Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Enjoy the Holiday Season with Less Stress

The holiday season is in full swing, and if you’re like most of us, you’re already feeling the pressure to shop, decorate, cook, send cards, and attend every party or event to which you’re invited. But stop right there! This time of the year doesn’t have to stress you out; there are many ways you can plan your holiday to reduce stress and put some enjoyment back into the season. After all, it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year—not the most stressful!

Let go of expectations.
The pressure to feel a certain way during the holidays is everywhere. Words like “joy,” “wonder,” and “celebrate” are plastered on everything from coffee mugs to sweaters, but many people find this time of year to be overwhelming and stressful. Overcommitting to events and trying to create the “perfect holiday” can drain any enjoyment out of the season. Comparing yourself to friends’ perfectly staged photos on social media can add another layer of expectation that your holiday should look and feel a certain way. The reality is that endless to-do lists, obligations, busy schedules, and travel logistics can often overshadow the idyllic Hallmark Christmas-movie images you have of the perfect holiday.

By letting go of all these expectations, you can free yourself of a lot of unnecessary stress. Decide what is most important to you for the holidays: Is it spending time with family? Attending church services? Giving to those in need? Focus on what makes the holidays most enjoyable for you and let go of the things that cause too much stress. If that means not sending out holiday cards this year, that’s okay. Or if it means keeping decorations to a minimum, or declining some holiday invitations, or even canceling a trip to visit family, then do so without guilt. Let go of unrealistic expectations and obligations that you dread so you can find the true joy and wonder of the season.

Make a to-do list.
Getting organized and making a list of everything you need to do for the holidays from gift-giving to dates for each child’s holiday concert and class party will help you manage stress, so you know what’s happening and when. Plus, checking off tasks from your to-do list will give you a certain satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

Set a budget and stick to it.
Overspending and worries about money are two of the biggest stressors of the holiday season. To lessen the worry over spending too much, decide how much money you can realistically afford to spend. Consider all of the different aspects of holiday shopping including gifts, decorations, food, travel, cards, and clothing. Divide your budget into these categories and assign a dollar amount to each. If the numbers aren’t lining up, take a second look to see what changes you can make to save money. Track your spending as you go and be leery of putting too many purchases on credit cards to avoid getting a huge shock in January when your credit card statement arrives.

Learn to say no.
There is a heightened sense of obligation during the holidays—office parties, neighborhood gatherings, gift exchanges, helping with fundraisers, and visiting far-away family you only see once a year, etc. Committing yourself to every party or event you’re invited to is a sure way to add unnecessary stress. Learn to say no without guilt. You are in charge of your calendar, and you are not obligated to appear everywhere you’re invited. Lightening your schedule will instantly relieve a huge amount of the stress you feel this time of year, and it will leave time for things you really want to do.

Avoid overeating.
Sweet treats and rich desserts are intrinsic to holiday celebrations. You can still enjoy them without overdoing it. Don’t view this time of year as giving you free reign to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Try to stick to a healthy eating plan, and enjoy a treat or two when you are at a party or event;  just don’t go overboard with the candy canes, cookies, and eggnog. Overeating will make you feel sluggish and add more stress and unwanted pounds. Try to fit in your regular exercise routine even when your time is limited. Exercise will help lower stress levels and keep holiday weight gain at bay.

Make time for downtime.
No matter how hectic the holidays get, make sure to take some time to unwind and recharge. Do things that help you relax and that you enjoy, whether that’s watching a Netflix show, reading a book, or taking a warm bath. Carve out time in the early morning or late evening for yourself; it will help you to keep your sanity in all the chaos!

 

The Sweet Truth: 6 Myths About Diabetes Debunked

Diabetes is one of the most misunderstood chronic diseases. With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, it’s time to debunk some of the many myths that surround diabetes. Not only is it important to understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as was discussed in last week’s blog, but there are numerous misconceptions and untruths about this chronic condition that not only affect how people with diabetes are viewed but also how people with diabetes take care of their health.

Myth: Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.
Fact: Sugar does not cause diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is caused by a complex variety of factors including genetics, family history, viruses, and environment. While Type 2 diabetes is more common in individuals who are overweight, it is not caused directly by sugar alone;  a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle can make one more susceptible for developing diabetes if they are predisposed through genetics and a family history.

