Incorporating Biking (and Families!) into your Wellness Programs

Toni Sperlbaum, VP of Sales & Marketing

May 15-19 is National Bike to Work week.  Before you shut down the idea because:

“My employees would never bike to work” or
“Our employees are too geographically spread out” or
“Whatever other excuse you can come up with not get involved,” WAIT!

Even if these are true, use the “Bike Week” opportunity to encourage bike riding for the upcoming warmer months.  They don’t have to bike to work, but consider implementing a “biking challenge” when members have to bike 30 miles (for example) during the entirety of the month when biking works best for them.  One never-ending challenge of corporate wellness programs is how to get families involved.  Biking is the PERFECT activity to incorporate family members.  Maybe they have a goal of 30 miles for them and an additional 30 miles for all other members of the family (combined) and they go into a drawing to win some cool gear or a gift card if they hit their 30 mile (or family 60 mile) goal.

Benefits of Biking:

  1. Weight loss: cycling a minimum of 30 minutes has immense benefits (not to mention the cardio)
  2. It’s environmentally friendly
  3. Easy on the joints
  4. Gets people OUTSIDE and encourages them to explore nature
  5. Improved sleep
  6. Studies have shown that cyclists have lower stress levels compared to non cyclists.  The increased blood flow and sweat produces production of mood enhancing hormones.
  7. Cycling 3-4 times a week strengthens the immune system, therefor, cyclists are much less susceptible to taking sick days.

Something else I’ve learned over the years: your employees may surprise you! Maybe no one bikes to work now because they’ve ever thought about it (until you introduce the idea), there are no bike racks, or their bikes need a tune up.  Most bike shops will offer a free tune up, ESPECIALLY during Bike Week, or big time discounts on parts needed to make the bike working like new again.  I encourage you to at least put it out to your employees and not just assume they are not interested or will not participate.  Even if you can get ONE more employee riding their bike more often, why not take the opportunity?

Promote these free tune ups, look at installing some bike racks, give them a trail map (or a website where they can research themselves) and give your employees a chance.  You may be surprised!

Humor Me This!

Jamal Mack, Wellness Coordinator

Did you know April was National Humor Month?  Humor is commonly referred to as the spice of life.  It can turn a negative situation into a positive and it can turn your frown upside down.  Humor has been scientifically proven to have various wellness benefits such as decreasing stress hormones and increasing cell strength in immune- and infection-fighting antibodies.  When it comes to improving your body’s natural defense system, humor is nothing to laugh at. (Get it?)

But enough of my HILARIOUS pay-per-view worthy jokes; I think it is important to honor the people who thought life in April was too serious and decide to make it funnier for each and every one of us.  Comedian and best selling author Larry Wilde founded National Humor Month in 1976 with the goal in mind that everyone share life’s humor, laughter and mirth.  Fittingly enough, National Humor month kicks off with April Fool’s Day, a day usually involving pranking on a mass scale and as a result, grants humor, good feels, and the occasional angry, yet forgiving “prankee” or victim.

If National Humor Month were celebrated in medieval times, hats off to the court jester all month long.  Since it only started a mere 41 years ago, we have some making up to do for lost time.  This month, I encourage you to tap into your funny bone and make the world a little funnier by making someone heartily giggle at your fun, yet safe, humorous antics.

Save Time & Eat Healthy

  Kelly Murray, BS, Wellness Coordinator

Eating healthy can be tough. Stocking up on groceries is time consuming, and the last thing anyone wants to after a long day of work is go to the grocery store. What if I told you, that you can get fresh fruits, vegetables, and groceries without even stepping foot inside the grocery store? I know, it sounds too good to be true! Check out the options below and see how to make your shopping and meals a little easier.

