Go! How Your Smartphone Can Help You Get Moving

  Kelly Murray, Wellness Coordinator

I will admit, sometimes I need some extra motivation to get moving and exercise. Recently, a lot of my friends have been talking about a new game that they have been playing on their smartphones called Pokémon Go. I decided to download it and see what it was all about, even though I don’t normally play video games. Pokémon Go is an interactive game where you chase Pokémon around your neighborhood and catch them! The game literally tricks you into exercising. Once I downloaded the game I could see that there were leaves rustling across the street from my house, which means that there was a Pokémon nearby. I put my tennis shoes on and went outside to see if I could catch it. After I caught my first Pidgey, I decided to keep walking and see how many more I could find. Normally when I go take a walk around my neighborhood, I will see about 3 or 4 other people out walking. This time, I saw more than 10 people out walking! Of course you can tell which people are out walking and playing the game because they have their cell phone in their hand or they are posted up by a land mark to stock up on gear from pokestop. After catching a few pokemon, I took a look at my watch and realized I had already been walking for a half hour! I didn’t even realize I had been out walking for that long.

Many people may think that the game is a waste of time, but I think its fun. It makes the time go by quickly, and it gives you the opportunity to explore other areas around your town that you wouldn’t typically visit. If you need help finding a little extra motivation, turn it in to a game! You can use games and apps to keep you motivated and on track.  Below are a few of the HPA staffs favorite fitness apps for your smartphone.

  • Pokemon Go –When you go for a walk around your neighborhood or through town, you can use your smartphone to catch and collect Pokémon. Unlike other videogames, you actually have to be outside walking to play the game!
  • MyFitnessPal – This is a great app to track your daily nutrition and exercise. It has a large food database with over 6,000,000 foods listed. You can also connect your fitness tracker to sync directly with the app.
  • 7 Minute Workout – Crunched for time? The 7 Minute workout walks you through 13 exercises in 7 minutes. The only equipment you need is yourself, a wall, and a chair or step.
  • WalkForADog – This app donates money to local shelters when you track your walking! Whether you are taking your own dogs out for walks, or just enjoy going for walks and donate money to a good cause, this app makes it really easy for you.
  • FitStar Personal Trainer – Workout on your own schedule, with the help of a personal trainer, videos, and handcrafted routines such as “10 Minute Abs” and “7 Minute Workout”. You can also link this app with your FitBit and MyFitnessPal.
  • Calm – If you need a little more calm in your life, this app can help you meditate, sleep, and relax using guided meditation on music.
  • Healthy Out – It can be really hard to choose healthy options when you are going out to eat at a restaurant. The Healthy Out app helps you find healthy restaurants and meals to match your diet and nutrition preferences. You can search for meals with filters such as less than 500 calories, low carb, gluten free, vegetarian, or even their most popular “not a salad”.
  • Daily Yoga – This yoga app has over 100 yoga and meditation exercise that you can do at home. Perfect for beginners, intermediate, and advanced yoga lovers. Some programs are free, or you can upgrade if you are interested in additional programs.

Dietary Monogamy a.k.a. No Cheating!

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

As a personal trainer one of the biggest issues I had with my clients was trying to get their nutrition under control. I would help them by steering them away from foods that would be detrimental to their goals and provide them with healthy substitutes and new ideas for meals. It never failed that I would have at least one client that would get the great idea of going on some crash diet that restricted what they could eat, when they could eat, what they could drink and how they should view food in general. When I would inform them about how food/calorie restriction can be have a serious negative effect on them, their answer would come back to, ”but it’s perfectly fine because Saturday is my cheat day.” Your WHAT!?! A day that you can eat whatever you want and not completely mess up everything that you have been working towards? Let’s think about this a little. Whether this diet is the be-all-end-all or complete, well…you know, giving yourself an entire day to blow everything you’ve done doesn’t seem like the best idea, does it? This concept wouldn’t work out very well for someone trying to quit smoking; no cigarettes for an entire week and then you can suck ‘em down like they are the only thing keeping you alive for one day.

