Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Hydration Is Key for Health and Wellness

Quick! What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “water”? Is it the beach? Rain? Thirst? How about hydration? Most people have heard that on average the human body is made up of about 60 percent water, but what exactly does that mean? Why is water so important to the human body? Well, let’s look at the facts.

ThinkstockPhotos-119492687.jpgWhy You Need to Drink Water

Water plays several important roles in the human body.

  • Water regulates body temperature through sweating and respiration. It helps to lubricate the joints for movement.
  • Water carries oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to various body parts for adequate functioning, and removes toxins and waste.
  • Water especially helps to maintain regularity of the bowels and prevents unwanted body aches and conditions such as heartburn, migraines, ulcers, kidney stones, and backaches.

Consuming adequate amounts of water each day can also help to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as reduce cholesterol levels. How? Well, the more water you drink throughout the day, the more fluid leaves your blood vessels. When this happens, your blood vessels are able to relax. When the vessels relax and dilate, a decrease in blood pressure occurs. When the blood vessels remain relaxed and pressure lowers, the risk for other serious cardiovascular conditions decreases as well. Reduction in blood pressure specifically helps to decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack.

How Much Water Does a Person Need?

With all of these different body systems relying on water to help them run optimally, how do you make sure you are consuming enough? Recommendations vary on this topic, but remember that water comes from more than just the bottle we drink throughout the day. It is believed that about 80 percent of water intake comes from drinking, and the other 20 percent comes from the food you consume throughout the day. The most recent recommendations suggest that women should consume 9 cups and men 12.5 cups of total beverages each day for optimum hydration.

Considerations That Affect Hydration

So you know why you need water and how much, but what factors affect hydration changes besides how much you consume? Additional considerations relating to hydration include your physical activity level, current health state (such as if you have a cold or flu), heat, and humidity. Sweating during activity is your body’s way of maintaining an adequate temperature. If you are working out and sweating, your body is losing water. So remember to hydrate before, during, and after a workout. If you feel ill and experience a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, fluid intake should also increase to prevent dehydration. Lastly, be aware of your environment and how you feel. If you become uncomfortably warm or are exercising in hot or humid climates, be sure to consume above-average amounts of water. 

Water’s Role in Weight Loss

Lastly, water works with your metabolism to help with weight maintenance. If you are hungry, drink a glass of water. If your body is lacking water, thirst can easily be mistaken for hunger. Increasing your water consumption can help contribute to a healthy weight-loss plan while providing your body with the many elements it needs to survive.

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Topics: weight loss hydration water disease prevention health wellness high blood pressure

Physical Activity and Exercise Help Seniors Stay Independent

senior exercisePhysical activity and exercise are two different terms that have similar concepts. Physical activity such as gardening, walking the dog, mowing the lawn, shopping, and taking the stairs gets your body moving. Exercise is a form of physical activity that is specifically planned, structured, and repetitive, such as strength training, yoga, or aerobics class. Both physical activity and exercise are great for seniors to keep up the daily activities they enjoy.

Is Your Physical Activity Decreasing?

It is common that the amount of physical activity we perform declines as we age. For instance, how many times have you heard, seen, or even said the following:

  • “I just can’t shop at the mall like I used to. It just seems so big!”
  • “Let’s take the elevator; the stairs are too strenuous for me now.”
  • “I hired the neighbor to mow my lawn once a week; it is just too difficult for me anymore.”
  • “My daughter comes over to help me with my housecleaning once a week; it has just gotten too difficult for me to do everything.”
  • “I gave up gardening; it just got to be too much.”

These phrases are all examples of common physical activity that may decrease in volume with age. Does any of these phrases sound familiar to you or maybe a family member or friend? If so, and you do not feel that you are getting enough physical activity in your life; it is beneficial, if not critical, for you to start an exercise program.

It’s Never Too Late to Start an Exercise Program

Good news! Exercise programs can be modified and designed to fit the needs of everyone, no matter the age, ability, or level, and it is never too late to start. So whether or not your physical activity level has decreased, there is always an exercise program out there for you! More good news! Once you start an exercise program, some of those physical activities that were “too much” before may be worked back into your life!

Check out these tips from the American College of Sports Medicine, “Starting a New Exercise Program and Sticking With It.”

Staying physically active and starting an exercise program can improve your balance, help manage and prevent disease, help reduce feelings of depression and improve overall well-being, and improve your ability to do things you want to do!

Do you feel like your amount of physical activity has declined? If so, what have you done to stay active? Maybe it is time to start an exercise program today!

