Category Archives: Corporate Fitness

Get Business Fit, One Minute At A Time

busy-bodiesIt’s safe to say that not enough of today’s society spends enough time prioritizing their health and fitness.  Statistics aside, there’s no better proof than observing all of the products aggressively marketed as fail proof diet plans, gimmick exercise equipment, miracle weight loss aids, and of course there is just simple people observation.  Even in the business world, the importance of health and fitness can never be stressed enough. Here’s a news flash.  Success in business is as dependent on physical health just as much as profits are at the end of the day.  Success in business also requires keeping the mind fit and sharp. So the question begs, how fit are you, physically and mentally.

It is important to appreciate the concept that you need to train your body AND mind for success. Unfortunately, the excuses usually prevail. “I need to exercise but I don’t have the time” or “I’d love to expand my knowledge but I don’t have the time”. Here’s another news flash. You must train your mind and body for business like an athlete trains to be mentally and physically fit for competition. You must find the time to exercise your mind and body. How? By training your mind and body one minute at a time. Here are some ways for business professionals to stay physically and mentally fit using the one-minute principle.

Exercise For One Minute

Who doesn’t have a minute to spare a day? No matter how much work there is to be done or how much time you think you don’t have, there is always an opportunity for a little exercise. Forget for a moment about feeling the need to spend hours hitting the gym or going for a run during lunch break. Focus on just the next one minute. Perhaps do a deep breathing exercise by taking in a big breath through your nose, expanding your abdomen, and then forcefully exhaling through your pursed lips as you pull in your belly button. Or how about getting up from your desk and doing one minute of push-ups or one minute of sit-ups? It doesn’t even matter how many you do. Over time, you’ll be doing more than you ever thought. After a while you may even be up to two minutes then three minutes.  Anything is possible. Instead of surfing the web, do a minute of exercise instead.  Do one minute of something. Start to get yourself in better shape one minute at a time.

Train Your Mind For One Minute

Think of your mind as a muscle.  The more you can exercise it and use it to its full potential, the stronger it gets.   Despite the benefits of today’s technologies, we could all use a little time away from the web, mobile phones, laptops and PDAs.  We all know some people, perhaps yourself included, who do not know how to unwind.  After a day of non-stop interaction, whether in-person, on the phone, or on-line, the brain can become hyperactive and wired. After a while it needs a clean up and a defragmentation so that it can delete rubbish thoughts and expired programs. Taking time to do a daily crossword, Sudoku numbers game, or even just reading a good book, preferably something unrelated to your profession, can do more to stimulate and relax the mind while simultaneously strengthening it.  Even the always chastised day dreaming is under appreciated. Our minds are a world; an escape that we can easily visit within one minute. We can go there to relax and clear them whenever we choose. Whether in your car, a plane, or at your desk, we can train our minds to be stronger and then rejoin the day feeling a lot calmer and cleaner.

In business, time may sometimes indeed be of the essence and in terms of our health, both physical and mental, none could be truer. Apply the power of one minute to your everyday routine and in no time you will begin to not only feel, but see a difference. You will be surprised at the incredible focus you can achieve when you can concentrate for one minute on something usually only reserved for when time permits.  To which I say, why wait?

Featured in July 2008 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Health and Fitness: A Company’s BEST Investment

corporate-fitness11Mention investing and most people think you were going to talk to them about money. When it comes to investing in our health however, very few get excited about the prospect and the return on investment (ROI) seldom makes the headlines in The Wall Street Journal. As is apparent by the state of our national health, very few are making the investment.  So why should your company, or any company for that matter, invest in a health and wellness program for its employees?  Following are three big reasons why your company simply can’t afford not to.

Reason #1 – Obese workers cost employers more through both absenteeism and presenteeism.

A recent study conducted by Duke University found the following results after investigating eight years of data from 11,728 Duke employees.

  • Overweight workers are more injury prone than fit co-workers.  Furthermore, these injuries occur in the knees, neck, back, shoulders, arms, hips, and wrists, causing debilitating conditions that limit worker productivity (presenteeism) and dependability (absenteeism).
  • Overweight workers have higher health care costs than their fit co-workers due to the various obesity related illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, overuse injuries, etc.
  • Obese workers cost more in injury claims as they have twice the rate of worker’s compensation claims than their fit co-workers.
  • The most overweight workers had 13 times more lost workdays due to work related injury and their medical claims for those injuries were 7 times higher than that of their fit co-workers.
  • The lack of solution to the obesity epidemic in America which is flooding the workplace could also result in unwanted complaints of discrimination by obese workers.

