Wellness: Get a Lunchtime Workout, Even if You Can't Leave the Office

Original post washingtonpost.com

It can be one of the most exhilarating things you do during the workday, but nailing the lunchtime workout can be tricky. Should you eat before or after? How much should you pack? Shower? No shower? And most important, how much exercise can you pack in during a lunch hour?

The good news is that there are all sorts of tricks for getting the most out of your midday workout and several products that make it easier to navigate.

How to prepare

The key is to have a plan. The night before, pack a light bag of just the essentials: a change of underwear, travel-size deodorant and wet wipes — if you won’t have time for a shower.

Need to shower no matter what? Consider throwing in a bottle of dry shampoo to cut down the amount of time you spend away from your desk, said Tami DeVitis, an instructor at Vida Fitness in the District. She also recommends (if your hair is long enough) wearing a ponytail that requires no maintenance post-workout.

Another way to stay prepared is to keep a pair of sneakers and toiletries in your desk at work. That way, you can just grab what you need and go. Personal trainer Lee Jordan has noticed clients bringing no more than what can fit into a rolled-up T-shirt. In other words, pack light.

You also should consider arriving at the office a little early just in case it takes you longer than expected to get ready, said DeVitis, who teaches several lunchtime classes.

What to eat

Scarfing down a hoagie right before a run might not be the best idea, but you should eat something, said Nancy Clark, author of “Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.”

“The goal is to enter into your workout with a normal blood sugar level,” Clark said. “If you’re exercising at a pace you can maintain for a half-hour, your body can digest the food and use it during the workout. You could eat five minutes beforehand; it all depends on your tolerance level.”

If you’re planning a high-intensity workout of burpees or jump squats, she recommends eating a hearty breakfast. For less strenuous exercise, Clark said, it’s perfectly fine to eat a banana or half of your lunch before getting started.

What you eat post-workout is also very important. To recover from a tough routine, Clark says, down a smoothie, peanut butter sandwich, chocolate milk or any other mini-meals with a balance of carbohydrates and protein.

“Protein builds and repairs muscles, but it does not refuel muscles. Carbs fuel, so you actually want three times more carbs than protein,” Clark said. “The mistake people make these days is just having a protein shake after the workout, but you’d be better off having a fruit smoothie to get carbs andprotein.”

Where to work out

If you’re lucky enough to work near a park or somewhere with good trails, going for a run outdoors is a great way to break up the workday. Too cold? Hit the treadmill at the gym and add in some intervals — one minute of sprints followed by a 30-second jog for several rounds could help you get the most out of your run.

Circuit training is another option for burning calories that could also build muscle if you throw some weights into the mix. Jordan recommends four to five sets of compound exercises, the kind that work two or more parts of the body. You could, for instance, grab a pair of dumbbells for a squat with a bicep curl or lunges with a lateral raise.

“You can either time your reps, say 45 seconds or a minute, or do a set number, say 10 or 15 squats with a curl,” said Jordan, an American Council on Exercise-certified health coach.

If designing your own routine is a lot to ask, there are apps for that. Nike Training Club, Sworkit, Spitfire Athlete and a host of other apps have cardio and strength-training routines that you can do in 30 minutes.

Even Fitbit, the wearable fitness monitor, is getting in on the act. This month, the company released Fitbit Blaze, a touch-screen tracker that comes with access to the workout app FitStar. The app offers diagrams that show you how to execute the moves in each routine.

Game for a class? Just about every gym has a variety of ­45-minute classes, allowing you enough time to get in, get to it and get going.

“Consider classes where you don’t get as sweaty, a barre class. You’re going to sweat, but you can clean yourself off and go,” DeVitis said.

Leaving the office in the middle of the day is a no-go for some folks. In that case, Jordan recommends heading to a stairwell, one without traffic, for a quick workout. All you need is a pair of sneakers, if that much, to do a few sets of calf raises on the stairs. Or you could do high-knee runs or squats or sprint up two flights for eight-to-10 minute intervals.