No matter what you are trying to do with your dietary changes, the biggest thing you are trying to do is break a habit that you have formed over years of eating a certain way. Just as if you were trying to quit smoking, it is a habit that needs to be broken. Letting yourself eat your body weight in pizza, cookies, chips, ice cream, hamburgers, French fries and don’t forget the Diet Coke (you are trying to watch your weight here) will NOT help you break the habits that you have formed. Cheat days will ruin what you are trying to do, period! Has anyone ever heard of the term moderation? Listen, if you are able to change around your diet for the better, you are eating more lean proteins, loading up on veggies and fruits, focusing on moderate amounts of healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil and eating appropriate amounts of healthy grains, go ahead and have that cookie. Just stop at one, not one box! Hey, you had a scoop of ice cream, good for you! It wasn’t the carton like it used to be. A slightly unhealthy treat every once in a while is fine, actually it can be good for you. Don’t believe me? Just think back to that first cheat day on your new diet plan and tell me that one cookie wouldn’t have been healthier than that gorge-fest that you went through. I’m not telling you to eat a piece of cake everyday to keep the doctor away, I’m just saying to not stress out so much over a little treat. Mentally, you’ll be stronger knowing that you can still bake your cake and eat it too.

Biking to Work – How to Incorporate into Your Program

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

May is National Bike to Work Month.  While not all workplaces are easily accessible by bike or perhaps your employees are too spread out geographically to commit to doing this, there are still plenty of other ideas you can incorporate into your wellness program for the month of May and beyond!

  1. Encourage employees to Bike to Work!  It can’t hurt to put it out there.  Designate one morning where, if employees show up by bicycle, they can get free coffee, fruit, oatmeal, water, prizes, and more!  (notice the healthy food correlation?  No donuts!)
  2. Host a Bike Safety Workshop.  HPA is actively promoting FREE Bike Safety courses right now, coming right to your workplace!  Whether your employees are riding to work or not, you can always encourage them to log bike miles throughout a certain time frame and host a free class on how they can ride safe.
  3. Don’t assume employees won’t ride to work.  Give them a chance! Maybe they won’t because there isn’t a bike rack to lock up their wheels.  Set up the environment so you’re removing the barriers and excuses.
  4. Set up a bike miles challenge.  Have employees log miles on their bike for a couple of weeks.  Do a drawing for one random participant and give a prize to the one who logged the most miles, and one who logged the most trips.  Encourage family participation.
  5. Provide free bike maps of trails in your area.  Or, even providing a handout that teaches employees the safety signals and rules of the road.

Contact us at HPA if you’d like assistance with any of the above programming.  Ride on!

Laugh for the Health of It

  Kelly Murray, Wellness Coordinator

 

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? To get to the other side! I know, I know. Bad joke.  Did my corny joke get you to laugh? If not, keep reading and find a few ways to add more laughter in to your life, because April is National Humor Month! It has been said that laughter is the best medicine. Doctors and surgeons use laughter to help distract patients from pain, and laughter therapy is used to help people living with cancer. Laughing has been shown to have many health benefits, including stress relief. So take a break from working or stressing over your taxes this month, and laugh for the health of it!

Health Benefits of Laughter

  • Increases blood flow
  • Increases oxygen intake
  • Helps lower blood pressure
  • Improves alertness, creativity, and memory
  • Improves heart health
  • Triggers the release of endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers)
  • Helps relieve pain and stress
  • Good abdominal workout

Wow. All that can happen just from laughing? All those benefits are great for your body, both physically and mentally. If you think about it, how often do you laugh during a typical day? Maybe a few times here and there. How can you add more laughter in to your day in order to reap all of these great benefits? Here are a few tips on how to laugh more.

Add More Laughter to Your Life

  • Go out and be around people. Laughter is contagious. If someone else starts laughing, we normally start laughing too!
  • Watch a funny video online. Maybe it’s a video of cute funny animals, or people doing funny things. If you don’t have time to watch a full episode of America Funniest Home videos, you can pull up a short 2 minute video on youtube.
  • Learn to Laugh at yourself. Instead of being embarrassed about something that you did, find the humor in it. Share the story with friends and instead of laughing at you, they will be laughing with you.
  • Laugh at others (within reason of course). Did you just see someone trip on the sidewalk? Instead of leaving them to feel embarrassed about it, help them laugh it off. If you start laughing about it, they might be able to laugh about their silly mistake too. If they are still laying on the ground, give them a hand and help them up.
  • Read the Comic section of the newspaper.
  • Learn a few jokes. They can be great conversation starters, or help to break the awkward silence.
  • Watch a comedy tv show or movie instead of the news or a serious drama.
  • Actively look for a laugh everyday. Take a look around you to enjoy life, and find something to laugh about.

Nutrition & Wellness Programming

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

Wellness programs and their education components are often built on two primary staples: diet and exercise.  Exercise is relatively easy to program (and easy to understand from an employee’s perspective). But when it comes to nutrition, there is an incredible amount of conflict even within the professional world of physicians, scientists, dietitians, and experts, it’s no wonder the “normal person” is confused and that the national obesity rate is rising above and beyond 35% in the United States.

