challenge.

From doing our interview, I can already tell he’s got motivation to spare. Here’s some of our chat.


What is your philosophy on workplace wellness? Why is it important? Why should employers care about it?

“Creating an on-site wellness program is important because employees spend so much time at the office,” Lewis says. Many chronic diseases are preventable. Employers should care because wellness plans can increase employees’ energy and productivity, reduce stress, lower turnover and boost morale. All of this can help the organization’s bottom line.

What trends are you seeing in wellness plans for 2018?

Companies are looking for more holistic programs that incorporate nutrition, fitness and mental health.

What are a couple of low-cost wellness options for employers that will generate a positive outcome?

There are many low-cost wellness options that will generate a positive outcome, Lewis says. “All you need is a motivated employee to lead the way. Here are some options.”

  • Walking challenges or running groups – If you work in a traditional office environment, it’s likely your employees spend almost the entire day seated in their chairs. A company walking challenge or running group is a simple and easy way to get your team out of their seats and engaging in physical activity, depending on their fitness level. Also, this is a low-cost initiative that requires little oversight, approval, or management, Lewis says.
  • Meditation Room – Work can be stressful. Providing any area to meditate, as well as some guidance on how to do so, can have a positive impact on employees.
  • Virtual Training – This is a very low-cost way to motivate employees and keep them inspired. In one course of the virtual training program I offer to SHRM members, four employees successfully lost a combined total of 60 pounds within a six week period.

What are some exercises that someone can do in their office or cubicle that will instantly get blood flowing and rejuvenate them in that post-lunch slump?

Get up and take a quick one-minute walk around the office, or a quick walk up and down a set of stairs.

Or you can stand up and do chair squats. Here’s how:

  • Stand in front of a chair with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your knees over your feet.

  • Slowly lower your glutes toward the chair without actually sitting down. Be sure to tighten your abdominals to help support your back.

  • Keep your knees over your ankles and place your weight on your heels throughout the full range of motion. Placing your arms out in front of you may help your balance.

  • Straighten your body upright and repeat.

Another good stretch that’s great for any busy professional is the carpal tunnel reliever. Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand at your desk with your arm extended downward and the back of your hand on your desk.

  • Apply light pressure for 15 seconds on each arm.

Are you excited to be heading to Chicago? Is there a cheat food you’ll be having? Maybe some deep dish pizza, Garrett’s popcorn or a Chicago-style hot dog?

I’m very excited to be heading to Chicago and I might actually include a cheat meal and indulge in some of Chicago’s deep dish pizza!