Myth: People with diabetes cannot eat sugar.
Fact:
Every person with diabetes has been asked, “Can you eat that?” And the answer is YES! Dessert and sweet treats are not off limits to people with diabetes. While foods with a high sugar content can raise blood sugar levels, so can any food containing carbohydrates. The key is moderation and a balancing act with medications. The amount of sugar a person with diabetes can eat depends on the individual and the medications he or she takes.

Many years ago, people with diabetes were told not to eat any sugar at all, but with new research and better diabetes treatments, people with diabetes can now consume sugar safely. This has remained the biggest myth about diabetes that many people still believe today.

Myth: Insulin cures diabetes.
Fact:
Insulin is a treatment and a life-saving medication, but it is not a cure. There currently is no cure for diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin for their entire lives.

Myth: Being overweight causes Type 2 diabetes.
Fact:
Another common misconception, but this assertion is also untrue. While being overweight or obese is a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, there’s a lot more to diabetes than weight alone. To develop diabetes, you must be genetically predisposed. If you have this genetic component, maintaining a healthy weight and eating healthfully can delay, but will not entirely prevent diabetes.

Myth: Women with diabetes should not get pregnant.
Fact:
While movies like “Steel Magnolias” would lead one to believe that this is true, women with diabetes can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. While a woman with diabetes, especially Type 1, is considered a high-risk pregnancy, as long as her diabetes is under good control and she works closely with a team of medical experts, she can safely deliver a healthy baby.

Myth: Diabetes is not that serious.
Fact:
Diabetes causes more deaths than breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined. When not managed properly, diabetes can cause long-term complications that can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. In the short-term, chronically high blood sugar can lead to Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), which can be fatal, and people who take insulin can suffer from low blood sugar, which if left untreated, can lead to unconsciousness and sometimes even death.

Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes – What’s the Difference?

November is National Diabetes Month and a great time to dispel some common misconceptions about this chronic condition.

The most important distinction to understand is that Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are not the same condition. While they share the symptom of having higher than normal blood sugars, each disease has different reasons why it develops, and each is treated and managed very differently.

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is much more rare than Type 2 diabetes—only about 5 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1. Sometimes called “juvenile diabetes” because onset is common in childhood, today more than 50 percent of people in the U.S. diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are over age 19. However, Type 1 is usually not diagnosed past the early 30s.

Type 1 is a complex disease, and experts still aren’t sure what triggers it. Genetics, family history, viruses, and environmental factors play a role in who develops the disease. It is considered an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the pancreatic cells that are responsible for producing insulin. The pancreas either cannot produce enough insulin, or more often, shuts down completely and stops making insulin altogether. Without enough insulin, the body is not able to regulate blood sugar levels and provide the body enough energy. Left untreated, Type 1 diabetes can lead to a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be fatal, which is why it’s so important to know the symptoms and seek immediate treatment. The good news is that once diagnosed, it is a very manageable condition.

Unlike those with Type 2 diabetes, people with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin to live. Insulin is either injected multiple times a day with a needle or through an insulin pump, a wearable device that can function like an artificial pancreas. Those with Type 1 diabetes must also check their blood sugar levels several times a day with either a blood glucose monitor, or by using a newer device called a Continuous Glucose Monitor or CGM, which like an insulin pump, is worn on the body. Managing blood sugar levels using insulin and new technologies, combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise program, can help people with Type 1 diabetes live a long, full life.

Type 2 Diabetes
Whereas Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, Type 2 diabetes is often called “adult onset diabetes” because it’s more likely to be diagnosed in adults and elderly patients. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for 90 percent of all cases.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder where the body does not use insulin properly. This insulin resistance causes the blood sugar levels to rise and cause hyperglycemia, which can lead to serious health problems if levels stay chronically high. But like Type 1, Type 2 diabetes can also be managed to prevent or lessen the chance of complications down the road.

Contrary to mainstream media’s claims, Type 2 diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar or even being overweight or obese. While weight and nutrition do play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes, the exact cause is still not known. There are certain risk factors associated with Type 2 diabetes including a family history, being overweight or obese, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, increasing age, high blood pressure, ethnicity, and a history of gestational diabetes.

Depending on the level of insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed through diet and exercise alone. Achieving a healthy body weight is essential to controlling Type 2 diabetes, as excess weight can cause too much stress on the pancreas and cause it to not function properly, resulting in insulin resistance. If the condition does not respond to diet and exercise, there are many oral medications available to treat Type 2 diabetes and help control blood sugar levels. In some cases, people with Type 2 diabetes may need to take insulin. Like those with Type 1 diabetes, people with Type 2 should also monitor their blood sugar levels regularly. Through a combination of medication, healthy diet, and increased physical activity, those with Type 2 diabetes can manage their condition and lead a very normal life.

