Get Moving at Work – for employees & benefits managers

It is estimated that only one in five Americans achieves a relatively high level of physical activity at work1. Many of us are aware that it would be beneficial to incorporate more fitness into our work day, yet, where to start? A knowledgeable benefits or human resources manager can provide employees with options on how to make room for fitness in their work day.

The good news: Your benefits manager already knows that healthy employees are more productive, miss work less often and are overall happier and healthier people.  This means insurance costs are lowered. How great is that! You’re asking them for advice on something they already want you to do!

Here are some suggestions for both program admins and participants on how to incorporate wellness in the workplace:

Provide places to walk. If there is no place to walk at work it will be hard to encourage employees to do it. Management can be pro-active – build sidewalks and trails or investigate options for nearby sites where employees can walk. If there is really nowhere else to go, get creative – try measuring and marking the distance around the perimeter of a parking lot or set up a treadmill in an empty office space. One of our clients (a large hospital in Washington D.C.) set up a path inside the building using footprint stickers!

Track it. One of our favorite quotes is: “That which is measured, improves” – Pearson’s Law. We’re seeing more and more programs rewarding employees with wireless trackers so they can keep a record of their activities. If your team already has devices, set a goal that participants need to reach in order to be eligible to upgrade their device to something spiffier. If they do not have devices yet, you might want to create a mini challenge – those who complete it will be eligible to receive a new device. Get everyone on board with this one, wireless devices make it easy and fun for your employees to track their progress.

Get Paid to NOT Park it. A little extra cash at the end of the month can be a powerful motivator. Employees can be given the cash equivalent of the cost of parking if they refrain from driving to work. If parking is free at your workplace, an employer could give you extra benefits at work for not using a parking space. The other option is charging a hefty premium for the privilege of parking at work.

Build in “Walking Breaks”. In some workplace settings you’re sticking to a schedule and breaks are assigned. These companies are the perfect place to schedule “walking breaks” into the day. Your schedule may already include a lunch break and a morning and afternoon break, but let’s beef that up. Suggest that your employer schedule an additional 10 or 15 minute break for those who will walk during that time. Sure, a few minutes will be lost, but you will gain a much more attentive and effective employee.  It’s hard for upper management to miss this increase in productivity and quality.

Encourage walking, mass transit and carpools. Ask if your company will give employees a break on your health care premium if you walk to work, use public transportation, or carpool. For the folks who are carpooling, suggest they alternate days walking to one another’s house for the ride.

How’d you like to earn a day off with every 100 miles you log? At some workplaces you already can. Our admins can use the Walker Tracker program statistics to calculate when you deserve PTO or a paid lunch. Studies show that active employees get lots more done even with some extra days off.

Create friendly competitions. There’s no doubt that grouping co-workers into teams and recording steps can really get people involved. Yet, when setting up a competition it is important to be encouraging to everyone. Your ‘fit’ people will exercise with or without the program, focus on creating a competition that challenges them further. Offer a program that encourages and inspires beginners. Our points competitions are a great way to reward diligence and stick-to-it behaviors over high step counts. Want more ideas for competitions? Admins can ask their Walker Tracker program manager for ideas of how to build competitions that are inclusive to all fitness levels.

 

Sources:

1 Church TS, Thomas DM, Tudor-Locke C, Katzmarzyk PT, Earnest CP, Rodarte RQ, et al. (2011) Trends over 5 Decades in U.S. Occupation-Related Physical Activity and Their Associations with Obesity. PLoS ONE 6(5): e19657. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019657

Lost Lake Butte Trail

For our summer vacation this year my fiancé and I went out to a local campground called Lost Lake. The lodge and family friendliness reminded me of the movie “Dirty Dancing” and there was so much to do in and around the lake! Despite getting extremely sunburnt our second day we decided that we wanted to get a hike in. There are many trails to hike in the area but one we had heard really great things about was the “Lost Lake Butte” trail.

We started early right after breakfast since it was going to be hot that day and we wanted to hike while it was still relatively mild. Round trip the trail is 4.6 miles and I would say moderate in difficulty. There are a lot of rocks and tree roots popping up on the trail and it is a steep climb with several switchbacks. At first, once we got to the summit I didn’t see anything too worth while but after walking a little further we were rewarded with this…

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A gorgeous view of the north side of Mt. Hood! It was definitely worth the hike! We spent a good chunk of time up there taking in the view. If you are around Hood River or even the Portland area I highly recommend this hike! If you are nowhere close I ask you, where is a piece of nature nearby that you’ve been meaning to go to? Give yourself time, start early, bring snacks and water and go out for a little adventure one of these weekends. We saw kids literally running up this trail so don’t be deterred to bring your children also!

