So you want to know what you can do to get started on a wellness program at your company? Plenty! You know the saying, "think globally, act locally?" Well, at your company you can do both by choosing healthy lifestyle options, encouraging others to do the same, and setting the example of promoting health at work. Since adults spend so much time at work, it makes sense to practice healthy behaviors while there: it’s convenient and you have the built-in support of your co-workers to help each other succeed.
So how do you get started? For information on specific wellness topics, click the links below - or for fun ideas and a general overview of what you can do to help, start here.
Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthier and more successful life.
Many diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, are preventable. These diseases are life-threatening and affect quality of life. We can prevent many diseases by making healthier choices and lowering health risk factors. Unhealthy lifestyles such as eating too much of unhealthy food choices, inactivity, smoking, and not managing stress can cause:
Ready to start workplace wellness; increase your awareness; and learn what choices you can make to prevent disease and promote wellness?
Healthy Eating Guidelines (top) (print)
Following a healthy eating plan can help you feel better, lose weight, and fight many diseases, including lowering your blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Current recommendations from Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 are to:
- Eat a variety of foods that are high in nutrients and low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars and salt. Follow government recommendations such as the food guide pyramid.
- Eat at least 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day if you have a 2,000-calorie diet. Eat more or less depending on the calorie level.
- Eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and whole grains often.
- Eat and drink little added sugar or caloric sweeteners.
- Keep trans fat as LOW as possible.
- Get no more than 10 percent of your calories from saturated fat and no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily.
- Limit salt to about one level teaspoon a day.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, about one drink a day for women and two for men. Or better yet, don’t drink alcohol.
- Keep food safe to eat. Clean hands, food-contact surfaces and fruits and vegetables. To avoid getting sick from food, separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing and storing foods.
- Discretionary: Some people can eat ice cream or another treat as "discretionary calories" if they eat nutritious meals and exercise regularly.
- Don’t smoke.
You can go to http://www.mypyramid.gov for a personal food plan based on your age, gender, and physical activity.
Eating foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods has many positive benefits and can help keep your blood pressure or actually lower it significantly. Some people find the DASH eating plan (Dietary Approached to Stop Hypertension) a healthy plan to follow and it fits right with the recommended dietary guidelines. Go to http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/prevent/h_eating/h_eating.htm for information.
Eat Smart Move More is a great resource with quick and easy ideas on eating better and exercising. Information includes meal recipes, portion sizes, a resource library and increasing physical activities. There are tips for families, communities, church groups and worksites. http://www.myeatsmartmovemore.com/
Healthy Weight (top) (print)
Healthy eating and exercising are important to prevent many chronic diseases and to feel better. As an added benefit, doing so often helps individuals lose weight. If you are overweight, losing just 10 pounds can help lower your blood pressure. There are different measures to find out if you should lose weight. NONE of them are perfect or always accurate based on your body type and muscle mass. The most accurate method is underwater body composition measures to determine the amount of body fat compared to lean muscle mass. But since that’s not readily available for most of us, the other options are:
- Weight Scales and looking at Weight/Height Charts for an ideal weight
- Body Composition or Body Fat Percentage Estimates
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Waist Measures
Numerous studies have shown that percent body fat impacts both our health and life expectancy. There is convincing evidence that high body fat increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and some types of cancer. High body fat is usually caused by a combination of poor diet and lack of exercise. In order to decrease body fat, a person must reduce calorie intake, although not drastically; and increase physical activity.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of weight compared to height. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is in the healthy range. BMI is a reliable indicator of total body fat and a high BMI is considered a health risk factor. The index is not always accurate for athletes with a lot of muscle mass nor for the elderly or ill who have low muscle mass.
There are resources available to calculate your BMI for you - just type in your height and weight. You can do so right here on Fit Together’s website: http://www.fittogethernc.org/BMI.aspx.
There are also charts to find your estimated BMI by finding your height and weight and looking at the score: http://www.consumer.gov/weightloss/bmi.htm
Diabetes Information (top) (print)
Diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to blindness, heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, and amputations. It kills almost 210,000 people each year.
Some people with diabetes have symptoms, but many do not. If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your healthcare provider:
- Extreme thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Blurry vision
- Frequent urination
- Increased fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
For more information on diabetes call 1-800-DIABETES or go to: www.diabetes.org
Before people develop diabetes, they almost always have "pre-diabetes" -- blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. About 41 million people in the United States, ages 40 to 74, have pre-diabetes. Recent research has shown that some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during pre-diabetes.