Know the Symptoms

The symptoms of both Type 1 and Type 2 are similar. Extreme thirst, frequent urination, abnormal fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, and yeast infections in women are common to both types of diabetes. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor and have your blood glucose levels tested.

Chronically high blood sugar can lead to a host of health problems if not managed properly, and both types of diabetes can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, and damage to the eyes. Fortunately, management for both types of diabetes has come a long way,  and people with diabetes can manage their conditions to lessen or prevent long-term complications.

Not Always Pink: Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with it’s pink-washed campaigns and numerous pink products, is mainly associated with women, but men can get breast cancer too. While rare, men do develop breast cancer, and the topic is often taboo and rarely discussed. This lack of awareness often means men who develop symptoms may not recognize them or associate them with breast cancer, and they may be diagnosed at a later stage when the cancer is not as treatable.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., men are born with some breast cells and tissue. And although men don’t develop milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. It is much less common, with less than one percent of all breast cancer cases in males, and only one in 1,000 men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime.

Because breast cancer awareness for males is less, and many men who do develop symptoms delay seeking treatment, men carry a higher mortality rate from breast cancer than women. Unlike women who are recommended to get annual mammograms and do regular self-breast exams, men aren’t routinely screened for breast cancer, so when it is detected, it’s usually at a much more advanced stage. Essentially, most men just don’t think they can get it.

Risk Factors in Men

There are certain risk factors that may make a man more likely to develop breast cancer:

  • Older age. Just as in women, risk increases as a man ages. The average age of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer is 68.
  • High estrogen levels. Both normal and abnormal breast cell growth is stimulated by estrogen. Men can have higher levels of the hormone due to a variety of reasons such as medications, being overweight or obese, environmental exposure to estrogen (i.e. pesticides like DDT), high alcohol consumption, and having liver disease.
  • Family history or genetic mutations. Just as the case with women, if there’s a family history of other men in the family having breast cancer, risks are greater. Also, if men carry the breast cancer genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, they are at an increased risk.
  • Radiation exposure. Men who have been treated for other cancers with radiation, especially to the chest, have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Symptoms in Men

Symptoms of breast cancer in men can be similar to those for women, but men may not associate these changes with cancer. This causes a delay in diagnosis. It’s important that men recognize that any changes to their breasts should always be checked by their physicians.

Breast Cancer Symptoms in Men Include the following:

  • a hard lump in the breast that can be felt
  • nipple pain
  • an inverted nipple
  • clear or bloody nipple discharge
  • sores on the nipple and areola
  • enlarged lymph nodes under the arm

With early diagnosis, treatment for breast cancer in men can be very successful. More awareness of breast cancer in men is needed so that men recognize any potential symptoms earlier and seek treatment when cancer is at a much more treatable stage.

Nutrition’s Role in Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s talk about prevention!

While there is no fool-proof way to prevent breast cancer, nutrition can play a role in lowering your risk and improving your overall health.

Maintain a Healthy Weight Through Good Nutrition.

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to reduce your breast cancer risk as well as your risks for other diseases.  According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, women who are overweight or obese after menopause have a 30-60 percent higher breast cancer risk than those who are lean.

Extra weight can increase estrogen in your body, and excess estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow. Being overweight also can increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence in women who have had the disease.  Additionally, the location of where you carry extra weight also matters. Women who tend to carry extra weight in their midsection may be at a higher risk than women who carry their extra weight around their hips or thighs.

Eat More Veggies, Less Meat.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides essential antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients that have been shown to reduce cancer risks.  Antioxidants help protect your cells from free radicals—highly-reactive and unstable molecules that have the potential to harm cells. Examples of dietary antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E—all of which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

A diet high in fiber has also been found to lower cancer risk. And once again, the best sources for this nutrient are unprocessed, plant-based foods. In turn, a high-fiber diet may help you lower your overall caloric intake and help you maintain a healthy weight, which, as mentioned above, is crucial in reducing your overall breast cancer risk.

Superfoods!

While no specific food can prevent breast cancer, there are some foods that contain more antioxidants and other anti-cancer properties such as fiber, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids. You should make them a regular part of your diet to help lower your breast cancer risk.

