Take Control of Your Health and Fitness

Duke’s employee wellness program offers free consultations

Duke administrative assistant Kirby Forbes tallies the flights of stairs she walks on a whiteboard in her office.
Duke administrative assistant Kirby Forbes tallies the flights of stairs she walks on a whiteboard in her office.

The last time Kirby Forbes was at her ideal weight, 165 pounds, she was wearing a high-neck, long-sleeved chiffon and lace dress at her 1980 wedding.

Forbes, who turns 60 in December, now weighs 285 pounds, has high blood pressure, and is pre-diabetic. Being a grandmother motivated her to take a stand for her health – she wants to lose 100 pounds and eventually undergo bariatric surgery.

“I really wanted to take hold of my life and be more fastidious with taking care of myself,” said Forbes, an administrative assistant for the Duke Heart Network. “It’s getting those strategies to help me either when I’ve hit a plateau or when I get discouraged or when I hit a wall mentally.”

As part of her wellness journey, she receives free fitness consultations through LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke’s employee wellness program. After meeting in person with a fitness specialist in September, she received tips on incorporating exercise into her daily work routine, including walking flights of stairs at University Tower and getting out of her office chair and stretching.

Benefits-eligible employees can meet with a Duke fitness specialist two times a year at no charge. The consultation can be a 30-minute, in-person session in the LIVE FOR LIFE Clinic in the Duke South Clinic Red Zone, at Duke Raleigh Hospital or Duke Regional Hospital, or the consult can be conducted by phone. Employees can fill out an online request form to schedule a consult.

LIVE FOR LIFE fitness specialist Taylor Leach said some employees are intimidated by the idea of a consult, but people are not scrutinized by how they currently exercise. Fitness specialists focus on small, realistic changes that fit an employee’s lifestyle and provide guidance for muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness, weight maintenance and more.

“What we’re looking for is just for them to move more,” Leach said. “You’re going to progress from where you are, whether you’re running half marathons or just starting out.”

During a consultation, employees can measure body composition, or muscle and fat distribution throughout the body, and participate in an optional personal fitness assessment that includes a 3-minute step test, flexibility test, crunches and pushups.

After her fitness consultation in September, Forbes started to log dates on a small whiteboard in her office to document flights of stairs she walks every day. She has invited colleagues to join her during her 3 p.m. exercise breaks.

Forbes is losing about one pound per week.

“If I can at least get walking in and steps in every day, I’m becoming accountable to myself,” she said. “After you exercise and actually do it, you think, ‘Why didn’t I start this before?’”