  • Meijer Home Delivery – Order your groceries online, and have them delivered to your door! Meijer has paired with Shipt and is doing deliveries in Grand Rapids and Detroit areas. You can get unlimited deliveries (on orders over $35) for a year for $99, one month for $14, or a single delivery for $7. To see if deliveries are available in your area, visit Today is the first day this service is available in Grand Rapids, so no staff review yet. However Ryan has already signed up and plans on using this service so he can spend more time with his family and less time at the store.
  • Meijer Curbside Pickup – Place your order online, drive up to the curbside lane outside the store, and they will bring the order out to your car. The cost for curbside is $9.99 and is available from 7am-9pm. Visit to find a location near you. HPA Staff Review – “This is the best thing ever! It saves me so much time and money. When I order online I have to think about the items I am ordering instead of just throwing items in my cart at the store.” Jess, Wellness Coordinator
  • Doorganics – Organic fruits, vegetables, and grocery delivery available in the Grand Rapids Area. You can choose between all veggie, all fruit, or mixed produce bins in varying sizes depending on your needs. You can schedule deliveries weekly, or biweekly. Bin prices range from $29.99-$49.99, and you can add on additional items such as dairy, meat, bakery, and meal bundles to your order. To learn more and see if they deliver in your area, visit HPA Staff Review – “Receiving my Doorganics deliveries really keeps me on track with getting in my servings of veggies. Normally when I go to the grocery store I stock up on veggies and they end up going bad before I can use them. I don’t have to worry about that now that I receive bi-weekly deliveries. It has also helped me branch out and try new fruits and veggies, like multi colored carrots and bibb lettuce.” Kelly, Wellness Coordinator

We Are What Our Kids Eat!

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, CHWC Wellness Coordinator

Countless times I have heard my training or coaching clients utter the phrase…”I only buy that junk food because my kids eat it!” HA! So if you don’t buy it, then your 3 year old is going to put you in time out and take your allowance away? Who is in charge here? Deep down you know as well as I do that you bought those Double Stuffed Oreos for yourself, not little Johnny.

Yes, Johnny will be upset that he doesn’t get to eat his favorite treat with his lunch tomorrow, but grown up Johnny will thank you for instilling the thought that healthy eating should start at a young age. Children of all ages should understand that fruit, vegetable, lean meats, and healthy whole grains are what you should be eating. Planting the seed of healthy eating can be brutal and challenging, especially when dealing with picky eaters. And as much as there will be crying and fits, (from the kids and the adults) as the kids get older they will thank you for leaving them with the ability to make smart, healthy, well informed choices. And not diabetes!

So, to paraphrase here, don’t blame your poor eating habits on anyone else but yourself. You are in control of what goes in your mouth, especially when you are the one purchasing the food. And yes shopping for little ones can be hard. Trust me, I have two little mini me’s as well. Do some prep work; bring some healthy snacks like apple slices or carrot sticks to give them while you shop so that they are focused on something else. And if all else fails, throw your head phones in and rock out like they aren’t there, no matter how loud they scream. Trust me, we’ve all been there!

Work Stress & Self-Care

Jess Welch, Wellness Coordinator

How does one cope with too much work, little help, and no time to do their mounting tasks? Through coaching I consistently hear employees tell me about low job satisfaction. Work is their number one source of stress in their life and carries out into other areas leading to low life-satisfaction.

“I have no time to work out.”

“If I had one word to describe my eating habits it would be ‘quick’.”

“Work is constantly on my mind, distracting me from time with my family.”

“I blink and my entire day is gone.”

And as much as a simple answer could be to quit their jobs, it isn’t so simple after all. Everyone has bills to pay, relationships they have made within the workplace, and face the risk of starting over while many may enjoy large pieces of their jobs. So we have this complex issue of increased stress leading to increased risk factors for things like cardiovascular disease, decreased fulfillment, and no real answer to fix it due to life’s high demands.

Because this blog is not for my recommendations of the complex situation for employers to aide in creating a lower stress environment for their employees, I am going to focus on you: the workers. How do you keep up with life’s high demands inside and outside the workplace? How do you develop healthy habits and keep a job you may have worked quite hard to obtain?