The following are some great examples of  superfoods:

  • Green Tea
  • Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
  • Plums, peaches, avocados
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage)
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, collards, etc.)
  • Vegetables rich in carotenoids (carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, apricots, etc.)
  • Foods with omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, herring, cold liver oil, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed, and nut oils)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, corn, barley, etc.)

Breast cancer is a complex disease, and diet is only one part of the picture. Other factors like genetics, exercise, and lifestyle choices also play a role in your breast cancer risk. Discuss your individual risks with your doctor and work with him or her in developing a personalized plan to lower your risk.

Move More, Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk.

This October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re focusing on prevention. And one of the best ways to lower your risk of developing breast cancer is regular exercise. In fact, multiple studies have shown that exercise is the No. 1 lifestyle change you can make to reduce your breast cancer risk, and also to reduce your chances of recurrence if you’ve already been diagnosed.

According to the Maurer Foundation, exercise can help reduce your breast cancer risk in several ways:

  • It helps you maintain a healthy weight. When you are at a healthy weight for your body, you naturally have less fat. This is important because fat cells store high levels of estrogen, and higher estrogen levels have been shown to increase breast cancer risk.
  • It can reduce the amount of estrogen in your body.  A study found that postmenopausal women who regularly exercised for a year had lower levels of estradiol, a type of estrogen, compared to women who didn’t exercise. Lower levels of estradiol in the body can reduce breast cancer risk.
  • It boosts your immune system.  Along with a healthy diet, regular exercise can strengthen your immune system and help your body to better fight off infections and diseases as well as helping to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • It helps with stress relief and mood. People who are active report better moods and less anxiety and depression. Regular exercise can help you better manage the stress in your life, which is important in lowering your risk, as too much stress has been shown to speed up cancer’s progression.

How Much Is Enough?

Finding the time to exercise can be a challenge, but you don’t need to work out for hours every day to reap the benefits and lower your breast cancer risk. Even 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, such as walking, cycling, or gardening  has been shown to significantly reduce your risk, according to one study.  A  Women’s Health Initiative study concluded that just 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking has been shown to reduce your breast cancer risk by 18 percent. If you increase your walking program to 10 hours or more per week, you can lower your breast cancer risk even more.

For those who prefer higher-intensity workouts, the recommendations are 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity spaced out across the week. Activities such as running, high-impact aerobics, swimming, or sports such as soccer or basketball are some examples of higher-intensity exercise.

Preventing Cancer Recurrence

If you’ve already had a breast cancer diagnosis and have undergone treatment, exercise can also be extremely beneficial in preventing the cancer from returning.  A 2017 study on lifestyle choices and their impact on the chances of cancer recurring in women who’ve previously had breast cancer found that of all the lifestyle factors reviewed, physical activity and avoiding weight gain seem to have the most beneficial effect on the odds of breast cancer recurrence.

According to the study, women who are overweight or obese seem to have the lowest chances of survival after a breast cancer diagnosis. Conversely, women who incorporated at least 30 minutes of exercise five days per week (or 75 minutes per week of higher-intensity exercise) significantly reduced their risk of breast cancer returning and of death from breast cancer.

In addition to reducing your risk of breast cancer recurrence, exercise can improve mood, improve body image, increase energy, maintain bone health, reduce fatigue, reduce anxiety and stress, improve physical condition, and improve overall quality of life in breast cancer survivors. Researchers did note that some forms of breast cancer are more aggressive and may recur despite lifestyle changes.

Exercise – Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right? Is More Really Better?

Some people increase the amount or intensity of the exercises they do whether it is workouts, running, etc., following the old theory that “more is better” and that they will improve their health even more by doing more.

The US Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for physical activity recommends that adults get at least 21/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of both. It also recommends resistance training or weight training at least twice each week.

What are moderate-intensity activities? They are those that get your heart rate up and make you breathe harder than normal, but during which you can still talk. Some activities in this category are brisk walking, water aerobics, biking (slower than 10 mph), and light gardening. High-intensity activities are activities such as running, jumping rope, swimming laps, biking (faster than 10 mph), and heavy-duty yard work like digging.

Watching television programs such as American Ninja Warrior and seeing the high-intensity challenges the athletes overcome can certainly make you feel inadequate when it comes to exercise and fitness. But working out too hard and for too long can damage your body. It would be nice to be able to look into a glass that projects the future and see how the work-out obsessed fare health-wise after years of this kind of intensity.