Technology: Talking to a Financial Coach Reboots Financial Wellness and Narrows Gender Gap

Original post businesswire.com

In a year marked by increased market volatility and slow economic growth, it’s not a surprise that overall financial wellness levels remained virtually unchanged. Employees appear stuck, hitting a brick wall with debt, lack of emergency funds and inadequate retirement savings. However, the latest study from Financial Finesse shows that the way forward to improved employee financial wellness – and to narrow the financial Gender Gap – could be human-to-human coaching, with technology playing a supporting role.

The Year in Review: 2015, an analysis of employee financial trends based on anonymous data collected by workplace financial wellness firm Financial Finesse, describes a year where most employees have been treading water in terms of their financial wellness. Overall financial wellness levels were unchanged at 4.8 out of 10 vs. 4.7 in 2014.

The study shows that while technology was helpful in increasing employee awareness of their financial vulnerabilities, online interactions alone did not improve employee financial wellness. By contrast, employees who had five interactions including conversations on the phone or in person with a financial planner professional showed substantial progress. Those repeat interactions with a financial coach appear to help an employee get “unstuck,” and advance in key areas. For these regular participants:

  • 80% have a handle on cash flow, compared to 66% of online-only users
  • 72% have an emergency fund, compared to 50% of online-only users
  • 98% contribute to their retirement plan, compared to 89% of online-only users
  • 48% are on track for retirement, compared to 21% of online-only users
  • 64% are confident in their investment strategy, compared to 42% of online-only users

Employers who offer financial wellness programs consider tailoring communications to address these vulnerabilities in particular:

  • 58% may not be saving enough for retirement, with only 16% of Millennials on track to achieve their retirement goals.
  • 51% don’t have an emergency fund. While this declines with age, a worrisome 25% of employees 65 and older still don’t have an emergency fund.
  • 34% may be living beyond their means. For employees with family incomes of $100,000 or lower, less than half pay off their credit cards every month.
  • 33% may have serious debt problems. Debt may be hurting African American and Latino employees the most, with 75% of African American and 66% of Latino employees saying getting out of debt is a top concern.
  • Concern over market volatility is high. Many employees grew nervous about their retirement plan savings and turned to their financial wellness program for guidance on how to handle these market fluctuations.

3 ways gamification can improve your team’s well-being

Original post benefitsnews.com

What does a big, fancy word like “gamification” mean anyway? Simply put, it’s the idea that game-like rules and rewards make the hard stuff fun. And smart leaders now use it to engage and motivate their employees.

Well-known game designer Jane McGonigal says “living gamefully” helps people bring curiosity, passion and balance into their lives. It gives them a higher purpose so they keep moving forward in their mission even when obstacles block their vision.

Gamification is the reason fitness apps work. When the buzzer signals that you hit 10,000 steps, you win. Even performance reviews contain elements of game design – when your employees exceed all their goals and move to the next career level, you both win.

Let’s go for that big win. Help your employees achieve their goals and improve their health by introducing these gamification strategies.

3 gamification strategies to implement:

1. Wellness quests. As noted above, wearable technology makes tracking exercise so much easier. But gamification for health doesn’t require that level of sophistication — you can make a game out of almost anything when you keep score by pencil. Challenge your team members to sneak extra exercise into their day. Have them jot down a checkmark every time they take a stretch break. Heat up competition by posting results on a whiteboard for all to see. Add rules or creative complexities as time goes on and the activities become easier. The more quests employees complete, the healthier they’ll be.

2. Social communities. We all need a little help from our allies. We crave support from one another, and we’re willing to dig in deeper when we know others are rooting for us. So it’s no surprise that social interactions and competitions help employees stay motivated and happy. Hook your employees into healthy activities with team vs. team challenges, photos, comments, nudges and cheers. Recognize accomplishments in ways that best fit your company’s culture – whether that’s sending around leader-board rankings each week or letting peers nominate each other for special badges.

3. Power-ups. The journey to well-being is never over — but it’s nearly impossible to keep going if you don’t hit milestones. This is when you need to activate “power-ups” — the quick tasks that feel like small wins. Remember how satisfying those power-ups were in your video games of childhood? Encourage your employees to take baby steps toward their goals. For instance, they may not have time for a lunchtime workout, but can they sneak in a few jumping jacks before every meeting? How about simply standing up for two minutes? Or taking a mid-meeting plank break? Achievements like these provide a burst of feel-good energy and intrinsic motivation to help us stick with lofty commitments.