Developing healthy coping strategies takes cognitive effort. If it were something you could do outside of cognitive thought, you probably would have been doing it already. As a species, we run as efficiently as possible already but unfortunately this is a piece we still have to think about. However, once we develop the strategies needed for self-care, it becomes less necessary to be intentional about it and more habitual.

Now, I break up stress into two separate categories: the first being that immediate stress, the “here and now” stress, the “my chest hurts and my head is spinning” stress. The second being that mounting and constant stress, like a consistent dull noise in the back of your head. Below you will see some ideas to help cope with each type.

The immediate stress:

  • Remove yourself from the situation for five minutes
  • Close your eyes and take 3 slow breaths: 7 seconds in, 10 seconds out.
  • Plug in your music and listen to one song you love
  • Get a stress ball

*Try these and go right back to work.

The consistent stress:

  • Go for a walk, exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Limit Caffeine intake
  • Do something you enjoy; volunteer, read a book, etc.

Coping with the consistent stress helps decrease the times of that “immediate stress” feeling. So developing a good self-care plan will lower those intense feelings. Now, you’re probably thinking – “Jess, if I have time I would have already been doing this! This doesn’t answer my question at all.” My answer? Find five minutes in your day. Then find ten. Increase your moments of self-care by five minutes a week until you can somehow find 20-30 minutes in your day. This does not need to be all at once, scatter it if you need to. But I promise, once you do you will not regret it! Your physical body, your emotional body, heck – even your work will all thank you!

Well Leaders: Involving the Right People

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 Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

When a company implements a wellness program, many program administrators are very used to hearing that the promotion and support for this program needs to come from the top down in order for it to be successful.  While this is true, it’s not the entire story.  Each culture and logistics of the company has a role in how this plays out, but who could be more important than your CEO, CFO, HR team, and other key executives?  Middle Management.

If your CEO sends a letter home to employees encouraging their participation, their message is in your newsletter and on a flyer in the break room, that’s great.  But how much time do your employees actually spend with the CEO?  What is their level of trust of your CEO (another topic out of my expertise!)?  While in a perfect corporate world, the answers here would be “a lot of time!” and “a lot of trust!”, it’s just not reality.  Employees are spending a majority of their time in their own departments with their direct supervisors.  If those middle managers are not buying in to the program, neither will their employees!

We encourage you to host separate meetings with your management team, even one-on-one perhaps, to get their buy in and almost most importantly, their commitment to participating themselves.  Setting the example is half of the message!  Consider running special challenges or programs just for them.  Highlighting in a newsletter “Healthy Leaders” and showing what they have accomplished, or the results of your WellLeader Challenge.  Communication is also huge.  In many companies, the main route of communicating all of the fantastic programs you have going simply aren’t reaching all employees.  Your middle managers are the key.

January is National Oatmeal Month

  Jamal Mack, BS, Wellness Coordinator

According to the USDA, only 44% of Americans eat breakfast daily which means more than half of the population are not indulging in the proper morning maintenance of their bodies. Out of those 44% who do eat breakfast, 73% eat some type of sweetened cereal once or more for breakfast a week. Breakfast is the first meal of the day, setting the tone for your daily societal adventures. With that being said, we want to ensure that we are putting the right fuel in our bodies upon our awakening. Since January is National Oatmeal Month, what better way to start your January breakfast off than with the Quaker man himself? Oatmeal is a great way to enjoy a breakfast and due to its lack of (for lack of a better term) “potent” flavor there are a myriad of possibilities when it comes to adding to that flavor.