Many of us may feel guilty that we don’t exercise more, but there is good news if you are a moderate exerciser. In a study of more than one million women in the UK in 2015, it was found that those women who reported moderate physical activity had significantly lower risks of developing coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (which can lead to hemorrhaging, blood clots, and stroke), and embolisms, while those women reporting strenuous daily physical activity had higher risks of developing these same diseases.

In a large Danish study which compared the death rates of runners, it was found that light and moderate runners have lower mortality rates than nonrunners (or sedentary people), whereas strenuous runners have a death rate much like that of the sedentary group. However, other studies found, as would be expected, that those who are sedentary and do not exercise at all are at the greatest risk.

Since these studies were observational only, they can demonstrate only correlation, not causation.

Excessive endurance exercises done daily can harm the body by depressing the immune system and increasing the risk of injuries, as well as increasing inflammatory processes. Taking a day or two off weekly gives the body time to recover from the stress of exercise. Also, some studies of endurance athletes have found coronary changes that may increase the risk of arrhythmias, sudden death, and other problems.

Some medical experts disagree with these studies. Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, (with a team of researchers) tested the link between large amounts of aerobic exercise and lifespan in 122,007 people and found that “Extremely high aerobic fitness was associated with the greatest survival and was associated with benefit in older patients and those with hypertension.”

A well-lived life is about balance, and we are all happier and more fulfilled when we can achieve balance in all areas of our lives. This is true when we apply it to the time we spend exercising to be healthy. For those who are worried that they must intensify their exercise just to maintain health, the takeaway from this is that there is a great health benefit in exercising, but you don’t have to keep increasing the amount or the intensity of it to stay healthy.

Meal Planning for Easy Eating

Back-to-school is a busy time for any family, and it’s possible for important activities to fall by the wayside in the rush to get everyone ready and out the door on time. One of the first things to fall through the cracks is healthy eating. It’s all too easy to pack instant meals for your child’s lunch as opposed to nutritious meals, and that’s especially true if you’re trying to get everything ready on the fly. Instead of falling into this habit, consider these meal-planning tips to streamline the food preparation process and keep everyone happy and well-fed.

Schedule Your Meals

Create a meal plan for every day of the week. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cook something every day;  sometimes it’s just more practical to pick something up. But planning ahead gives you the opportunity to scope out smarter food choices for quick takeout than a fast food restaurant. Additionally, planning your meals out in advance gives you more time to determine when you’ll actually cook them and how to store them effectively for long-lasting freshness.

Prepare the Night Before

Instead of waiting until morning to prepare lunches, have your children help you make and pack their food the night before. This gives you more time to find healthy options while giving your child a sense of responsibility for themselves and the food they eat. This is a great chance to teach them healthy food preparation rules as well as the importance of good nutrition. And the morning will be a much less stressful experience when all you have to do is grab a packed lunch from the refrigerator and send your children on their way.

Plan Breakfast, Too

One of the biggest time-wasters parents encounter each morning is waiting for their children to decide what they want to eat for breakfast. Unless they are old enough to prepare their own food, don’t give your children too many choices. Have one or two options that are easily prepared, and you’ll find the morning moves more smoothly, and your children receive consistently healthy meals before they head off to school.

Keep It Simple

Is it tempting to try your hand at a complicated meal that consists of roughly 20 different ingredients and takes two hours to make? Well, for some us, the answer might very well be “yes.” Chances are good, however, that this isn’t a smart choice. Do you really have time to create a complicated dinner every night after work? Instead of picking complicated dishes that can take a while to prepare, keep it simple during the week. Opt for meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that can be prepared quickly and offer all the nutrition you need. For school lunches, this can consist of wraps, cheese cubes, fruit, and hummus with pita bread.

Making healthy food doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Streamlined meal preparation tips can help make it an easy and fast process. With these tips in mind, start making delicious food for your family even during the most chaotic of times.

The Benefits of Having Healthy Employees

According to statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services, less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day and only one in three get the recommended amount of physical activity each week.

Persistent job stress and inactivity of employees in most workplaces contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Large corporations first offered wellness programs to their employees as a benefit, but as the fitness trend has grown each year, many smaller businesses have implemented programs, devices, and equipment to help employees become healthier.

Adjustable sitting/standing desks, balance balls, desk treadmills, and other devices as well as wellness programs can now be found in many office environments to help promote the health and well-being of employees. Businesses are implementing employee wellness programs because they like the benefits of having healthier employees.