Topics: exercise active aging disease prevention balance senior fitness physical activity

Employee Health and Nutrition: The Pros and Cons of Organic Foods

Can switching to organic foods make a difference to employee health and nutrition? There are many claims about the benefits of organic foods. Unfortunately, the current research is equivocal regarding the validity of these claims.

There are medical, environmental, and financial factors to consider when deciding whether to go organic. Consider the following pros and cons.

PROS of Organic Foods:

  • Pesticides are not used in organic foods; natural compounds are used instead. Many health risks, such as cancer, are associated with pesticide use.
  • Organic foods must meet many USDA qualifications before they can be marketed as organic.
  • Use of organic compounds on animals means that they are not fed antibiotics or growth hormones and that they are fed organic food.

food marketCONS of Organic Foods:

  • The downside to organic is that these foods tend to be more expensive. This can lead to a difficult decision in the grocery store between apples that look the same but vary in price.
  • Organic produce may spoil faster than fruits and vegetables sprayed with pesticides. Because they don’t have the wax-like coverings on them, they can go bad more quickly. Products that have the wax coverings should be labeled, indicating that a product was used to increase shelf life and decrease the occurrence of disease.

Other things to keep in mind when purchasing your food:

  • If certified organic, the food will have the USDA certified organic sticker on it.
  • Food must be at least 70 percent organic to be able to have the USDA certification.
  • Natural means that there aren’t any artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or preservatives. 

Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself what is best for your family, lifestyle, and checkbook.

Checkout our quickread for NIFS top nutrition apps for healthier eating, click below.

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Topics: employee health nutrition cancer disease prevention organic food

NIFS Nutrition News: Rice and Arsenic

rice When I saw the Consumer Reports article a few weeks ago about them finding high levels of arsenic in rice, my first thought was, “surely they were wrong!” However, after researching it a little further, all of the evidence points to the sad truth that one of our cheapest, quickest, and most popular grains to eat and prepare may be dangerous.

I found this interesting article from the Chicago Tribune that gives tips on how to reduce the arsenic levels in rice. The following excerpt shows what the article suggests you do:

Rinse your rice thoroughly. The FDA cites several studies indicating that "thoroughly rinsing rice until the water is clear (four to six changes of water) reduced the total arsenic content by up to approximately 25-30 percent."

Check your municipal water report. "Make sure your local water supply does not have high levels of arsenic," says John Duxbury of Cornell University, who studies arsenic and rice. "If you do have high levels, washing can make it worse. But if you are under 10 parts per billion, it should help."

Cook and drain your rice sort of like pasta. "We say to use about 6 parts water to 1 part rice," says Michael Hansen, a senior staff scientist at Consumer Reports. "And then drain off the water after it's done." The FDA says that studies show rinsing and cooking in excess water can reduce total arsenic levels by 50 to 60 percent. "However, it should be noted that for enriched rice, rinsing will also likely reduce the amount of added nutrients," the agency said.

Choose aromatic rices. For those who are already fans of Indian basmati or Thai jasmine rices, the news is not so bad. According to the hundreds of recently released test results, aromatic rice varieties show the lowest levels of inorganic arsenic. Imported basmati and jasmine rices showed about half to one-eighth the level of arsenic as regular rices grown in the Southern U.S.

Consider limiting brown rice consumption. From a nutritional and fiber standpoint, brown rice is tops, but because its bran remains intact it can also hold on to higher levels of arsenic, according to test results. Are the nutritional benefits worth the arsenic load? Hard to say at this point. But some test results indicate that brown rice from California and India have [sic] much lower levels of arsenic than brown rice from Southern U.S. states. For now, they may be the best choice.

Choose California. Of the domestic rices tested by Consumer Reports, California rices had lower levels of arsenic than those in other states. FDA rice results also indicated that some U.S. rice had lower levels of arsenic, but the data it released to the public did not specify states of origin.

Be careful when feeding babies rice cereal and rice milk. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office conducted tests of rice cereals for babies that she announced all contained inorganic arsenic. Gerber recently released a statement announcing it now sources its baby cereal rice only from California. Still Consumer Reports advises that children do not drink rice milk and that infant rice cereal (1/4 cup) be served no more than once a day.

Hopefully by following some of these tips and suggestions, we can all feel more confident in consuming this tasty whole grain. More research is currently being done on this topic, so until the conclusion is released, try to rotate other whole grains such as quinoa, barley, couscous, and whole-wheat pasta into your diet and choose rice less often.