Quick Quaker Tips

  • Add a fruit : bananas, apple slices, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mangos, pineapples, and/ or peaches are good ways to add some extra flavor AND some extra nutrients into your breakfast treat
  • Add a natural sweetener: Honey, agave, and/or peanut butter are great natural sweeteners you can add to your oatmeal (can combine with fruit as well) to make that road from mouth to stomach a bit more pleasant
  • Experiment with different ingredients: Instead of regular oatmeal try flax meal, flax and quinoa meal, and/or steel cut oats. All of which taste a little different and are accompanied by some extra nutritional tools (omega-3s in quinoa/flax mix, fiber in steel cut oats, etc..)
  • Eat while fresh and hot: As tedious as this tip may seem you’d be surprised how a quick drop in temperature can sway the flavor of your oatmeal, it is best to eat it while still hot

For more interesting and TASTY ways to have your oats and oatmeal visit

Now that we know are better aware of how to improve our oatmeal’s taste, I think it is imperative to keep in mind the “why” behind all this which is that we want to feel and be healthier each day. Starting off your morning with oatmeal has some great health benefits such as:

  • Weight loss- Oatmeal contains beta-glucan which helps promote to release of the peptide YY hormone. This hormone may help you lose weight by making you feel more full. It does this by slowing down the emptying of the stomach.
  • Blood sugar control- Oatmeal’s soluble fiber beta-glucan, may improve insulin sensitivity and help lower blood sugar levels by forming a thick gel that delays emptying of the stomach and absorption of glucose into the blood
  • Cholesterol control- Once again that soluble super fiber beta-glucan has numerous benefits. It helps reduce blood cholesterol and sugar levels by promoting healthy gut bacteria and increasing feelings of fullness
  • Improved Skin- Finely cut oats aka colloidal oatmeal has historically been used to help treat dry and itchy skin and even helps treat symptoms of various skin conditions, such as eczema
  • Reduced risk of childhood asthma- A recent study found a link between oats and asthma in children under the age of 6 months
  • Relieve of constipation- With oatmeal being so fiber rich its no wonder this super food can assist with eliminating constipation

These are only brief descriptions of how/why oatmeal is so beneficial for us. For more information you may seek out information on

Well there you have it! HAPPY OATMEAL MONTH!!!! Now go celebrate with a bowl of the Quakers finest!



Keeping the Holidays Healthy

  Kelly Murray, BS, Wellness Coordinator

The holidays can be a tough time of year when it comes to making healthy choices. Below are a few easy tips and tricks to keep you on track throughout the holiday season.

Christmas Shopping – Plan ahead before your trip to the mall!

  • Don’t go to the mall hungry.
    • Before heading out for a full day of shopping, eat a meal that is going to fill you up and give you the energy to do your power shopping. Eating before you go will make it less likely that you will stop and make poor nutrition choices because you are starving.
  • Bring a water bottle and pack a light snack.
    • Shopping can be intense! Before you leave home, pack yourself a water bottle and a healthy snack to take with you. Having these readily available will help prevent you from caving and buying junk food while you are out and about.
  • Plan your route.
    • Map out where you need to go. If possible, try to avoid walking past the food court or the sugar coated almond stand 10 times as you do your shopping. You can even plan to take the long way around and get in some extra walking.
  • Avoid fast food at the food court and choose a sit down restaurant.
    • Instead of grabbing a quick bite to eat from the food court, go to a sit down restaurant. It may take a little more time, but there are usually healthier options, like soup and salad, grilled chicken or fish, and veggies. Sitting down away from all of thoe noise and rush of shoppers will also help you relax, and take time to focues on the food you are eating. Enjoy and savor your meal. There is no need to rush, the sale will still be going on in 30 minutes after you eat your meal.

Holiday Parties and Gatherings

  • Bring your own dish to pass.
    • If you are going to someone else’s house for a meal, offer to bring your own dish to pass. This way you have some control over what you are eating, and you know what has gone in to it. Many people tend to bring deserts, but why not bring a healthy appetizer or a side? Vegetable trays and salads are always welcome.
  • Fill up on the healthiest options first.
    • Begin with a salad (the green kind, not the potato or pasta salad). Fill your plate with veggies and entrees before filling up on high-calorie sides and desserts. This means having a mountain of broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans rather than a mashed potato mountain.  Instead, if you are going to make a mini mashed potato mountain try to stick with one serving size of about 1 cup.
  • Stand at least an arms length away from the munchies.
    • Take a step back from the munchies! If you are sitting down at the table, or standing within arms reach of the chips, nuts, and candies you will be more likely to mindlessly snack on them without even noticing it. By standing farther away you will need to actively choose to move towards the snacks if that is what you really want to eat.

