Friday, August 1, 2014 12:00 AM

Fitness is a few steps away for hospital employees

Laura Acevedo, an executive secretary at Community Regional Medical Center, had never stepped foot in a gym before she began working out at the hospital’s new employee fitness center. Now after months of hitting the gym daily at 5:30 a.m. she’s 16 pounds slimmer, has lost 30 inches and had to go shopping for new clothes.

"I never felt comfortable before,” she said of the idea of belonging to a gym. “But this is so convenient. It’s our people so I felt secure and safe and I wasn’t intimidated. This is the best thing our administration had done for us.”

The free employee fitness center is part of Community Medical Centers’ commitment to the well-being of its 7,200-person workforce. In addition to the fitness center, Community coordinates outdoor wellness activities led by employee volunteers and provides one-on-one counseling support to those with chronic conditions such as diabetes.

Initial funding for the fitness center at Community Regional Medical Center came from the Pete P. Peters Foundation, which wanted to help medical residents working at the hospital through UCSF Fresno to relieve stress and maintain a good work-life balance. Community Regional expanded on the generous gift, providing staffing and renovating office space near the hospital so the center could benefit all medical staff, employees and volunteers. An on-site fitness center is the top desired employee benefit with 25% of U.S. workers wanting one, according to the “Principal Financial Well-Being Index: American Workers Survey.” Only 12% of U.S. employees at mid-sized businesses said they had one.

Community’s fitness center is open 18 hours a day. It includes cardio equipment such as treadmills, elliptical striders, stationary bikes and rowing machines as well as weight machines, free weights, exercise balls, yoga mats and foam rollers and personal training help from staff. Acevedo, who works in the operational improvement program, said she gets lots of help in learning how to use the equipment from the fitness center staff and support to get through tough workouts from co-workers.

Employee Sophia Lucio comes every day on her lunch hour to lift weights and use the treadmill. “When I go back to the clinic after my work-out, I feel energized – like I could do another eight hours of work,” says Lucio, a medical assistant at the Deran Koligian Ambulatory Clinic. She says she’s lost 24 lbs. and gained confidence in just a few months.

Reported by Erin Kennedy. She can be reached at