4 ways to maximize the benefit of your workday breaks

Take a look at your workday. When do you take a break? How long is your break? What do you do on your break? Do you take more than one break? Do you feel recharged after your break?

Those questions were the focus of a study done by 2 Baylor University researchers. Emily Hunter, Ph.D. and Cindy Wu, Ph.D. are associate professors of management in Baylor's Hankamer School of business. The pair surveyed 95 employees between the ages of 22 and 67 over a 5-day workweek. Each person was asked to document each break they took.

Their empirical study - "Give Me a Better Break: Choosing Workday Break Activities to Maximize Resource Recovery" - was recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The research defined a break as “any period of time, formal or informal, during the workday in which work-relevant tasks are not required or expected, including but not limited to a break for lunch, coffee, personal email or socializing with coworkers, not including bathroom breaks.”

When compiling the total of 959 break surveys, Hunter and Wu were able to provide a greater understanding of workday breaks. Their findings offer suggestions on when, where and how to plan the most beneficial daily escapes when on the clock.

Key findings of the study include:

1) Best time to take a workday break: Mid-morning.

A typical work day may have you counting down to lunch, but the study found an earlier break is more successful in replenishing energy, concentration and motivation.

“We found that when more hours had elapsed since the beginning of the work shift, fewer resources and more symptoms of poor health were reported after a break,” the study says. “Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective.”

2) What to do on your break: Something you enjoy and not necessarily non-work related.

The study found no evidence that non-work-related activities are more beneficial. Instead, do things choose to do and like to do which could include work-related tasks.

“Finding something on your break that you prefer to do – something that’s not given to you or assigned to you – are the kinds of activities that are going to make your breaks much more restful, provide better recovery and help you come back to work stronger,” Hunter said.

3)"Better Breaks" = Better health, increased job satisfaction

Employee surveys showed those that took mid-morning breaks and did things they preferred led to less somatic symptoms like headaches, eyestrain and lower back pain after the break.

The study also found the employees also experienced increased job satisfaction and a decrease in emotional exhaustion.

4) But how long should the break be?

The study wasn't able to pinpoint an exact length of time for a better workday break, but it did find that more short breaks with associated with higher resources - energy, concentration, and motivation.

“Unlike your cellphone, which popular wisdom tells us should be depleted to zero percent before you charge it fully to 100 percent, people instead need to charge more frequently throughout the day,” Hunter said.

Hunter and Wu believe the results of the study benefit both managers and employees.

A way to take your wellness program beyond paper

Target is taking its wellness program a step further and giving its more than 300,000 employees access to a FitBit tracker. And to sweeten the deal, all employees participating in the FitBit Wellness Program will have a chance to earn money for the charity of their choice.

Employees can sign up to get the FitBit Zip ($59.95) for free or pay the difference for a more advanced FitBit.

Amy McDonough, vice president and general manager of Fitbit's wellness unit, told eWEEK that the deal with Target is one of the largest company-wide wellness arrangements it has made so far.

"The Target announcement was exciting because they are a strategic retail partner for Fitbit products and also a large employer," McDonough said. "It's a great example of how these larger organizations are really putting wellness at the forefront."

Employees who take advantage of the FitBit offer will be grouped into teams for a monthlong challenge. The winning team will get $1 million to funnel into a charity of their choice, Chief Human Resources Officer Jodee Kozlak told CBS News.

Kozlak added that employees will also receive extra discounts on fruits and vegetables, and healthy grab and go snacks will be featured near cash registers.

RELATED: One compelling reason to participate in a wellness plan

Grab the sanitizer, you'll want it after you read this

The digital age is giving germs a new breeding ground. But a little extra cleaning can narrow the playing field according to this article from forbes.com.

When it comes to germs, the gold standard for grossness is the bacteria brewing in our bathrooms.

A variety of studies and reports over the years have put the average bacteria per square inch on a toilet seat somewhere between 50 and almost 300 for household potties and over 1,000 for the public varieties. Yet our own handheld electronics harbor even more bacteria than that.