Reason #2 – Behavior is the determining factor in the overall health and life expectancy of your employees.

According to the Institute for Health and Productivity Management (IHPM), health and longevity can be attributed to following factors: 40% is behavior, such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, nutritional habits, MDD, etc. (MDD stands for movement deficit disorder.  Can you believe that?); 30% is genetics; 20% is environmental; 10% is health care delivery.  This sedentary lifestyle simply cripples the American workforce and right now it is crippling your company.  Though MDD may not be as deadly as cancer in the short term, it leads to a slow, steady decay of the human mind and body that leads to a host of diminishing health factors. That eventually leads people to their graves (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, degenerative muscles, and or joints, etc.)

The IHPM  reports that the focus on health care alone has failed and this is clearly supported by the percentages above as health care delivery is the least important factor to longevity.  It couldn’t be more obvious than ever.  Employers must seek to modify the behavior of their employees if they want to be a competitive force in today’s marketplace.

Reason #3 – Employee presenteeism is a harsh reality that costs employers money.

According to Sean Sullivan, the CEO of IHPM, companies have focused solely on absenteeism for far too long because it only affects the production worker.  In other words, with our advancements in technology, knowledge workers are usually able to complete their duties even if they are not at the work place.  This is something that can not be said for the production worker whose duties stem solely around their physical presence on a production line.

Sullivan claims  that though absenteeism is a part of the puzzle, presenteeism is the real concern when it comes to a company’s bottom line, for it captures the loss of employee functionality (and the resulting diminished productivity) while at work due to health issues.  In other words, your employees may actually be at work, but if there physical and mental health is diminishing then their quality and output of work is suffering.  Furthermore, because the knowledge worker depends solely on “brain power” vs. “physical ability”, the declining mental health so characteristic of presenteeism seriously hampers their activity.

Sullivan believes that instead of focusing on what is broken, companies must seek to prevent the breaking in the first place. Furthermore, due to the rapid aging of the American workforce with baby boomers aging into retirement with chronic health issues, we can not afford our current health care system.  He describes the baby boomers leaving the workplace (75 million people) with the birth-death generation behind them (45 million total).  This will result in a potential gap of several tens of millions of middle aged skill workers over the course of the next ten years.  Thus companies must focus on ways to keep their employees as healthy and productive as possible to stay above the red line.  Sullivan encourages employers to embrace the human capital model to overcome this trend. People are appreciable assets, unlike machines, so we need to invest in them by implementing a corporate health and wellness program.

For business, the real value of health is in performance at work versus health care costs.  Most attempts to capture the impact of employee health in the workplace have focused on Return on investment (ROI) versus Burden of Illness (BOI), due to the fact that it is much easier concept to calculate.  However, increased BOI (presenteeism) has a much greater impact than rising medical costs, for it reduces functionality of the employee and costs the company money before an employee ever makes it to the doctor’s office. Companies must help their employees avoid the pitfalls of the current “symptom management” approach of American health care by providing its own form of preventative population health management for its employees.  This is why corporate wellness is the future NOW!

The bottom line when it comes to your company’s bottom line is that a leaner employee is a better employee.  By taking the lead in implementing a population health management program for your employees your company will be recognized as an innovative leader in the future of the American corporation.

Featured in March 2008 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Vending Machine Jargon

generational-ideas-vending-machines-example-01Convenient. Cheap. Fulfilling.  These three words can ring harmony in most ears, especially when referring to food.  We like to eat quickly and hassle free; we’d rather not spend too much; and we expect to be satisfied with our meal.  Think for a moment of how it was hundreds of years ago and eating a meal wasn’t as convenient (you most likely had to hunt for it or grow it), it certainly wasn’t cheap (it could cost you your life), and the act of eating at all was fulfilling enough. Today, food is everywhere and if you’re lucky, you don’t even need so much as some spare change to get some.  I’m speaking of course of the vending machine and how convenient, cheap, and for some, fulfilling they have made it for us to acquire substance.