 

Topics: employee health nutrition cancer cereal disease prevention

Avoiding Chemicals and Germs for Workplace Wellness

hand sanitizerCould your office be to blame for making you sick? This article refers to a recent study that found certain types of furniture, carpet and paint can contain harmful chemicals called PFCs, or polyfluorinated compounds. These chemicals are so widespread that 95 percent of Americans have been found to carry at least some level in their blood. The workplace, however, was the environment found to have the highest amount of PFCs in the air.

Interestingly enough, the study found that employees working in the buildings with the newest carpet, paint, and furniture showed more exposure to PFCs than employees working in buildings with older office surroundings. If you find yourself in the position of purchasing new carpet, paint, or furniture for your workspace, it could be worth asking the manufacturer whether there are any known substances in the materials that could be harmful in high level of exposure.

Chemical exposure isn't the only risk of working in an office environment. Offices are also breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria. Here are some things you can do to avoid catching germs in the workplace:

  • Keep a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer at your desk and use it periodically throughout the day.
  • If you use a shared computer or phone, wipe down items like the computer mouse and phone receiver regularly with an antibacterial wipe.
  • In restrooms, use automatic flush, sinks, soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers where available. The less contact your skin has with these items, the better.
  • In the office kitchenette, appoint one person per week to clean surfaces such as countertops, sink faucets, and handles on the refrigerator, microwave and coffeepot. General housekeeping may not be cleaning these items.
  • In your corporate fitness center, clean all machines and other equipment before and after use.
  • Exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet to boost your immune system no matter where you go!

 

Topics: corporate wellness employee health healthy workforce Wellness in the Workplace worksite wellness common cold allergies disease prevention healthy habits

Facts on Fiber: Good for Weight Loss and More

This blog was written by Lisa Larkin. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

facts on fiber, oatmealOther than supposedly helping you go the bathroom, do you know the importance of adding fiber to your diet? Our bodies can’t digest it, so why eat it?

Benefits of Getting More Fiber

Fiber is actually considered a carbohydrate. It has many health benefits, and helps to regulate digestion. It also helps you to feel full longer, which could help you cut back on total daily calories, helping you to lose weight. When you lose a few extra pounds, you also decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and heart attack; you also lower cholesterol levels and decrease joint pain. Adding fiber to your diet can also help to lower the risk of several forms of cancer.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

Shoot for getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day, which most of us are not even close to getting. And here's a very important side note: Add fiber to your diet slowly, over two to three weeks. If you add too much too fast, you may have stomach issues! Also, drink plenty of water when taking in more fiber to help keep things moving through your system.

How to Get More Fiber

Are you wondering how to add more fiber to your diet? Here are some tips:

  • Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat.
  • Add more whole-wheat products into your diet.
  • Eat popcorn instead of potato chips.
  • Snack on fruit instead of candy.
  • Keep some nuts at your desk or in your car for when you need something to hold you over.
  • Eat oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Try more recipes with beans and lentils.
  • Purchase unprocessed foods.
Topics: diabetes nutrition weight loss heart disease cholesterol weight management disease prevention

UV Safety Awareness for Corporate Wellness

This blog was written by Kara Gootee-Robinson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

describe the imageSummer has arrived along with barbeques, pool parties, ball games, and all those outdoor activities we enjoy this time of year. When those events are planned, you are most likely prepared to wear your hat and sunglasses and to apply sunscreen. But what about those everyday occurrences? Long walks from the car to the office, a bicycle commute to work, walk-at-work events, or simply enjoying your lunch outside expose the skin to harmful ultraviolet rays.

Tips for Reducing Skin Cancer Risk

Skin cancer kills thousands of Americans each year. The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation, and there are many ways to prevent skin cancer and reduce your risk:

  • Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are the strongest.
  • Use sunscreen daily, with an SPF of 15 or higher.
  • Protect your skin with long sleeves, a hat, and sunglasses.
  • Self check―be sure to watch for changes in your skin.

Promote Employee Sun Safety

July is UV Safety Month and a great time to promote sun safety for your employees. Spread the word in your workplace. Let your coworkers and employees know how easy prevention is. Easy ways to increase awareness and encourage sun safety in the workplace include the following:

  • Post signs and posters about sun safety.
  • Offer skin cancer screenings onsite.
  • Provide sunscreen samples.
  • Designate a shaded area for outdoor lunch breaks.

Even on a cloudy day, grab that hat and apply sunscreen because even on the haziest of days the sun’s rays are powerful and damaging!