Smartphones Your smartphone is home to your photos, music, contacts, productivity apps and odds are at least one game featuring a bird, zombie, fruit or farm. Oh, and there’s something else on your smartphone, too — loads of fecal coliforms. Joining the coliforms are Streptococcus, Staphylococcus aureus and a host of other -ococci.

A 2013 project at the University of Surrey perfectly illustrates the situation.

Bacteriology students made imprints of their phones in Petri dishes, and after three days, they saw examples of many of the aforementioned bacteria — plus one particularly hairy case of Bacillius mycoides. It’s really not surprising that the device that goes everywhere from public transportation to public restrooms to not-so-public germ repositories (aka our own homes) is a hot bed for bacteria.

Even back in 2012, when iPhones only offered us 4.5 inches of germ-covered surface,University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba found cellphones carried 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. In 2013, Mashable put that number much higher, claiming that our phones may boast a whopping 25,107 bacteria per square inch. But your smartphone is just one of the worst offenders, not the only one, as this black-light-enhanced demonstration from British business services group Initial reveals.

Here are four more gadgets to rival any restroom when it comes to germs:

Tablets/e-readers — Just think of them as smartphones with fewer features and more surface area when it comes to the germ load tablets and e-readers pack. One iPad tested by British consumer magazine Which? found 600 units of Staphylococcus aureus alone.

Game controllers — With almost 5 times more bacteria than your toilet seat, your game controller has probably still seen scarier stuff (like that boss faceoff with Sephiroth). Still, E. coli is among the potential offenders.

Keyboards — Your keyboard could be home to anywhere from three times more bacteria than your toilet seat to almost three times that of a public toilet seat. Some studies found 3,000 bacteria per square inch on computer keyboards and 1,600 on the average computer mouse.

Remote controls — While likely cleaner than a public toilet seat, remotes still boast a bit more bacteria than some home-throne estimates with 70 present per square inch.

So how do we handle all of this bacterial buildup?

Step one: Remember the bathroom is no place for a phone (that you don’t want covered in fecal coliforms).

Step two: Wash your hands before handling your devices, or at least use a hand sanitizer.

Step three: Use gadget-friendly wipes to keep your favorite handhelds tidy.

But if you only do one thing, let it be step two. After all, you know what else has more bacteria per square inch than a toilet seat? You do. A lot more.

Leading CEOs partner to inspire wellness programs across all U.S. employers

Originally posted September 17, 2014 by Nick Otto on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.
A panel of U.S. companies representing more than 1 million active employees and another 50 million retirees across the globe convened Tuesday in Washington, D.C. to unveil a campaign aimed at reducing the nation’s health care costs.

With an eye to the efforts near and dear to benefits managers across the country, the industry leaders are urging their peers to embrace wellness programs and improve employee health.

Current council members, calling themselves The CEO Council on Health and Innovation, include executives from: Verizon Communications, Aetna, Bank of America, Walgreen, McKinsey & Co, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Coca-Cola, the Institute for Advanced Health and Johnson & Johnson – the most recent addition.

Working in partnership with the D.C.-based Bipartisan Policy Center, the council called on employers to accelerate the adoption of comprehensive wellness programs that will tackle four areas of wellness the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say are the leading reasons for developing chronic disease: inactivity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and frequent alcohol consumption.

Half of all Americans have at least one chronic disease, says Jason Grumet, president of the BPC and moderator at the event. Grumet says that the major employers taking part in the CEO Council represent a unique combination of good ideas with great people who have the ability to get things done, he said.

Lowell McAdam, chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications, says technology and wearable devices are going to be some of the biggest wellness tools of the future. McAdam says the company is already using technology-enabled, mobile health clinics to connect children with quality health care, as well as employing remote monitoring tools to enable seniors with chronic conditions.

Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, says his company uses incentivizing measures to help employees maintain their health. The bank provides additional funding for biometric screenings, and each year, if an employee remains at or below their numbers, health care costs will remain flat the following year.

Along with issuing a joint report, BPC launched an interactive Web site containing a slew of resources to support implementation of new programs among other employers.