Vending machines have long been the mainstay of employee lounges, cafeterias, and break rooms. But even beyond our place of work, vending machines can be found just about anywhere.  In fact, in the United States there is a vending machine for every 38 people.  They can dispense everything from old fashioned treats like candy bars and peanut butter crackers to fruit, cold sandwiches, and the more elaborate, heated meals. The danger of the vending machine however is not in their abundance, but typically of what they are dispensing.  Furthermore, it’s not just what they are dispensing but rather what’s in what they’re dispensing.  Upon further review of your favorite vending machine, it should come as no surprise that if an item you saw in there three weeks ago is still there and hasn’t changed shape or color, it has been well preserved. Is that something you think is very good for the body?

There are a lot of “buzz” words on packaging and labeling and until recently, never really caught the attention of consumers.  Hopefully, it isn’t going to be another hundred or so years before we figure out what is good for us to eat.  Familiarize yourself with these terms and perhaps you will find the convenience and cost of the vending machine less fulfilling.

Partially hydrogenated fats – Better known as trans fats, they are fats injected with extra hydrogen to increases the shelf life of a food item.  Our bodies have a harder time assimilating these fats and chemically, they’re much closer to plastic than nourishment. PHFs also have been linked to greater risk of coronary heart disease than saturated fats.

High fructose corn syrup – High fructose corn syrup is an added sweetener and provides flavor stability. It is derived from cornstarch which is almost 100% glucose and then enzymatically processed to convert much of the glucose into crystalline fructose.  Not a naturally occurring sweetener and yet can be found in just about everything.

Crystalline fructose – Crystalline fructose is not derived from fruit but rather from corn starch.  Like high fructose corn syrup, it is enzymatically processed to convert glucose into fructose crystals (hence, the name crystalline fructose). It is not found in nature, nor is it a derivative of fruit. It is metabolized almost entirely by the liver and is more readily converted into fat than other sugars.

Enriched Flour – Flour that has originally been stripped of nutrients and then had them replaced or enriched.  Whole wheat flour and wheat flour are not the same.

Malto-dextrin; “ose’ ending words – Sugars, plain and simple, even if the label says sugar free.

Sugar Alcohols – Not listed as a sugar because it does not have the same net effect of sugar.  However, alcohol is the simplest form of sugar and thus enters the blood stream quicker.  Don’t be fooled; it’s still sugar.

There are of course countless numbers of preservatives, coloring agents, and flavor enhancers, most of which we can not pronounce nor understand their role. The FDA registers these ingredients as GRAS (generally regarded as safe) and not all of them are legally required to be listed. Labeling terms can also be a bit misleading, such as: Low Calorie – less than 40 calories per serving; Reduced Calorie – 25% or more fewer calories than a comparable product; Reduced Fat – 25% or more fewer grams of fat than a comparable product; Reduced Sugar – 25% or more fewer grams of sugar than a comparable product; Calorie Free – 5 calories or less per serving – only water is calorie free; Sugar Free – sugar not listed in the ingredients – no regulation on sugar alcohols; Fat free – less than ½ g of fat per serving.

The best advice is to avoid the dispensers of pre packaged food from the start.  However, convenience is not always a bad thing. Be careful of what you chose.  Don’t buy into marketing hoopla and most important, read the ingredients.  Bon appetite.

Featured in October 2007 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Creating a More Healthful Workstation

40_1260861194Sit up straight.  Stand tall. Don’t slouch.  Mom always had a way of telling us how to “defy gravity”.  As is with most things Mom taught us, it’s not until we’re older that we better understand those subtle commands, let alone appreciate them.  If you work in an office setting, I’ll bet if you turn around right now you will find a few dozen offenders of mom’s regulations.  Perhaps you won’t even have to go that far and just take a look at yourself.

If your job requires several hours sitting at a desk, chances are gravity is already having its way with you.  The slouched sitting position; the craned neck; the rounded shoulders; the wrist pain; even the expanding waistline.  Who ever thought sitting could be so hard? The fact is, sitting is very bad for us.  It shortens the muscles involved in trunk extension, including those of the neck and back of the legs, or hamstrings.  It weakens the muscles involved in trunk flexion and spinal support, namely the abdominals and longitudinal muscles of the spine. What’s more, sitting is as big a calorie sparing activity as lying down, although you do burn plenty of calories while sleeping.  Aside from getting up from your desk every twenty minutes which may or may not be feasible, what is one to do to make things better?