For more tips on how to stay healthy over the holidays, take a look at the American Heart Association’s Holiday Healthy Eating Guide

Moderation: Hormesis, Ketone Bodies, and Polyhydroxy Aldehydes


   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

BOOM! Mind blown! Did he just have to pull out the dictionary for those words?  For those of you that are still with me after that amazing title up there, thank you. This topic may come out slightly different than some of my previous half rants that I have posted here. What I am going to touch on is something that many people are talking about, trying out, believe whole heartedly in, or flat out think is ridiculous. Oh yeah, I’m going there. Let’s talk a little bit about the idea of low carb/no carb diets. First, let me explain the title:

Hormesis:  the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposure to toxins and other stressors.

Ketone Bodies: three water-soluble molecules (acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone) that are produced by the liver from fatty acids found in untreated (or inadequately treated) type 1 diabetes, prolonged intense exercise, periods of low food intake, starvation, or          carbohydrate restrictive diets.

Polyhydoxy Aldehydes: carbohydrates.

The short and sweet is that when blood glucose levels are low, the body can take fat and send it into the blood stream to be used up by most of the metabolizing /exercising muscles as fuel. The cells in the muscles break down the fat into water-soluble chemical products (ketone bodies) through a process called beta oxidation. These ketone bodies are released by the liver and then used by the cells as energy. Unlike fatty acids directly from the body’s fat stores, ketone bodies can pass through the blood brain barrier meaning that they can be used by the central nervous system as well as muscle.

Sounds great, eat protein, minimal fat and don’t eat any carbs, the body will turn our unwanted fat into energy and we all live happily ever after living off of our spare tire. Unfortunately there are a couple of problems. For starters, the liver cannot use ketone bodies as fuel because it cannot break them down. Bummer, liver failure! Second, the brain can only get a portion of its energy from ketone bodies with the rest coming from glucose ie, carbs. Bummer, reduced cognitive functioning! Not to mention that your digestive track would be so bound up by the amount of protein you would have to eat to reach your appropriate calorie intake that you could cause serious internal damage. So what is the upside? Lower, not eliminated, carbohydrate diets with bouts of intermittent fasting have been shown to help the body boost the metabolism of fat from adipose tissue as an energy source, ideally resulting in reduced body fat. Walla, hormesis! So we are back to the well known concept, everything in moderation.

Monday Mourning


Nahshon Cook-Nelson, PR & Marketing Intern

My first job was working at a fresh food market in the 11th grade
Finally it was my chance to get my own wage

Even more than getting paid
I was thrilled for the friends and new relationships to be made

And on that first day I…

Found out it was a masquerade
Most weren’t filled with praise but self-pity

Constantly complaining
Dramatically draining

Persistently persuading themselves and each other
That their place of work was an utter, sentence to chains

Specifically on that first day of the week
There was a sense of mourning
More people grew meek
Seeking to pull themselves from the present

As I look around today
Lots of things seem the same way

Now this may sound dumb
But I think most have grown numb
To the feeling they first had walking in the door
The urge to try new things and explore

Whether it was 9 to 5 or 8 to 4
We were passionate about the struggle and the growth
But now, we’ve grown sore

We are not required to live this way any. more.

If our work has truly brought us to the stage of worry then let it be discontinued
And our refugee begin

Otherwise, the only reason we complain is if we know of something better within
Where every Monday we can pull in to work with a grin

We may approach those whose internal lights have grown dim
But we will spread the notion of TGIM

Where many have felt the need to plead until their last working minute has struck
We will feed the seeds to give our best until our time is up

We can defeat this feeling that is so alluring
Give gratitude instead of complaints. So our joy is ever enduring

When agony rises and moments seem boring
Let us fight back so it is NEVER “just another Monday Mourning”