State Capitol employees, as well as elected officials and lawmakers, will have one less excuse early next year for not getting physically fit.
A fitness room is being developed in the southwest side of the Capitol's basement. Some of the money to renovate the former appellate court clerk's office, as well as some workout equipment, is being donated.
The center, complete with a small area for showers, is scheduled to open Feb. 1, said John Morrison, administrator of the state's capital assets management division. Hours of operation will be determined later. Plans are to not charge employees and officials for using the center.
The center will open about a year after Gov. Mary Fallin announced the creation of a fitness center along with a ban on tobacco products in all state-owned and leased properties and vehicles in an attempt to improve the health of Oklahoma, which typically is rated far below other states.
“The leading causes for poor health in Oklahoma are largely preventable illnesses like diabetes and heart disease linked to obesity,” Fallin said Thursday.
“By providing a fitness facility for Capitol employees and staff, we're setting an example for the rest of the state as we work to improve our physical fitness.”
Fallin, during her speech to open this year's legislative session, said the tobacco ban would mean closing of a smoking room in the Capitol for lawmakers and employees.
Several lawmakers who smoke groaned at the news.
When plans started being made to convert the smoking room, it became apparent the 10-by-13-foot room was insufficient to be used for any type of fitness center.
Besides, after putting in a different air ventilation system and other work, the space still smells of tobacco smoke, said Doug Kellogg, building manager for the Capitol.
John Estus, spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services, said some of the money to pay for the work is from a $38,500 grant from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.
The Oklahoma Hospital Association is providing a $20,000 grant.
An anonymous donor is providing some of the fitness equipment, he said.
The rest of the cost will be paid by the state, Estus said.
“We don't have a tally on that yet,” Morrison said. “We're doing some of this work ourselves.”
The new space is more than 10 times bigger than the smoking room, he said.
It's about 1,800 square feet.
Fitness equipment will include four treadmills, two bikes and various weight machines and other workout equipment, Morrison said.
Capitol employees were surveyed about what type of fitness activities they would like, and the center was developed around that information, he said. Several employees now walk regularly in the Capitol.
Participants will sign a waiver before using the fitness center, Morrison said.
Access to the center will be by state-issued cards.
Health Commissioner Terry Cline said because of the large amount of time people spend at work, it's important to try to influence behaviors during the work day. It especially is true at the Capitol, where most people work at desks and put in long hours during the four-month legislative session.
“There's a great opportunity to see improved health outcomes,” Cline said. “Studies have found that worksite wellness programs result in 25 percent reduction in illness.”