The good news is that you can indeed create what is known as a more ergonomical work station, or a more properly positioned one. It does not involve any super special upgrades and may cost you absolutely nothing, but the rewards will be invaluable.  We say in the health and fitness industry that it’s the little things that make a difference, and none could be truer then following some of these tips for a more healthful workstation.

  • Chair. The very first step should be to improve on where you’re going to be spending most of your time, despite the negative drawbacks. Seat height should be adjustable so that your feet rest flat on the floor, with your spine and head upright.  Lumbar pillows or supports are a good idea, especially for those with very concave low backs or who experience low back pain.  Another suggestion would be to investigate the use of a kneeling posture ergonomic chair or an exercise ball chair.  Both certainly may take some time getting used to and may raise a brow or two among your colleagues, but your postural muscles will get stronger and defy gravity and you may experience more energy, even while sitting.
  • Computer monitor. Situate the monitor at eye level with keyboard directly in front of you, rather than to the side.  You shouldn’t have to turn your head to view the computer screen.  Also, a monitor magnifier may not be a bad idea to make things larger than they appear.  It doesn’t say your blind, but you won’t have to crane your neck to read your e-mail either.
  • Keyboard. The ideal or recommended position is at elbow level when seated, which will prevent strain on the shoulders, forearms, and wrists.  Most office supply stores also sell gel pads for not only mouse pads but keyboards as well to prevent excess strain and pressure to the carpal tunnel of the wrist.
  • Computer mouse.  Keep it close to the keyboard and avoid extended arm reaches to minimize arm or wrist strain.
  • Lighting.  Most people don’t give lighting much thought, but millions of dollars are spent each year on lighting research and it’s affect on our moods, energy level, and desire to spend. (Casinos in Las Vegas have it down to a science.) Prevent eyestrain by supplementing your office light with a desk lamp or get a Bright Light from Sharper Image which provides radiant light just as in summer on those dark, dreary, or wintry days.
  • Snacks. Keep a piece of fruit or two on your desk.  When you get a sweet tooth or craving, instead of reaching for your cubicle mate’s candy jar, eat a piece of nature’s candy.  Yes, it too is sugar, but it has less calories, more vitamins and minerals, and will satisfy you quicker and longer. Furthermore, if done consistently, it will go a long way to preventing you from eating too much at your next big meal.

There’s still no substitute for getting up from your workstation several times throughout the workday.  The more you can move around and about, stand up, get the circulation moving, and get oxygen to places it needs to go, namely the brain, you will feel not only more energized but healthier.  Now, if we could only believe what mom said about eating your vegetables.

Featured in September 2007 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Consider Your Body As A Business

noname2Ever think about what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? For the thrill seeker, that may mean taking that big step over the edge for the ultimate rush.  For the entrepreneurial minded, that may entail taking the risk of starting up and running their own business.  But is there really a difference between the two? Wouldn’t it be correct to say that to be an entrepreneur one has also got to be a risk taker or perhaps even a thrill seeker? What if you could run a business that was truly unique, no one else could duplicate, gives a return on investment directly proportional to the capital put in, and no one can ever be the boss but you? Certainly sounds like a good proposition and whether or not you think you’re a risk taker or entrepreneurial minded, you’re already deeply invested in a business.  In fact, we are all in the same business together.  Take a look in the mirror and you’re looking right at that business. That business is our body, and unfortunately most of us take our bodies for granted.

We generally live in the comfort of knowing we’re supposed to get up in the morning, work/play all day, eat, go to sleep and then hit the repeat cycle. Only until something unplanned happens such as an illness do we start to recognize that something’s not right and we take measures to counter the attack on our bodies in the hopes that it’s not too late.  Now step back for a moment and think, is that any way to run a successful business? React instead of strategize? Stumble instead of move forward? Go through the day to day motions without any real plan for what to do when things don’t start going according to plan.  Nothing in our life is a guarantee except that someday we will be closed for business.  How soon and how quickly our shop closes depends on a lot of things, but even the most successful businesses find a way of extending their tenure.