Employee medical self-care programs reduce spending: SHRM speaker

Originally posted June 23, 2014 by Sheena Harrison on www.businessinsurance.com.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Medical self-care programs that teach employees which symptoms can be treated at home and which need medical attention can help reduce unnecessary medical spending for workers and employers, said Don R. Powell, president and CEO of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Mr. Powell gave a presentation Monday about the characteristics of best-in-class wellness programs during the Society for Human Resource Management's Annual Conference & Exposition in Orlando, Florida.

He said about 25% of physician visits each year are unnecessary, equaling about $227 million in excess medical costs for workers and employers, and 55% of emergency room visits are unnecessary, resulting in $65.6 million in extra costs to treat medical problems that are not urgent.

Employers should provide printed employee resource guides and websites that employees can use to evaluate whether their medical symptoms can be treated at home, whether they should visit a doctor and what questions to ask when they visit a physician, Mr. Powell said. Such guides typically include an easy-to-use flow chart that employees can follow to determine whether they need immediate medical care.

In addition to resource guides, Mr. Powell said some companies offer a nurse advice hotline to employees to discuss whether their symptoms need medical care.

Usage and ROI

Mr. Powell noted that printed self-care resource guides, which cost about $5 to $8 per copy, are more likely to be used by employees of all ages than websites or nurse hotlines when considering the urgency of a medical problem. However, he said, offering a variety of delivery methods — as well as communicating the program’s availability through newsletters, emails and posters — can make employees more likely to use self-care programs.

Companies see anywhere from a 3-1 to a 15-1 return on investment for every dollar spent on medical self-care programs, Mr. Powell said.

“You're cutting into those unnecessary doctor and ER visits,” he said. “If you're a self-funded company ... that's $199 per visit to $350 per ER visit right back into your pocket, so you stand to gain the most. Not to say a company that’s fully insured doesn't stand to gain, because it allows employees not to miss work when they’re at the doctor or ER unnecessarily and because people really appreciate a medical self-care program.”

Other factors in successful wellness programs include having corporate leaders and employee peers involved in such initiatives, making it easy for workers to participate in wellness initiatives and health coaching to program participants, Mr. Powell said.

American Workers More Physically than Financially Fit

Originally posted April 22, 2014 by Lisa Barron on http://www.benefitspro.com

American employees see themselves as more physically fit (57 percent) than financially fit (28 percent), according to new research from the Principal Financial Well-Being Index: American workers.

The vast majority (84 percent), however, also believe that maintaining physical fitness is an investment in their financial future.

Still, nearly half of workers (46 percent) are stressed about their current financial situation. Fifty-one percent of Gen Y workers are stressed about finances compared to 35 percent of baby boomers.  And those working with a financial advisor were less likely (33 percent) to be stressed about their financial future.

"American workers recognize the long-term financial benefits of staying healthy, but financial stress is often a constant pressure that can have a significant impact on their physical health," said Luke Vandermillen, vice president at the Principal Financial Group.

"With spring in full swing, now is a good time for Americans to apply their good fitness habits to their financial lives as well. Mark some time on the calendar for financial spring cleaning."

More than half (52 percent) say they have monitored their spending levels in the past year. Thirty-nine percent created a budget to keep finances in check, up from 28 percent two years ago.

Fifty-seven percent have an emergency fund in place, with those working with a financial profession about 1.5 times more likely to have one.

"It's encouraging to see American workers planning for unforeseen hurdles by giving themselves a financial checkup and setting aside money in an emergency fund," said Vandermillen.

"Despite a few missteps, like using the fund on monthly bills, these positive behaviors show individuals are making strides and taking personal responsibility to improve their short and long-term financial well-being."

The Principal Financial Well-Being Index: American Workers was conducted online among 1,123 employees at small and mid-sized businesses from Feb. 4-12.

76 Percent of Workforce is Tired Most Weekdays

Originally posted April 15, 2014 on www.ifebp.org.

The Virgin Pulse Institute, an evidence-based organization that puts research to work to help employees and companies thrive, today announced the results of a study designed to better understand employees' sleep disturbances and offer actionable insight to both employers and their workforce. The research outlines why employers supporting sleep programs increase employee productivity, and how these programs help employees feel more appreciated and supported.