If you’ve recently gone on a hike, no matter where you are, share them with us! We’d love to hear about them and see your pictures too!

Walk With Purpose

There always seems to be a walk for something. Walk for Breast Cancer, Walk for Alzheimers, Walk for MS and so on. I do not think I know one person who hasn’t been affected by a disease somewhere in their lives. Personally, Alzheimers hit close to home for me with my grandma. These walks are usually short (5k or 3.1 miles) and help you to do a small part to support research and those suffering. Why not challenge yourself to find a walk to participate in for the end of the summer or fall? It’s true that often times these walks ask for a donation, but it is for a great cause and sometimes that money is just the extra bit of motivation needed to follow through. Get a few friends together, maybe find a cause that you and your co-workers would like to walk for. It’s great for families to do together also! Below I have listed some websites that you can click on and see if they have walks in your area.

Walk to End Alzheimers

Race for a Cure (Breast Cancer Awareness)

ZERO cancer (Prostate Cancer)

Relay for Life (American Cancer Society)

JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes 

NAMIwalk (Mental Illness)

Light The Night (Leukemia & Lymphoma)

Those of course are just a few suggestions. I am sure that if you search for “insert cause+walk” in a search engine, you’ll more than likely find a walk or run to participate in. Now get out there, get inspired, get fit and make a difference!

7 Steps to Happy Walking Feet

You may have heard this time and time again but I am here to stress it once more, GET GOOD WALKING/RUNNING SHOES! Do you think pro football players use equipment from a second hand shop or helmets that are four years old? Do you think that Lance Armstrong rides a bike that he’s had for years kept in the back of a garage for training? I think not! The point is, they use the right equipment for the sport they are doing.

If you are not wearing the right shoes and you are walking or running several miles per week, it should be no surprise if your knees, shins, lower back, hips and ankles start to bother you. Yes, it is an investment. These shoes will not be cheap but your health and the future of your exercise routines will rely heavily on them. Below I have sifted through various websites and taken the best advice they have to give on how to go about finding the right shoe for you.

1. Go to the professionals. This means, go to a place that specializes in shoe fittings and most likely one that specializes in running and walking shoes. They are trained to find the right shoes for people and are often times runners/walkers themselves and understand the importance of a well fitted shoe.

2. Go get fitted at the end of the day. Your feet will be swollen and at their largest and wear the sort of socks you would normally wear when exercising. This will help with the fit since during a walk your feet swell and the more comfortable they are at this point means the more likely you will keep going.

3. Try on both shoes. The idea of having two different sized feet may seem a little strange, but it does happen. So don’t be alarmed if you find this happens to you, it’s best that you catch it now than trying to cram one of your feet into a small shoe.

4. Know your foot shape. Take a look at one of your barefoot prints. If you see that between your heel and ball/toes that it gets very slender you have high arches. The opposite is true for flat footed folk. It would be hard to distinguish between your heel and ball because it would all be even from back to front almost. There are shoes that cater to different foot shapes and this can help narrow down your shoe choices.

5. If you can, test them out. At the last store I went to they insisted that I run around the block and try the shoes out. It was important to them that I see if even in that small amount of distance a problem occurred. Try walking up stairs, if your heel is slipping this is a bad sign. Try walking down a ramp or stairs, do your toes start to hit the front of the shoe? Again not good. Especially since these shoes will eventually stretch and then your toes will really be ramming into the front. Ouch!!!!

6. If in doubt buy a running shoe. Running shoes translate well into walking shoes. However, the same cannot be said for walking shoes into running shoes. Walking shoes can be a little heavier and have support under the balls of your feet whereas running shoes have support under your heel and are light weight. If you are going to be walking at a fast pace or thinking of running go with a running shoe.

7. Six month rule. You may think that since you dropped a chunk of money on these shoes that they should last forever and wouldn’t that be so nice? But you are putting them through a lot! You’re beating them on pavement or a treadmill three-six times a week so they get pretty beat up pretty fast. The rule the folks at the stores will tell you is to replace your shoes every 350-400 miles or every six months whichever comes first. Don’t ignore this advice because if you keep using them and then something starts to hurt, it takes a long time to rehab what you have hurt and sometimes it never goes away.