But research has also shown that if you take action to control your blood sugar when you have pre-diabetes, you can delay or prevent Diabetes from ever developing. While some medications may delay the development of diabetes, diet and exercise worked better. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, along with a 5-10% reduction in body weight, can significantly lower your risks for diabetes
Take the Test -- A Diabetes Risk Test is available at: http://www.diabetes.org/risk-test.jsp
There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not produce insulin. Type 2 Diabetes is a lifelong disease in which the body either does not make enough of, or does not respond properly to the hormone insulin; and therefore cannot keep blood sugar levels within a normal range.
Insulin is necessary for the body’s ability to process sugar. Over time, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, nerve and kidney diseases and more. Pre-diabetes is a warning sign that a person is at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes.
A simple blood test can screen for blood sugar levels. The screening can be performed either after fasting or two hours after eating; there are new guidelines to follow to determine if additional blood sugar testing is necessary:
There are plenty of ways you can find out if you are at risk for pre-diabetes, The American Diabetes Association has a wealth of resources both for people with diabetes, and those at risk. For more information, consult your physician.
Quitting Smoking (top
Quitting smoking is not easy, but it can be done! The more times you try to quit, the closer you are to succeeding. The only way you can fail is to stop trying. Your overall health and quality life are two good reasons to quit! Smoking is the number one cause of preventable, premature deaths and illnesses. Smokers are twice as likely to die of heart disease as nonsmokers. Smoking is also known to cause lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, as well as lung cancer and many other types cancers. Quitting will reward you not just with a longer life, but a healthier, more quality life.
Need more reasons? Smoking also causes premature wrinkling of the skin, bad breath, bad smelling clothes and hair, and yellow fingernails. It also increases the risk of macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of blindness in the elderly.
When you quit, not only do your risks of the above diseases go down but food tastes better, your sense of smell returns to normal, and ordinary activities no longer leave you out of breath (climbing stairs, light housework, etc.). Plus you will save money! Smoking is expensive! Just start adding it up and look at what you will save after a year, 5 years, 10 years, a lifetime?
And smoking hurts others when you expose them to second hand tobacco smoke. Children in homes with smoking adults suffer more colds, allergies, asthma, and ear infections. Nonsmoking adults exposed to second hand smoke suffer risks of heart disease and lung cancer, plus headaches, nausea and dizziness.
Quitting smoking may be one of your biggest challenges, but it will reap rewards that will last you a lifetime. You will not only be healthier, but you will have the confidence to know that you can accomplish anything, and that you are in control of your life, not your cigarettes.
Ready to get started? There is no better time than now with so many resources available to help. So pick a quit date, write it down and start to mentally and physically prepare! These resources can help get you started!
Quitline NC at 1-800-QUIT-NOW provides FREE quit-coaching for any North Carolina resident.
Guide to quit smoking: Click here to get the guide.
“Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence” a set of guidelines to help you quit tobacco can be found here.
Take One Day, One Minute, One Second....One Urge at a Time!
Don't look too far ahead! Deal with NOW, only NOW.Prepare and Change Your Habits
Get rid of all cigarettes in your home, work, car - even go through coat pockets! Get rid of them! Also get rid of: ashtrays, lighters, and matches.Clean Out Your Car/Home
Scrub your ash trays, use air freshener, etc., to begin establishing your healthy environment.Keep Drinking Water
Drinking water will help flush the nicotine and other impurities from your body, it will ease cravings for cigarettes and food, and it gives you a healthy alternative to smoking.Practice Deep Breathing
Take deep breath throughout the day, and especially when the urge to smoke a cigarette strikes. Take 5 to 10 breaths each time, or until the urge passes.
- Close your eyes
- Breath in through your nose to the count of 4 and hold it for 3 seconds
- Slowly breath out through your mouth
- Feel your chest rise - and expandRelax and only think of your breaths
Avoid: Caffeine and Alcohol for a few days
Caffeine and alcohol can be powerful triggers plus alcohol reduces your resistance and ability to make wise decisions! Wait until you are in full control of being smoke free.
Avoid: Any other strong triggers for a few days
Vary your routines - eat in the non-smoking section at restaurants and at work. Change your route to work - don't drive by that convenient drug store! Do something after dinner - even just get up and brush your teeth! Simple things.