March is National Nutrition Month.  It’s the perfect time to hone in on these programs and hear from the experts (us!) on delivering effective and affordable nutrition programs to reach members.  Especially when weight loss is 80% proper nutrition and only 20% physical activity, it’s an imperative focus for an employer and should be a part of your wellness programming.

Here are our top 5 most popular nutrition programs:

  1. Educational Seminars – a fan favorite of our clients is “Mythbusting: Nutrition Edition” and “Healthy Cooking Live Demo”.  Provide a month-long challenge after the class in order to put to practice the different topics discussed in the class.
    “Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
  2. MENTAL HEALTH! – Not always an obvious thought, but in our experience, most of our members’ struggle with their food intake directly relates to stress, time management, work-life balance, and financial restrictions.  Designing programs that can pinpoint THESE issues will have a direct correlation to nutrition.
  3. Challenge – Seems obvious, as wellness programs LOVE challenges.  But it is for good reason, as challenges both involve employees and promote friendly workplace competition that truly is a drive for some members.  A good challenge will encourage employees to meet their goals, not “be the MOST healthy”.  It will also reward goal meeting each week and will have a different focus area each week (count your calories, eat foods with 5 or less ingredients or that you can pronounce, track your fiber grams, eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, etc.).
  4. Web Portal – Trackers, social accountability aspect – We’ve seen the power of the digital world through the rise of Social Media.  Using a web portal where employees can keep a food diary, share with a coach, and share their favorite recipes, exercise progress, funny and encouraging memes, and more on a social network within the portal.
  5. 1-on-1 Coaching – Speaking of coaching, the most tailored, effective programming you can do is provide your members the opportunity to talk to someone who will provide them with the accountability, the encouragement, and proper guidance to successful goal setting.

 

Diet vs. Exercise: My Professional Opinion

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

With my 12 + years in the Health and Wellness field, 10 of those years as a personal trainer, the main question I would get is: “How can I lose my gut?”

My professional opinion:  “Keep your mouth closed!”

Ok, hear me out! You can get on your elliptical in the morning and ride like the wind for 30 to 45 minutes and burn a whopping 400 calories in doing so. Yeah Me! Now it’s time for my post workout shake (Low Carb – 100 cal), don’t forget my banana, because I need my potassium (1 medium – 110 cal). And let’s wash it all down with a caffe mocha w/ nonfat milk on the way to work (1 grande – 250 cal). Mid day snack time; Greek yogurt (100 cal) and some granola (Quaker 0.5 cup – 200 cal). Time for lunch. Darn! I forgot to bring it today. Oh well, that healthy sub sandwich shop it is. 6 inch Oven Roasted Chicken Breast on whole wheat (320 cal) with avocado (1 half – 125 cal) and ranch (2 Tbsp –  140 cal), oh…don’t forget the cookie (chocolate chip – 200 cal) and the Diet Coke (0 cal). Doing good, right? Oh wait, it’s only lunch time (1,545 cal so far). You push through the rest of the work day with another caffe mocha (1 grande – 250 cal) and an apple (1 small Gala – 80 cal). Time for dinner, grilled chicken breast (5 oz – 233 cal) with a baked potato (1 medium Russet – 163 cal) and butter (1 pat – 36 cal), some sweet corn (1 cob – 100 cal) and more butter (1 pat – 36 cal) and a side salad (spinach, 1 cup – 7 cal) with olive oil (1 Tbsp – 120 cal) and balsamic vinegar (1 Tbsp – 10 cal) dressing. All American chow (705 cal, I’m being conservative.) Well, we can’t forget our glass of wine night cap (Merlot, 5 oz – 125 cal) and our late night indulgence on some ice cream now can we? (1 cup – 540 cal)

Alright…and the grand total is?

3,165 calories! But wait, I exercised this morning. That should account for something, right? Ok, ok…2,765 calories. Great job, here’s a cookie…no wait, don’t eat that! The average person should be eating between 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day to promote weight loss. The thing I tell my clients and anyone I meet is that exercise will NOT fix your horrible eating habits. Period! If you can’t control what goes in, you will not be able to control what comes off! Now, this generalization is strictly based on calories alone. There is so much more to this than just calories, but that is a topic for another discussion. The main take away from this is to learn the difference between your mouth and a vacuum cleaner. Pay attention to what you are eating. You will not lose weight if you cannot control yourself! You can lose weight just by paying attention to portion size and making sure you are eating nutritious food. Keep a journal for a while, and be honest with it. If it goes in your mouth, it goes in the journal. Not writing something down only hurts you. Once you get a good idea how much you are actually eating, you can then start making changes. So, get your pencils and papers out and start journaling.

