Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Can Eating Gluten-Free Improve Employee Health?

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

gluten free, employee health, nutrition, dietWhat is gluten? It’s a protein found in wheat that causes severe indigestion problems. Gluten is in so many of our favorite foods and is hard to avoid. Although the thought of a gluten-free diet doesn’t sound fun to most, it's becoming more popular in younger generations.

A gluten-free diet is used to treat celiac disease. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Even people without the disease can find benefit in eliminating gluten from their diets. Most people who take on a gluten-free diet are getting more fruits and vegetables and eating less processed foods, which is a good thing.

The signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance do not sound fun. These signs and symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, cramping, and constipation. Always having an upset stomach will definitely make it easier to go gluten free.

There are more gluten-free products to choose from now that it’s becoming more popular. Stores like Whole Foods provide gluten-free shopping. You would be surprised at all they have on the market: pastas, breads, beer, and more. Carefully read the food labels because some gluten-free foods can be higher in calories.

Going gluten-free can’t be all that bad for you; Oprah gave up gluten on a cleansing diet. Gluten is fairly indigestible, so eliminating it might help with stomach issues in all of us. Some doctors still recommend that you go gluten free to solve signs and symptoms, even if you test negative for celiac disease.

Corporate Health and Wellness: How is your onsite cafeteria incorporating healthier food choices, including gluten-free, into its corporate wellness program? 

Topics: nutrition disease prevention

Vitamin D and Employee Health

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

corporate wellness, vitamin D, employee health, senior wellnessWe have been told for years to stay out of the sun because of its aging effect on our skin and bodies. Finally, there's a benefit to being out in the sun and eating lots of sushi! Sunshine and salmon are the two best sources of vitamin D. You may want to reconsider a little bit of sunshine to prevent some common diseases as people age.

The Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study, CAREDS, was performed to research the 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in the blood. These levels were associated with early development of age-related macular degeneration, which is a common cause of eyesight loss in the elderly.

Studies have also found that vitamin D is linked to reducing the risks of Alzheimer’s, depression, bone fractures, multiple sclerosis, lupus, fibromyalgia, diabetes, heart disease, and several major cancers. Aging can be scary, but I think we need to be more aware of our vitamin D intake.

You heard it right: It’s okay to sit in the sun (with sunscreen, of course) for a little bit. And it’s okay to treat yourself to a nice seafood dinner.

Check with your corporate health and wellness team for more information about how to incorporate vitamin D into your diet.

Topics: employee health nutrition disease prevention

Can Fasting Improve Employee Health?

This blog was written by Dan Walker. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Fasting is an ancient practice that is observed in nearly every religion and culture around the world. While many view it primarily as a spiritual discipline, numerous health benefits have been proposed as well. These range from helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol to the detoxification of the body. While many medical professionals and average people advocate fasting in some form, many others disagree.

fasting, nutrition, employee wellnessLike many “alternative therapies” practiced throughout the world today, the jury still seems to be out on fasting and its health benefits. Many claim that it can help reverse diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol; improve the immune system; and help the body heal itself in numerous ways. Others claim that none of these things is proven and that fasting can actually be detrimental to one’s health.

Proposed Benefits of Fasting

Today I take a look at the benefits that those who are in favor of fasting have either witnessed or experienced themselves. In a future post, I'll address the opposite viewpoint.

  • Detoxification: Detoxification is one of the most notable benefits of fasting that proponents mention. Those who support it say that since many of the toxins we store in our bodies are stored in fat, and more fat is burned during a multiday fast, it can serve as a way to help detoxify the body. It is believed to give the body rest and allow it to use for detoxification the energy normally used digesting food.
  • Longevity: Another interesting idea is that fasting can actually help promote a longer life. Numerous studies in animals have found that subjects that periodically fasted and followed lower-calorie diets in the trials lived longer than their counterparts.
  • Lower risk of diseases: A relationship between fasting and a lower risk for diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s has also been found. Fasting proponents point to this as evidence that fasting directly leads to these health benefits, while opponents hold that though they are correlated, it doesn’t necessarily mean one causes the other.

Next time we’ll look at fasting and weight loss, a method many have tried over the years.

What's Your View on the Health Benefits of Fasting?

In the meantime, though, what’s your story? Have you ever fasted for physical or spiritual reasons, and if so, what was the outcome? There seem to be many on both sides of the fence when it comes to fasting.

Topics: employee health nutrition disease prevention

Employee Health: Healthy TV-Watching Tips

This blog was written by TJ McAloon. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can't have your cake and eat it too”? Well, try this new one on for size: “You can have your television shows and still be healthy.”

television, couch potato, corporate healthToo Much TV Shown to Cause Health Problems

That dancing program that eats up two hours a night during the week? Go ahead and watch it. That reality dating show that you cannot miss out on because you are invested in the guy bachelor giving out his last flower to your favorite girl contestant? Go ahead and watch that, too! Yes, you can have your cake and eat it; you can watch all of these programs and stay away from heart or cardiovascular problems.  