What are the benefits of offering wellness programs, installing fitness centers, or other health-related equipment in an office environment? Many benefits are not measurable, but the following are among the reasons a business might start a wellness program:

  • Lower healthcare costs – Healthcare professionals have estimated that 70 to 90 percent of healthcare spending is for problems of chronic disease associated with unhealthy lifestyle choices—improper nutrition, too little exercise, or smoking, which costs American businesses more than one trillion dollars each year in lost productivity. From 22 studies that examined the costs of wellness programs and healthcare costs, it was found that for every dollar spent on wellness programs $3.27 was saved because of reduced healthcare costs.
  • Fewer lost work days – Healthier workers miss fewer days from work due to illness.
  • Lower stress levels – Neck, back, wrist, and arm fatigue as well as eye strain from sitting and staring at a computer during work hours contributes to fatigue and stress on the job. Exercise during wellness programs helps to dissipate stress, ease muscle strain, and provide relaxing moments—promoting a sense of well-being.
  • Promotes teamwork – Employees participating together in a wellness program are more likely to develop a spirit of camaraderie and teamwork which enhances the company culture and causes the employee to value the company more. Workplace wellness programs show that companies value and appreciate their employees and the employees are more loyal to their company.
  • Improved work performance and longer retention of employees – Since exercise increases one’s ability to focus and provides more energy to perform daily activities, employees are more productive at work. Employees who have a greater sense of well-being and who feel valued by their employers are more likely to stay with their companies.

More recent studies of wellness programs in 2019 cast doubt on the benefits the programs actually produce, but many factors go into how wellness programs are initiated and supported by the businesses and corporations that started them.

There have been many studies which have examined the results and benefits of wellness programs. One study that looked at nearly 200,000 wellness program participants showed that 5 out of 7 health risks improved after one year.

One thing seems certain: Companies will end programs from which they derive no benefit for their employees or their “bottom line.” The benefits of a workplace wellness program outweigh the costs.

Gardeners Rejoice!

How Gardening is Good For You

This is the time of year when yards come alive and we gardeners once again plan our gardens and begin selecting the beautiful flowers and vegetables that will fill our outdoor spaces. But the rewards we reap are not only colorful yards and tasty food that we have grown ourselves. Gardening is also wonderful for your health. It’s a great way to get that vitamin D which our bodies create when we spend time in the sun. By gardening, you can boost your endurance and strength, as well as flexibility.

benefits of gardening

Another terrific aspect of gardening is that you can burn a lot of calories as you are preparing the soil, tilling and hoeing, digging and planting, and weeding and pruning. These activities are a great way to work some good cardiovascular exercise into your daily routine.

Jeff Restuccio who wrote Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way says it’s a good idea to alternate the more physically challenging gardening activities with the lighter work for a more structured exercise workout. He suggests, for example, raking for a while, then digging holes, then pruning.

As you do your “gardening exercise,” concentrate on deep breathing, and for a real boost in calorie burning, exaggerate your movements to increase the range of motion. For example, while raking or digging, stretch further than you usually would. This can increase your calorie burning from 100-200 per hour up to 500 per hour according to Restuccio. The actual number of calories burned varies with age, weight, and how much muscle you have. The heavier you are, the more calories you will burn. The younger you are, the more calories you’ll burn. Also, muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you have a more muscular build, you will also burn more calories.

In addition, try switching back and forth between hands when raking. Rake with your right hand 15 times, then do 15 times with your left hand. This will ensure both sides of your body are getting an equal work out.

For people who don’t consider gardening a real workout, Restuccio says, “If you think double digging (going down a foot, turning the soil over, then down another foot, bringing that soil to the top) isn’t exercise, you haven’t tried it.”

One of the best things about working in the garden, aside from the actual harvest, is that you can do it with the whole family. Get the kids and the grandparents out in the garden and let everyone participate. Make it a bonding activity that all can share, and in the process, everyone can get healthier too!

Some gardening safety tips:

  • Remember to stretch before you begin; gardening is exercise, and you can just as easily injure a muscle gardening as you can working out in the gym.
  • Be sure to stay well hydrated and use sunscreen.
  • To avoid hurting your back or knees, use a cushion when working close to the ground.
  • Instead of sitting on your heels, try to keep your back straight and be sure to stand and stretch every 10 minutes or so.
  • When choosing your shovel or spade, look for one that is lightweight and has a long handle.
  • Don’t overload your shovel when digging, and remember to bend at the knee, stepping forward when you raise and dump each shovel full of dirt.
  • While bending to pick up tools or heavy bags, bend at the knees and hips to avoid back strain.