Love Your Heart!

Nicole Griswold, CHWC, Wellness Coordinator

 

Everyone knows that February is National Heart Health month. There are about a million risk factors regarding heart health in general but what are the most important? Cardiac disease is probably my biggest passion as a health professional so I know I could write an entire book on the stuff, but I’ll keep it somewhat short and sweet.

The top 10 cardiac risk factors include:

  1. Dyslipidemia (high cholesterol)
  2. Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  3. Obesity
  4. Nicotine use
  5. Sedentary lifestyle
  6. High stress levels
  7.  Hypertriglyceridemia (high amounts of fat in the blood)
  8. Hyperglucosemia (high blood sugar)
  9. High waist circumference
  10. Older age (men >50 years old, women >40 years old)

Unless you’re swimming on the bad side of the gene pool, 9/10 of these risk factors can be 100% controlled by you and your lifestyle. Unfortunately not everyone cares enough about the repercussions of letting these factors run wild. Let’s break it down!

Most people are not getting enough exercise and can be classified as leading a sedentary lifestyle 

Generally speaking, most people who are mostly sedentary are overweight and have an increased chance of having poor numbers

Many of us carry our excess weight around our waist

A high waist circumference is directly related to abnormal glucose levels (type 2 diabetes)

People diagnosed with diabetes are 60% more likely to have a heart attack or stoke than non-diabetics

Heart attacks and strokes have a close relationship with high cholesterol and triglycerides

High total cholesterol is a result of excessive consumption of unhealthy animal products and  fatty foods (triglycerides)

Any excess lipids floating through the blood will cause high blood pressure as a result of your body trying to clean the blood

Blood pressure is easily raise by increased stress levels and nicotine use

It all ties together! Keep your heart happy.

Top 5 List: Community Service and Wellness


Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Wellness Account Manager

January 18th was “King Day of Service”.  This got me thinking about the great opportunities organizations have to incorporate service into their wellness programs.  I believe there really is something to volunteering and the benefits that directly correlate to an employee and a health plan.

You’ll see a variety of programs that are considered “wellness”.  Flu shots, biggest loser challenges, biometric screenings, yoga classes, and countless additional programs can fall under this umbrella.  At HPA, we believe that a good program incorporates 3 major prongs; Nutrition, Exercise, and Mental Health.

According to Harvard Medical School, studies have shown that volunteering not only wards off feelings of loneliness and depression, but can also reach beyond mental health, affecting physical health as well.  This includes lowering blood pressure and having a longer life span.

The benefits are there, but how can companies be using community service as a tentacle of their wellness efforts?  Here are our top 5 options we have put together based on what we are seeing in the industry:

  1. Designate 2 non-profits or movements a year to focus on.  Focus less on making 1 huge donation as a company and focus more on how you can involve your employees to either fundraise or be directly involved with the mission in a hands-on manor.  Allowing paid time offsite or department trips to volunteer is an important piece to show your buy in to your efforts.  Visiting your local soup kitchen or children’s museum are great options and make great team building activities.
  2. Have a points program?  Make community service hours a part of it!
  3. Join a local effort such as Relay for Life or the American Heart Walk.  Employees can fundraise AND be physically active.  Events like this also help build a culture of giving-back and wellness.
  4. Partner with some local charities to allow your employees a mentorship opportunity, or host a kickball game or something similar with underprivileged kids in the community. One example: Big Brothers, Big Sisters has a corporate mentorship program.
  5. On a much lesser scale, some organizations will incorporate a donation method into their challenges.  For example, within a Hold it for the Holidays weight maintenance challenge, the winning employees will earn money for themselves and a company match of the winnings to the employee’s charity of choice.

Community service not only provides the aforementioned benefits to mental and physical health of your employees, it molds the culture of your workplace and improves the image of your company’s presence in its community.

Be well and VOLUNTEER!

New Year’s Resolutions, or New Year’s Goals?

  Kelly Murray, Wellness Coordinator


Every January, people are proud to announce their New Year’s resolutions. To lose weight, get in shape, spend less and save more money. The list goes on and on. But what happens come March? Or maybe even February for some? We forget about those resolutions that we made even though they were, or are still important to us. By definition, a resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something”. Maybe that’s why so many New Year’s resolutions never get accomplished. A resolution is merely a decision, or an agreement to do or be better.