Leveraging an online sleep program from vielife, the Virgin Pulse Institute conducted a sleep study in November 2013 with approximately 1,140 employees, all Virgin Pulse members, from three U.S.-based companies. Researchers found that:76 percent of employees felt tired most days of the week40 percent of employees doze off during the day once per month30 percent of employees were unhappy or very unhappy with the quality or quantity of their sleep15 percent doze off during the day at least once per week to once per day.

Dr. Jennifer Turgiss, a co-author of the study and director of the Virgin Pulse Institute, said, "Showing up to work sleep deprived can be the equivalent of showing up to work intoxicated. Employees who don't sleep well have poorer concentration, poorer decision-making abilities, are significantly less able to cope with stressful situations, and are more likely to make unhealthy choices. The effects of poor sleep impair people's focus and motivation, preventing them from reaching their full potential. In attempts to encourage employees to live healthier, often employers - with the help of their health insurers or wellness vendors -focus on simply improving diet and exercise, but this approach ignores one critically important habit: sleep. With its direct link to dangerous health conditions and steep productivity losses, a well-rested workforce is critical to a company's success."

The Effect of Sleep Problems

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called lack of sleep "an epidemic," linking it to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters and other occupational errors. Many other studies have found employees who sleep fewer than six hours per day are nearly 30 percent more likely to be overweight and have a whole host of health problems like hypertension, diabetes, depression and cancer. These people also take a tremendous cognitive hit on a daily basis - finding it difficult to concentrate at work or complete tasks, resulting in significantly lower productivity. Sleep disturbances cause fatigue-related productivity losses estimated at $1,967 per employee annually, according to a study published in the journal Sleep.

What Causes Sleep Problems?

The Virgin Pulse Institute study found four key themes keeping employees awake at night: worry/stress, mental activity, physical discomfort and environmental disruptors. Many factors within these categories kept participants awake, including:Temperature too high or too low (85.2%)Their partner (71.9%)Unwanted noise (68.6%)Light - too bright (52.8%)Mattress (40%)Young children (35.9%)Medical condition that disturbs sleep (10.2%)

Sleep deprivation was found to have impacts across four key areas: physical well-being; cognitive abilities and productivity; mood; and stress management. Lack of sleep leaves employees less focused on the job and unable to perform at their peak, and leaves them experiencing a decreased feeling of overall well-being, according to the Institute study.

Participants noted that lack of sleep impacted their energy and motivation to participate in physical activities and eat healthy foods. They experienced difficulty concentrating at work or remembering tasks, and felt more irritable at work and home. Sleeplessness also made it harder to manage stress, further impacting their difficulties sleeping. “I come in here in the morning and it's kind of hard to get motivated. I'll be yawning and carrying on and kind of drag for an hour or so before I'm really probably engaged and back doing real performance type of work I would say. So it will be easy for me to just kind of lag around, drink some coffee, walk around, talk to people, or sit at my desk and read Internet news rather than actually work," said one participant."[I would] blow up at the wrong thing or you blow up at the wrong kid or something. And you just go, oh, man. I should have been able to handle that one," said another participant. “And the other thing that I noticed when I go through the period where I have more lack of sleep, I feel more scatterbrained, like I have all of these things to do. And normally, I'm very organized and prioritize and will at least write a list, and everything goes out the window and I start forgetting to do things or bring this in the morning or things like that. And that really bothers me. I hate it when I drop a ball because I forgot something," said another participant. “I think there is a slow-down, in terms of getting tasks done, just because, again, your attention span isn't fully there. You might not be as with it," said another participant. “I probably have got a shorter fuse, a little grumpier," said a participant.

"Our study made one thing clear: lack of sleep is crippling America's workforce. Employers can't turn a blind eye. Whether they offer an online sleep program, encourage employees to use vacation days, or provide other tools, employers must address sleep issues in order to create a thriving workforce and business," said Turgiss. "Not only will employees be more rested, but they'll feel more supported by their employers, helping them perform better and become better able to engage in work and in life."