Topics: corporate wellness cancer disease prevention employee wellness

Join Your Corporate Fitness Center's Walking Groups

This blog was written by Lisa Larkin. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

exercise group, walking groups, walk at workI think walking, no matter what speed, is good for your health. Granted, you are going to burn more calories, get your heart rate up higher, and cover more ground if you pick up the pace while walking. Walking is low impact and doesn’t require equipment or a gym membership. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and possibly a walking partner.

Research shows that regular, brisk walking can better your heart health just the same as jogging or vigorous exercise. It can be gentler on your joints than other forms of activity. There is also a decreased risk of injury with walking compared to other forms of exercise.

A brisk walk can help clear your mind after a stressful day at work and help to decrease your waistline at the same time. Walking on a regular basis can help to improve your mood and self-esteem, which will lead to a happier and longer life for you!  

Check with your corporate fitness center to join walking groups this summer and fall. Working in corporate health and wellness, I’ve created walking/running route maps so that members can get some fresh air while being active at work.  

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program disease prevention

Debt Affects Your Health

money stressA recent AP/AOL poll of 1,000 Americans showed increased debt was directly related to increased perceived stress. Among those polled, individuals with the greatest debt exhibited the most physical and psychological health problems linked to their stress levels.

Debt Causes Physical Symptoms

For example, 33 percent of those polled with high debt said they had suffered from high blood pressure, compared with 26 percent of their less-debt-laden peers. Additionally, 51 percent of those with the greatest debt load reported suffering from low back pain and muscle tension. Only 31 percent of their reduced-debt counterparts reported similar symptoms.

Debt Leads to Unhealthy Behaviors

When bank accounts run low and personal debt (credit cards, lines of credit, and so on) runs high, Americans trend toward a host of unhealthy behaviors. Excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and food (overeating) become coping mechanisms for the super-stressed. It's also common for sleeping patterns to be interrupted as levels of stress rise.

Debt Produces a Self-Care Freeze-Up

In addition, those under financial strain may perceive that they lack funds for self-care, so they choose not to seek medical help for what appear to be small health issues. Those concerns grow with unrelenting stress (they are often linked to one another) so that a small, easily remedied health problem eventually becomes a significant medical concern.

If you are experiencing stress related to being in debt or keeping on budget, follow our Fiscal Fitness Email Series for more tips. You may also want to find someone you know who seems money savvy and get some ideas from them or look online for free resources.

Topics: cholesterol stress disease prevention financial fitness

Employee Health: Could You Be a "Heart Attack Waiting to Happen"?

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

heart health, employee wellness, family historyIt is no secret that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, with more than 27% of all deaths being attributed to Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). What is shocking is that apparently healthy individuals are dying of heart disease every single day. In fact, 39% of American adults perceive themselves as having ideal heart health, while less than 1% actually do.

Are you healthy? You might say “I exercise regularly and eat right,” but is that enough? Doctors agree that, in most cases, a healthy diet and adequate exercise are not enough. While both are very important, they are simply pieces of the puzzle that come together to create a picture of optimal health. It may sound obvious, but in order to get yourself closer to an ideal state of health you need to become educated in two areas:

  1. Your current state of health.
  2. What it actually means to be healthy.

One way to “grade” your heart health is through risk stratification. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) presents the following as positive risk factors for CAD:

  • Family history: Heart attack, bypass, or sudden death in first-degree male relatives before 55 years of age, or before 65 years of age.
  • Cigarette smoking: Current smokers or those who quit within the preceding 6 months.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure defined as systolic pressure (top number) being greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg, OR diastolic pressure (bottom number) being greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg.
  • Dyslipidemia: High cholesterol defined as LDL (“bad”) cholesterol greater than 130 mg/dL, OR HDL (“good”) cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL, OR on lipid-lowering medication. Having HDL greater than 60 mg/dL is considered to be a negative risk factor, and thus negates a positive risk factor.
  • Impaired fasting glucose: Fasting blood glucose (“blood sugar”) greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL.
  • Obesity: Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30, OR waist girth greater than 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women, OR waist-to-hip ratio greater than or equal to .95 in males and .86 in females.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Persons not participating in a regular exercise program or not meeting minimal physical activity recommendations.

Knowing your individual risk factors for CAD is the first step toward reaching ideal heart health. Do you know where you stand? Have you had an annual physical or participated in a Know Your Number health screening? If so, congratulations! You are on your way to better health!

Topics: employee health heart disease cardiovascular disease Body Mass Index disease prevention