A goal on the other hand, is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.” I don’t know about you, but right there in that definition are two words right there that really jump out at me. Effort. Desire. If you really want to make changes and improvements for the new year ahead, set some goals! Don’t just make a decision that you want to be better or do better. You need to have the desire and put in the effort to make those changes and achieve the results.

Okay, you thought it over and you decided that you’re ready. You really want to make some changes. Now it’s time to set some goals. But if you’re going to do this right, they need to be SMART goals.

Specific
When creating your goals, make sure you are detailed. Just saying, “I’m going to work out more” is not good enough. When are you going to exercise? For how long? How many times a week? What days of the week? Doing what? Where at? Be specific. Make a specific plan and write it down.
Measurable
“I will eat healthier” also will set you up to fail. How will you know that you ate healthier? What exactly is healthier? Instead, set a goal of “I will eat 3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day” or “I will exercise 3 days a week for 30 minutes”. That is measurable. With a measurable goal, you will be able to count it and you can track your progress.
Attainable
“I’m going to lose 30 pounds by next month” or “I’m going to exercise every day”. Are those really achievable or healthy? If your goal seems a little too lofty, try breaking it down into smaller goals, so that you can ultimately reach you end goal. Try rating your confidence on a scale of 1-10. If you give yourself less than a 7, restructure your goal so it’s a 7 or higher.
Relevant
As the New Year rolls around, we realize all at once all of the goals we want to accomplish. “I’m going to vacuum more often” is a great goal, but get your priorities straight and don’t pile on more than you can handle. Is vacuuming relevant to your most important goal?
Timely
Set a deadline to your goals to keep you on track. Having one huge goal for the entire year is a lot to grasp. Setting deadlines throughout your goal will help you maintain your progress, and allow for re-evaluation if needed. By setting mini deadlines and goals, you will be able to keep up with your goal, and not wait until the last minute to try and squeeze everything in.

Another tool to help you with your SMART goals is the goal pyramid below. Looking at your goals in a pyramid shape will help you break down, and really get detailed and specific with your goals.

Goal Pyramid

Putting in the time and effort to create and personalize your SMART goals will get you started off on the right path. By following these guidelines, you will be able to track your progress, meet, and maybe even exceed your goals to becoming an improved version of yourself for the New Year.

 

 

Zero Calories !?!?

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

So, I don’t mean to sound negative, but it drives me nuts when I see blatant misinformation pushed on people in an attempt make them feel better about their own poor choices. We make enough bad decisions in our lifetime; sticking your tongue to a pole in the middle of winter, listening to your friends when they tell you that you can easily jump that ravine on your bike, or the ever infamous “dude you gotta try this, we’ve all done it!” Liars! Not that I’ve fallen victims to these…twice. But I’m talking about information regarding our food choices and what is healthy and why. We all know that pizza is bad for us and fruit is good, but let’s make sure we all know why something is good for us and that nothing is free.

As I was walking out of my local fitness center, feeling better that I may have possibly burnt off enough calories to justify the amazing apple induced sugar rush I was going to give myself, a handmade billboard caught my eye. “ZERO CALORIE FOODS!” Low and behold, there is a Heaven, and according to this poster, it is filled with zero calorie apples, bananas, pineapple, celery and almost every other type of fruit and vegetable you can think of. Hallelujah! But then I remembered, wait, this apple in my hand, this gorgeous, ruby red, juicy piece of sweetness named Fuji actually contains about 100 calories with about 30g (90 cal) coming from straight up sugar; fructose to be exact! What! (Not that fructose is bad for you)
Zero Calories

Zero calorie foods are a myth people! It has been a thought out there for a long time that there are some fruits and vegetables that require more calories to digest than they actually give. Unfortunately, this is total hogwash. There are foods out there that have very few calories. For instance, a stalk of celery has between six and ten calories. There is a metric called TEF (Thermal Effect of Food) that measures how many calories are used to digest food. Generally speaking, it’s only about 10% to 20%. That means a ten calorie stalk of celery still gives you eight calories even after digestion. So in the case of my delectable Fuji, this means it still “contains” 80 calories after you factor in my tummy doing some work.

I’m not saying that we should all give up on nutritious fruits & veggies and go binging on a swimming pool full of ice cream and donuts; I’m just saying that we need to be properly informed about what we eat. Keep eating those fruits and vegetables, just know that you are consuming calories. So after ripping down the poster and high tailing it out of there screaming “They’re all out to make us fat,” needless to say, I’m looking for a new place to get in shape. Any suggestions?