So come on, I just gave you 7 reasons to go out and buy another pair of shoes! Who doesn’t love shoes? Remember also, that if these shoes are keeping you active and healthy that means less medical bills in the future and boy oh boy can those be expensive! Now go ahead, spoil yourself with the reward of great shoes that will make you smile when you see them and make your legs and feet happy too!

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Ellen,

Destination Walking

Now, I know that walking can be redundant and can get old pretty quick especially if you’re walking in a circle around a track or the same ol’ route everyday throughout your neighborhood. These routes can be helpful for you to know the distance you’ve travelled and see if you’re making better time but seeing the same things day in and day out can make you start to detest the idea of strapping those tennis shoes on and getting out there. Why not make your walk an adventure? Why not walk to a place you’ve never been before? I like to call this, “Destination Walking”, sometimes known as hiking. Don’t get overwhelmed with that word HIKING, that is the exact reason why I say “Destination Walking”.

I’m talking one of those places you’ve probably always wanted to go but you just never make time. Well now is the time! Summer is arriving in the Northern Hemisphere and that place you have always wanted to go to is blossoming and calling to you. Take time out of your weekends and pick a place to go and see. Bring your loved ones, water and a camera. Don’t have an idea of somewhere nearby that you might want to go? Check out your local Parks and Recreation website for trails. They’ll give you information on how to get to your destination of choice, history, pictures and current information on whether it’s open and what amenities your trail of choice has to offer.

Seeing as we are based out of Portland, Oregon here is the site for the Parks and Recreation page to seek out a trail/park by area or what you might like to do. My personal favorite is Forest Park that spoils those who wander with the green beauty that the Pacific Northwest is known for.

Forest Park Forrest Park

See what I mean? Your walks can become very rewarding if you just step out of your comfort zone. Get to know your city and state through walking and make the most of it by sharing it will someone else.

Happy Walking!

Tips, Tricks and Benefits to Exercising with a Pal

Partnership is an important aspect not only in the workplace and home but also when it comes to exercise. It is a known fact that 60% of people prefer to workout on their own but there is still that 35-40% who like the idea of collaboration. In a study conducted by Stanford research unveiled that having a person or group that you check in with at least once a week can increase your exercise time by up to 78% over the course of a year! This check in can be either through email, phone, meetings, websites or working out together.

A few tips, tricks and benefits to partnerships are below:

1. Choose someone with a similar fitness goal as yours. If you’re trying to lose 30 lbs and your partner only needs to lose 10, it can be discouraging if they hit their goal before you. You may end up feeling like you’re holding them back or get frustrated that your weight loss or fitness level isn’t being achieved fast enough.

2. Find someone you have something in common with besides just exercise. Perhaps it’ll be your shared love of the outdoors, your kids, a love of sports or travel. These things will keep you looking forward to seeing each other the next time and help develop a sense of comradery.

3. A partnership drastically decreases in excuses not to exercise. It’s hard knowing you’re letting someone down and that means that it will be harder to cancel on a workout.

4. You’ll be more likely to try new things with someone. Never rock climbed before? Pairing up with someone who has or even going in with both of you clueless gives you the advantage of not being so scared. Perhaps even make it a goal that when you get together with someone you try something new or go somewhere new.

5. Group classes are included in the partnership category! If you go to a class several times you’ll likely meet and bond with people from that class. This means that you’ll have already found someone with a common interest, most likely a common fitness level, it’s a chance to try a workout you’ve always wanted and once you get going people will start holding you accountable for showing up and heck, you might even really enjoy showing up!

No matter if you prefer exercising solo, as a duo or in a class, just make sure you have someone to check in with. They can be your inspiration for when you are just not feeling it, you can take pride in being theirs or just the mere thought of uttering the words, “I didn’t get to the gym/run/class this week”, has a great affect on whether you’ll stick with your routine. Even if you do stick with it on your own having someone to share that with will keep you going longer and stronger. So partner up and get moving!

New Study Shows: Walk faster, live longer

A new study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that the intensity of the pace of our walk matters just as much as the amount of walking we do.

