Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wondering Wednesday: How Does Exercise Relate to Corporate Wellness Programs?

IN HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT, Tilt AMERICAN worker would lose to a band of sleepy preschoolers. Only 15% of U.S. workers exercise enough, and 40/0 don't attempt so much as. a sit-up. More than half blame work, with 8 in 10 grousing that they would hit the treadmill—really they would—if only their employers encouraged it.

Be careful what you whine for. With health-care costs hobbling profits, more employers are saying to employees, Get healthy—or else. After all, insurance premiums and absenteeism by sick workers set businesses back $15 billion a year. says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And yet 70% of health-care costs stern from preventable chronic diseases. Take diabetes, which costs nearly $92 billion a year: 90/0 of cases could be avoided by better eating. Smoking-related illnesses rack up an additional s75 billion a year.

The new wellness program has teeth. It levies fees for not joining and sics personal coaches on employeesEmployers' whip of choice is the corporate-wellness program. Three-quarters of large employers have one, up from 56% three years ago. And the new wellness pro. gram has teeth. It levies fees for not joining. assigns workers to risk categories, rewards them for improving and sics personal coaches on employees to hound them into better habits. Some employers take the mission so seriously they're telling workers to get well or get lost.

Worthington Industries was an early convert. The $3 billion metals manufacturer opened a gym at its Columbus, Ohio, headquarters in 1985, later adding free yoga, step and cardio classes. In 1995, it built an onsite wellness center with three full-time physicians, a lab and pharmacy. But with the company's health-care premiums still soaring, CEO John McConnell decided to get serious. In 2003 Worthington hired an outside vendor to implement a program called Healthy Choices that would track and improve workers' health. Workers who participate get cash credits of up to s5o a month toward their share of health-care premiums. "I thought, 'People respond to money.'" says McConnell. "It's a pretty sweet deal."

The results are plain. Since 2004, the percentage of participating workers in the low-risk category rose from 30% to 41%. Pat McGee, 49,a corporate trainer based in lack-son, Michigan, says his days on the road "began with doughnuts and ended with pizza." After a heart attack in January 2006, McGee embraced the wellness program, which has since helped him quit smoking, change his diet and start walking more than e km every day. His two daughters quit smoking too. Thanks to success stories like McGee's, Worthington saved s2.5 million in claims over the past two years, more than double what it has spent on the program. says Kay Cooke, director of benefits. That makes McGee proud: 'We're a profit-sharing company, so I figure every dollar we save is a dollar in my pocket one way or another."

Wellness programs are wasted efforts unless workers take part, but for now, they remain mostly voluntary. A 2005 study by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions found that at most companies, less than half of employees participated. That's where the carrots and sticks come in. While employers like Kaiser Permanente dangle cash incentives for workers who submit to health evaluations, others, like AstraZeneca, threaten higher premiums for not taking part.

Scotts Miracle-Gro has gone so far as to fire a worker for smoking; he has since filed a federal lawsuit charging discrimination. Worthington c eo McConnell says he would never fire a worker for poor health, maybe because he's no Lance Armstrong himself: 6 ft. (1.8 m) and 23o lbs. (1o5 kg). at 54, he is a lapsed jogger who sneaks a smoke some evenings and whose risk assessment is only moderate. Even for bosses, wellness doesn't always come easy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

So you've been told that doing hundreds of crunches alone will get you the rock hard abs you desire.

Diet and Exercise Myth #1: Crunches will get rid of your belly fat.

False. “You can’t pick and choose areas where you’d like to burn fat,” Tyne says. “In order to burn fat, you should create a workout that includes both cardiovascular and strength training elements. This will decrease your overall body fat content.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wondering Wednesday: What are the benefits of hiring a personal trainer?

Are you one of the many Americans that assume personal training is a luxury solely reserved for the rich and famous, or at least the rich?

Perhaps that was once the case, but as we become more focused on fitness and overall health, personal trainers are going mainstream. As the media begins to report on the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight, exercising at least 30-45 minutes every day, and eating a diet rich in greens and unprocessed foods, people are seeking out personal trainers and nutritionists in hopes of gaining a routine specific for their needs.

This is a concept many believe in theory, but lack in actual practice. Your body is unique to you; therefore, your fitness goals should be different from your neighbors. Your diet needs will differ from others' needs.

All of this can be confusing, which is why so many are seeking the advice of knowledgeable fitness experts. These professionals will teach you the best way to work your muscles. They will help with your diet. They will help hold you accountable. They will push you over the hump and onto the next obstacle.