Wait Out The 3 Minute Urge
When the urge hits don't fight it or argue with it, just DO something. Three minutes goes by quickly unless you sit there wringing your hands about wanting to smoke. There is NO decision, remember, you are a non-smoker and will choose another activity to do at this time.
Don't Do it Alone!
Friends and family can be a tremendous support and help! Studies show that telephonic Quitlines can drastically increase your chances for success in quitting tobacco use. In North Carolina, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free help.
Try These Strategies
Take deep breaths
Call a friend
Do 3 crunches
Brush your teeth
Go for a walk
Eat an apple
Experiment and Enjoy - you'll learn a lot about yourself!
Get Enough Sleep
You need your rest to help you remain strong and think clearly. When you are overtired you may not have full control.
Practice The Four "D"'s:
Simple “Tips” To Manage Stress
Stress, by definition, is an automatic body response to an event or threat (real or imagined), when you believe that you don’t have enough resources to handle the threat. The stress response happens for good events as well as bad ones. Good stress can take place during happy, exciting times such as a marriage, a promotion, a new home, a new job, or birth of a child. Bad stress—of which we’re most familiar—is usually represented by the death of a family member, financial troubles, problems with relationships or with our children, or extra pressure from work, etc.
Stress is a normal part of life and some stress is good – it challenges and motivates us to learn and grow. The problem is that when not controlled or managed, stress (some experts call this DISTRESS!) can lead to poor health and even injury. Many experts believe that almost 80% of all diseases are impacted by stress and some experts feel that at least 50% of diseases may actually be caused by stress. It is therefore important that we have the resources and coping skills to manage stress in order to stay healthy.
Examples of symptoms of too much stress
- Tense Muscles
- Not Productivity
- Sleep Problems
- Lack of Motivation
- Can't Relax and Enjoy Yourself
- Always Rushing
- Digestive Disorders
Take Control to Manage Stress
It’s important to recognize the symptoms and what causes stress for you, and then take steps to control your reaction to these stressors. Helpful tips or include:
- Practice deep breathing during your busy days: Take a deep breath in through your nose, letting your stomach rise first, & slowly fill your lungs. Hold for a few seconds and slowly exhale as far as you can. Repeat 10 times, thinking of nothing but the air going in and releasing the stress.
- Visualize a pleasant situation. Close your eyes, relax, and think of a pleasant place - the beach, mountains, a childhood area. Use as many of your senses as you can: feel the wind, smell the air, listen to the sounds. Remain there for 5 to 10 minutes and slowly return!
- Take a break. Walk around the building. Get out for fresh air and deep breath.
- Change your attitude. It is our choice whether or not we can handle a given situation. Does the situation causing stress really matter? Can we change it to a more positive event? As Dennis the Menace once said to his parents during a rainstorm, huddled miserably under their umbrellas trying to stay dry, “Boy, you’re missing a great rain”! Remember, hidden within each stressor is an opportunity for change, learning, and growth.
- Work off steam. Take a fast walk, smash a pillow, find a place to scream.
- Find the humor. If we forget our sense of humor then everything seems to be a problem. Learn to laugh, especially at yourself.
- Talk to someone. Confront the problem directly whenever possible, especially if it is likely to happen again. If you can’t, talk it out with a sympathetic listener or counselor. Writing your feelings on paper and then tearing it up is another way to get our feelings out.
- Take Care Of Yourself! Eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep all help us cope with events and threats as they occur.
Contact your company’s Employee Assistance Program for additional information on stress or for assistance in handling stressful issues. The following websites may also be helpful.
Mind Tools: Stress Management Information and Resources
MedLine Stress Management Program
Coping with Stress: Management and Reduction Techniques
Physical Activity (top
An important part of a healthy lifestyle is being physically active every day. We need to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity everyday. And more is even better for weight loss and weight control. Talk to your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have a medical condition, history of heart, lung, or other disease or if you have been inactive for a long time. However, the greatest risk of exercise is not starting! Yet there are many benefits for increased physical activity. Here are a few:
- Feeling better
- Stronger muscles
- More energy
- Look better
- Less stress
- Burn more calories
- Strengthen bones
- Fewer injuries
- Stronger immune system
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
- More self confidence
Experts recommend 3 types of exercises to achieve the above benefits:
- Aerobic exercise
- Strengthening exercises
- Stretching or flexibility exercises
Aerobic activity is any activity that increases heart and breathing rate when moving the body at a regular pace. Current recommendations are that we should do moderately intense aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes on most if not all days. This strengthens your heart and lungs as well as your muscles used and burns calories. Aerobic exercise at more intense or vigorous levels and for 45 - 60 minutes or more will also burn stored fat and promote weight loss. You could also do aerobic activity for three 10 minute blocks of time each day to improve your heart health.