A study reported that sitting in front of a television or computer screen for more than four hours a night made people more at risk for heart attacks, strokes, or other serious cardiovascular diseases. However, those who cut those hours in half have less than half the risk of those problems.

Avoiding the Health Pitfalls of TV Watching

So how can you still watch all of your shows, update your Facebook status and Twitter feed, and stay healthy?

  • Watch shows on your own schedule. For starters, the days of “must-see TV” are gone. Try using your digital video recorder (DVR) to save shows for later viewings. Using this feature will cut those 30- to 60-minute programs in half. If you do not have the luxury of a DVR, don’t worry. There are multiple options out there to catch you up on your programs so that you are not the social outcast in your circle of friends.
  • Snack healthier. The second option is to eat healthier snacks while watching television. Is your usual choice chips or popcorn? Yeah, those are not helping your heart any. Try eating carrot or celery sticks. If those do not sound appealing, try a granola bar or trail mix.
  • Walk around more. Use the first option of the DVR or catching up on shows online at a later time. From the study highlighted on CNN, many of us also spend our working lives sitting at a desk and commuting behind the wheel of a car. Researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis says, "We have taken sitting as a default position for many, many things. I don't think that our bodies are made for this, and the reaction to this is all these adverse physiological and chemical consequences." The easy way to fix this problem is to go for a walk, run, jog, or stroll around your neighborhood, apartment complex, or park during your free time.
  • Exercise while you watch. There is also the option of multitasking. While catching your favorite guilty pleasure, do some jumping jacks or core exercises!

Yes, you can have that healthy, long life that you want to have while enjoying the television shows that you cannot miss out on. But, just like everything in life, you must enjoy it in moderation. You can still have your cake and eat it too.

Topics: employee health disease prevention exercise at home

Employee Health: Strokes Rising Among Young and Middle Aged

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

heart health, exercise, young, wellnessIt’s scary to think about younger generations having an increased number of strokes. My mom had a stroke a couple years ago. At the time she didn’t know it, but she has high blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for strokes.

I think it’s important that younger and middle-aged people start going to the doctor and know whether they are at risk. Some risk factors for stroke cannot be changed, such as age, heredity, gender, and previous history of stroke or heart attack. But some risk factors are controllable.

Obesity, smoking, overuse of alcohol, and high blood pressure are all reasons why the number of strokes has increased in younger people. Get into the gym or walk outside to start burning calories. Then continue to do some sort of physical activity every day.

Do you know your numbers? If not, schedule an appointment with your doctor and know your cholesterol, HDL, and LDL levels. If they are unfavorable, ask your doctor what you can do to improve them. Living a healthy lifestyle is important for your present and future.

Does your corporate wellness program provide an onsite fitness center? If so, be proactive; take advantage of the great resource made available to you.

Topics: employee health corporate fitness program disease prevention

Parkinson's Disease: Healthy Diet Choices for Senior Fitness

This blog was written by Sean Holbrook. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

A slow twitch.

An uncontrollably shaky hand.

Both are easily passed off as nothing, but this is just how Parkinson's starts. This degenerative central nervous system disease eventually leads to difficulty walking and talking, and even cognitive function.

Currently there is no known cure for Parkinson's, but there is a recent increase in funding toward research for Parkinson's disease because of President Obama's reversal of restrictions on use of stem cells in research. The increased funding has led to research in additional areas regarding Parkinson's disease, including lifestyle habits.

disease prevention, senior wellness, aging, healthNew Study Offers Parkinson's Prevention Hope

A new study by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that men who ate a diet rich in foods containing flavonoids were 35 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease. Researcher Xiang Gao stated that the study suggests that a group of flavonoids known as anthocyanins may have a neuroprotective effect.

The study looked at the responses of 49,281 men and 80,336 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. Participants were followed for 20 to 22 years and filled out food questionnaires. The researcher calculated flavonoid intake based on the responses of five flavonoid-rich foods, including tea, berries, apples, red wine, and oranges/orange juice. No real link was identified for women, but both men and women who ate the most foods rich in anthocyanins, berries, and apples had a 22 percent lower risk of Parkinson's disease.

Antioxidants and Balanced Diet Limit Risk for Many Diseases

The benefits from a healthy antioxidant-rich diet full of berries, citrus fruits, teas, and even chocolate are well known because of their ability to prevent cardiovascular disease, several types of cancers, premature aging, and the list goes on and on. This study does not prove that berries or a diet rich in antioxidants will prevent Parkinson's disease. This was an observational study that lends more support to the fact that eating a well-balanced diet and making healthy lifestyle choices can be a limiting risk factor later in life.