Recently, the American Council on Exercise and Club Industry magazine listed the top 10 reasons people benefit from hiring a trainer:

1. Motivation: Trainers serve as coaches, educators, and role models, particularly when you need it most.

2. Consistency: It is more difficult to stray from your routine when you have a scheduled appointment.

3. Safety: These experts will show you how to perfect your form to prevent injury.

4. Individualized Instruction: Remember: your body is unique, so your fitness routine should be as well.

5. Effective Workouts: Average Americans can spend months and not see a significant improvement. The same person can work with a trainer and see results in a matter of weeks.

6. Supervision: Having a trainer with you during your sessions will help you improve because they can watch and witness what needs to be altered.

7. Sports-Specific Training: Want to improve your golf game? Decrease your swim time? Cut time from your 40? Trainers know the insider tricks and can help you step it up a notch.

8. Injury Rehabilitation: A fitness expert can provide you with exercises that will speed your recovery and get you back to your old self in the appropriate amount of time.

9. Special-needs Training: Research confirms those with special-needs including diabetes, asthma, heart disease and osteoporosis benefit greatly from the knowledge given by experienced trainers. Let these experts create a safe and effective program for you.

10. Ego Boost: It is known that those with confidence draw the most attention, both professionally and personally. Often, our confidence wanes when we neglect our bodies. Joining forces with a personal trainer will jump start your routine, keep you on track and provide you with the tools to continue living a healthy lifestyle the rest of your days.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Feature Friday - Raising Your HDL Levels

With healthcare reform being debated in Washington, the words "preventative measures" are being thrown around with a fervency.

Unfortunately, with the increasing prevalence of heart disease, we are having to take a long hard look at what we put in our bodies and the result it is currently having, or will have on our heart in the future.

Obviously, cholesterol is a key component in coronary care. HDL, often refereed to as "the good cholesterol," is part of that preventative care I referenced earlier. Physicians want their patients to increase their HDL score. In fact, your risk of heart disease drops 2-3 percent each time you add a point to your HDL score.

How can you increase your levels?

Luckily, research has shown you can take an active role in this process by eating the right foods (and one is even chocolate)!

First, take a nice delicious bite of Dark Chocolate. Now, I can be a bit of a chocolate snob but in this case, gourmet chocolate is best for everyone because it is 70% cacao. Recently, a study was conducted in which participants ate 3.5 ounces every day for a week and consequently raised their HDL by 9 percent. Now, those people may have helped their HDL score, but I'm sure their waistlines also increased. The important thing to remember is dark chocolate will benefit you in the long run. So there is no need to scarf down 3.5 ounces every day. Rather, eat a small amount (1/2ounce) each day over an extended period of time and you will see the same benefits...minus the added inch around your girth.

Next, go to your local fish market (or grocery store for those non-coastal readers) and order a fillet of Salmon. I know, it is a fish you either love or hate. Learn to love it and your HDL will rise significantly. In fact, Loma Linda University recently conducted a study that revealed people who eat two 4-ounce servings a week for four weeks increased their HDL by 4 percent! In the event that you can't stomach a bite of salmon, other fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines and herring should deliver the same results. We all have food we didn't like as kids...remember hiding the broccoli under the potato skin? What about when you fed the dog your spinach or lima beans? But no matter what trick we had up our sleeve, mom always made us eat it because "It was good for us." Well, insert that philosophy here and you could see yourself living a few extra years thanks to that salmon!

What is the next beneficial food? Berries! I know people who eat Cheerios each morning. Great, now put blueberries on top and your HDL could rise as much as 5 percent! Berries come in both fresh and frozen fashion and the kind you prefer matters not. As long as you eat about a cup of frozen berries each day you will see a significant improvement. There are a number of recipes using berries, so have fun with this food. Snack on frozen blueberries on a humid summer day. Make a berry smoothie for breakfast. Just eat the berries!

Lastly, enjoy your morning Eggs! I am not advocating that you eat 3 eggs every day. However, eggs are rich in lecithin - which studies have shown raises HDL. Amazingly, a study performed in Thailand followed a group of healthy adults as they consumed one whole egg every day for 12 weeks. Interested to know how much their HDL increased? A whopping 48 percent!

Heart health is something that has touched so many people, be it directly or indirectly. Unfortunately, there is much we can't do because genetics play such a role in this often deadly disease. However, we can take it upon ourselves to be aware of beneficial foods that may help stave off coronary disease. Do your part to help yourself!