Aerobic exercise includes walking at a brisk pace, jogging, riding a bike, swimming laps, taking an aerobic class, yard work, or even heavy housecleaning. Regular aerobic activity can help to:
- Control weight. Aerobic activity burns calories, which helps manage weight.
- Prevent heart disease and stroke. Regular aerobic activity strengthens heart muscle and lower blood pressure. It also helps lower cholesterol, and raise HDL cholesterol levels.
- Maintain strong bones. Weight-bearing aerobic activities that involve lifting or pushing against own body weight helps to maintain strong bones.
- Improve outlook. Aerobic exercise relieves tension and decreases stress. Increased fitness also builds confidence and improves self-image.
According to The American College of Sports Medicine, for healthy aerobic activity an individual should:
- Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes before aerobic activity. This can be done by starting out slower and then increasing the exercise pace.
- Maintain exercise intensity for a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes.
- Gradually decrease the workout intensity, then stretch to cool down during the last 5 to 10 minutes
Examples of Moderate versus Vigorous Exercise
To increase muscle mass and strength it is important to lift weights or do resistance exercises at least twice a week. And no, you don’t have to go to the gym or buy expensive equipment! This type of exercise can be push-ups, abdominal curls or half sit-ups, or using bands for resistance. You can also lift weights by using 5 pound food cans to do many arm, shoulder, chest, and back strengthening exercises.
Think about working the major muscle groups of the body such as your arms, chest, back and legs. Unlike aerobic exercise, which should be done daily, weight lifting requires at least 1 day of rest before working that muscle group again. The muscle gets stronger by having time to heal and strengthen after each session.
Besides building stronger muscles, strengthening activities help to:
- Use more calories. Not only does the exercise burn calories, but also having more muscle burn increase metabolism therefore burns more calories
- Reduce injury. Stronger muscles improve balance and support your joints, lowering the risk of injury.
- Maintain strong bones. Doing strengthening exercises regularly helps build bone and may prevent bone loss with age.
Consider what you can use to lift weights in your home or using your own body for resistance such as when doing push-ups or leg lifts. Aim for exercising the muscle for 8 to 12 times or ‘repetitions’ briefly rest for 30 to 60 seconds and then do another ‘set’ or repeat 8 to 12 repetitions.
Stretching improves our flexibility and helps keep us limber. It’s important to stretch slowly and be careful so that you do not hurt yourself. You should never bounce when stretching, but hold a comfortable stretch for about 15 seconds and slowly extend the stretch.
Flexibility is one of the key pieces of a balanced exercise program. Stretching exercises are used to lengthen muscles and improve flexibility. As people age, we tend to lose range of motion. Not being active causes a decrease in flexibility as well.
Although there is still some controversy over which flexibility exercises are the best and how often one should stretch, general recommendations are to stretch at least three times a week, and some experts even recommend stretching daily. The key is to stretch safely so that you do not cause an injury. (For a visual, see the Be Active Stretch Handout below.)
NEVER stretch cold muscles such as when beginning your exercise routine.
ALWAYS warm up first. Either do an activity for a few minutes that gets your heart rate higher, and a light sweat starts OR start your exercise routine at a slow pace to gradually warm up and then stretch. Better yet, just stretch at the end of your aerobic exercise routine!
HOLD the stretch: Each stretch should be held for 10–30 seconds, to a position of mild tension, or mild discomfort. Release the stretch and repeat it three to five times.
DON'T Bounce: Experts usually recommend static stretching, a method that involves holding the stretch steady, or a slow, and continuous stretching rather than bouncing or forcing the stretch.
Want more information and ideas? Here are some additional resources:
Be Active NC http://www.beactivenc.org/
Be Active NC Stretch Handout Stretch Handout
Medline: Exercise and Physical Activities
American Council on Exercise (ACE): Tips
American Heart Association Exercise Information
American College of Sports Medicine