Topics: nutrition disease prevention senior wellness programs senior fitness

Senior Wellness: Berries and Blood Pressure

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

Do you consider fruit when you’re hungry for a snack? Instead of grabbing those chips, grab some berries! Most berries taste like a treat, anyway, with their natural sugars, and the health benefits are amazing. (Okay, some might not agree that berries are a treat, but they are very good for your body!)

Why Berries Are So Healthy for Youdescribe the image

Most berries are packed with vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. They also contain organic chemicals that help to lower blood pressure and increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels. There are several possibilities, so don’t be afraid to branch out on your berry intake. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are good tasting and fun to add to other things.

Ways to Use Berries in Healthy Meals

The ways to incorporate berries in your diet are endless. You can

  • Add them to a salad for lunch
  • Make a homemade low-fat smoothie
  • Add them to a relish on top of your favorite barbecued meat
  • Put them in pancakes
  • Add them to yogurt

When adding them to recipes, it’s best to use frozen berries. But do not add any additional sugar.

Go ahead; pick up some berries at the store tonight for a healthier you!

Topics: nutrition disease prevention senior wellness programs

Regular Exercise Promotes Employee Health and Germ Resistance

This blog was written by Kimm Thiel. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

describe the imageAn exercise a day helps keep the doctor away! Ever notice how physically fit people seem to seldom catch that bug that’s been going around the office? Well, it's not just good luck; there’s actually some scientific basis for it.

Some new (and some not-so-new) research is showing that people who get regular aerobic exercise have milder flu symptoms and for fewer days than their couch-potato counterparts. It’s no wonder various workplace health promotion programs are dedicated to this exact idea. Decrease absenteeism and up goes productivity. What a concept!

And, as if you needed yet another reason to get and stay active, here are a few more. In one study, men who walked just three to six hours a week decreased their risk of prostate cancer by almost 67 percent over sedentary men. On another note, being regularly active can reduce the risk of injury. Typically, if a muscle is strong prior to injury, the rehabilitation time following such an incident is shorter and easier.

There are a few different reasons exercise has these immune-boosting effects. The basics are that it speeds up circulation of white blood cells, your front-line bacteria and virus fighters, so they get to infection sites more quickly. Exercise also releases endorphins, those fantastic neurotransmitters responsible for decreasing stress and making you happier. In turn, this helps strengthen the immune system.

So what are you waiting for? Get moving today for a healthier tomorrow!

Topics: exercise disease prevention

Employee Health: Secondhand Smoke Contributes to Infertility

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

In recent years, your corporate fitness center members have no doubt been made aware of the health risks associated with smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke. Just in case you need one more reason to urge your participants to join in on National Kick Butts day (March 23, 2011), research has proven that secondhand smoke increases the chance of infertility as well as miscarriages and stillbirths.

describe the imageSociety has come a long way. Think back several decades ago when the dangers of smoking weren’t as well known, and women smoked throughout their pregnancies and around their small children. The more studies that surface, the more the evils of cigarette smoke are exposed, whether inhaled personally or secondhand.

If a corporate fitness member shares with you that she is having trouble getting pregnant, what encouragement can you give her? Along with general health recommendations for anyone (for example, eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight), urge her to become more conscious of situations where secondhand smoke is present. Although many counties nationwide have adopted a no-smoking policy for bars and restaurants, there are still organizations or public events that allow smoking.

It is important to encourage women who are still smokers to stop now, rather than wait until they are trying to conceive, to avoid potential infertility problems.

Although it’s impossible live a completely toxin-free existence, cigarette smoke has been a known carcinogen for many years and can be easy to avoid. Do you plan to run any corporate wellness programming for National Kick Butts Day this year?

Topics: disease prevention tobacco cessation

Employee Health: How to Avoid the Flu in Your Workplace

This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Do you hate the flu as much as I do? The aching muscles, chills, throbbing head, sore throat—I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. The CDC estimates that 5 to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu each year, which also translates to nearly 75 million missed work days.

Sick at work resized 600How can you minimize the spread of the flu virus at your office? The best preventative measure is probably offering a free flu vaccine clinic for your employees. However, there are other health behaviors you can introduce to your employees.

Encouraging your employees to practice more frequent hand washing could be the ounce of prevention that they need. In fact, a German research team found that a group of frequent hand washers and users of hand disinfectant reported they felt better and more productive while at work than a control group that did not use the product.

Encourage your employees to practice healthy behaviors during flu season and all year by keeping their work spaces clean, frequently washing their hands or using hand disinfectant, and maintaining a regular exercise routine to boost immunity.

Need more ideas to help keep your employees healthy? Seek guidance from a corporate fitness management company and the professional staff who supervise their fitness centers.

Topics: corporate wellness employee health disease prevention