The study focused on longevity amongst 38,981 participants that walked daily. Walkers had varying paces, some were speedy, some ambled, some strolled. It turns out that those who walked at a brisk pace were healthier and although a bit ghoulish, outlived the slow walkers.

So how do we know if we’re walking fast enough? To measure your speed you can use your Pebble or Omron pedometers, an app like Moves or find a 400 meter track at a local school, then use a stopwatch to time your walk.

And then what? Healthy exercise guidelines want us to aim for 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise. For walkers, this means we should aim for a pace of 15 to 16 minutes per mile.

Let’s pick up the pace Walkers and remember to stay happy and healthy – Read more about it at The New York Times

 

Walk Happy

If you have 20 minutes today to do something great for yourself, take a walk! It’s those first 20 minutes of exercise that can reduce your risk of disease, prolong your life, and improve your mood.
If Monday seems to drag on, head outside and get some exercise, the endorphins will give you the boost you need. Read more here.

Walking Back to Happiness

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.” -Charles Dickens

During a huge life change, which was causing stress, which was in turn causing insomnia, which was in turn causing depression, I confessed to my doctor that I was getting desperate and was willing to try anything to get some sleep. My doctor very pragmatically, somewhat drily, recommended that I start taking a 45 minute walk every day. So easy-peasy I thought he must be pulling my leg. But he insisted that a brisk and, in his words, “mindful” walk would reset my brain. He didn’t get into all the sciencey business about increasing the brain’s production of endorphins and its analgesic effect on pain or that odd sense of well-being in the mind serotonin can provoke. He just said “Walk. And pay attention while you’re walking.”

Boy, was that sound advice. I’ve noticed since, that while every walk is a little different, when I walk at work a three stage pattern has emerged. First, my brain natters on nervously about a million small things: emails I need to answer, scheduling changes, follow-up conversations I need to have, the prioritization of every task before me, my calendar.  Next, I shift into longer thoughts and untangle larger problems.  I’m able to have what sounds more and more like a productive conversation with myself. I feel a little more confident and much less worried. And finally, and this is why I walk on my lunch hour, I stop fretting about work all together, my head clears and I return, dare I say it, happier.

As it turns out, a happy brain is a creative and productive thing. There is so much out there on positive psychology and the effects it has on a company’s success that I was overwhelmed when I started looking into it. Happy people collaborate better, stay calmer in a crisis, are more creative, more motivated, less inclined to make errors that are the end result of worrying about making errors.  And the end results are quantifiable not just anecdotal. In an article for the Harvard Business Review blog, Shawn Anchor cited a 2008 study by Gallup Healthways that shows that employees who score low in “life satisfaction,” stay home an average of 1.25 more days a month than those employees who score high. That’s 15 days of lost productivity! Other research at gallup indicates retail companies with a high “employee life satisfaction” are able to increase revenue by up to $21 PER SQUARE FEET. This is all important bottom line stuff for managers and leaders to address. But the most relevant bottom line for the individual is that we do better when we feel better. And we feel better when we get out and walk.

Anchor, S. “Positive Intelligence.” Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2012/01/positive-intelligence/ar/1

(by guest blogger/newsletterist Allisa Cherry)

Fighting the flu and boosting immunity: exercise, natural methods and more

The flu appears to be on everybody’s mind (or in the body…).

Here are a few more tips to help ward off this season’s epidemic.

Exercise boosts flu shot efficacy:

We already know that fitter people tend to have better immune systems and exercise has a immune-boosting effect, but new studies indicated that exercising immediately after a flu shot has proven to double the efficacy.

Those volunteers who had exercised after being inoculated, it turned out, exhibited “nearly double the antibody response” of the sedentary group, said Marian Kohut, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State who oversaw the study, which is being prepared for publication. They also had higher blood levels of certain immune system cells that help the body fight off infection.

Read more at the NY Times: Exercise Can Boost Flu Shots Potency

Natural Flu Prevention Methods

Secondly: I recently listened to an episode of Dr. David Naimon’s excellent Healthwatch radio show devoted entirely to natural means of flu prevention and immune boosting. Dr. Naimon is a naturopath and I highly recommend his show, which you can listen to in podcast form off of iTunes. See the January 14th ‘Preventing the Flu Naturally with Dr. Gary Weiner’ show or listen to it via Dr Naimon’s website here.

Stay healthy out there!