Take a look around.  Things are bigger, bigger, and even bigger. Big stores, big cars, big business, big portion sizes – after all, it’s the American way! You don’t need to be a doctor, nutritionist or even a research scientist to figure out what’s going on. Our society is expanding in every sense of the word and the only business that really suffers and struggles is our own. Health care costs are at an all time high with no indication of them ever coming down.  The number of preventable illnesses rises each year as well as the amount spent on pharmaceutical drugs.  Furthermore, people seem to always be on the go and have little to show for it other than a lack of sleep, recurrence of illness, and being overwhelmingly stressed.  This formula coupled with an increasing level of physical inactivity and your business is operating in the red – not a formula for success and longevity. For those of you who crunch numbers or perhaps own your own business, perhaps a simple accounting analogy should set a clear image of the blunder America has purchased its way into.

For a moment, consider your body as a business. It costs money to run a business – you must purchase goods and services such as supplies, electricity, water, waste disposal, and of course, you must pay your employees. If your business doesn’t bring in enough money to pay your expenses, including adequate money for you to make a living, the business will go bankrupt.  Your body is just like any business. In fact as previously stated, it’s purely unique because it’s a business no one else will ever have or ever have the chance to operate. The body has about 100 trillion cells, all of which are like little employees working for you around the clock. To keep your body running, it needs water, oxygen, and energy (calories) in the form of nutrition. The business of running a body can be a bit tricky though. While you may have unproductive employees in a business that you may want to lay off or terminate, you simply can’t do that to your cells. If you don’t supply your cells with adequate nutrition to repair them, they get sick, produce less, and start to die. If this goes on long enough, your business will go bankrupt and shop closes up. It’s really quite simple. So is the solution.

Running your body is a 24/7, 365 days a year business.  Not all the days are going to be perfect and not all the days are going to be bad. A little bit of good here and a little bit of good there aren’t going to work either.  Consistency is the key to success.  Consistency in making healthier lifestyle decisions; consistency in better food choices; consistency in keeping physical activity a regular, not accessory, part of your schedule. Lack luster decisions lead to lack luster performance and outcomes.  And just as in business, a history of too many poor decisions will ultimately lead to a business going belly up. So what shape is your business in?

Featured in June 2007 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Overstressed and Overworked

imagesTo paraphrase a very familiar patriotic tune, “Oh beautiful for spacious skies……….from sea to shining sea.”, America truly is a magnificent place to live.  Built on the values of our forefathers, the United States grew from a mere thirteen colonies to fifty strong and thriving states. Now within its third century, the United States sits as one of the most powerful nations in the world.  The question is, is it worth it and what does it ultimately cost?

As they say, getting to the top does not come easy.  Hard work and a little bit of luck go a long way.  However, consider that even with all of the advances in technology and the conveniences of the modern day world, that employers lose an estimated $150 billion annually in revenue due to stress related costs.  In today’s work force, employers and employees alike are forced to do more with less in addition to working long hours, which puts them under constant pressure to do their jobs faster and better. Stress in the workplace can result from any one of several situations, such as a need to respond to others’ demands and timetables with little control over events, family responsibilities, financial dilemmas, etc. The demands placed upon us often times can exceed our resources and when this happens, feelings of anger, disappointment, and frustration increase. Over time, this situation can result in working environments where employee motivation is negatively affected by increasing stress levels, thus resulting in decreased performance, increased absenteeism and higher health care costs. To an employer, stress costs time lost in productivity, absenteeism, poor decision making, stress related mental illness and substance abuse.

A three year study of a major corporation revealed an alarmingly disturbing association between stress and its affects on time, productivity, and money lost at work.

  • 25% of Americans suffer from a mental health problem rooted in stress.
  • 75% of Americans describe their jobs as stressful.
  • 50% of workdays lost annually in the US are stress related.
  • Over 50% of work days lost annually in the US are stress related.
  • Over 46% of all employees are stressed to the point of burnout.
  • One out of four American workers suffers a mental health problem rooted in stress.
  • In 2000, those at-risk for stress related illnesses were revealed as the costliest risk factor, accounting for $6 million, or 7.9%, of total expenditures.
  • In 2001, health care spending by employers averaged $5,266 per employee.
  • In 2004, approximately 75% of Americans described their jobs as stressful, which clearly links stress to high health care costs.

Research continually reveals that emotional stress has an immediate and profound affect on our daily performance.   Furthermore, it contributes to our health problems, and as Americans, we absorb the rising health care costs.  But is it that we are just simply overstressed, or are we overworked?

In a Chicago Tribune article titled, “Call It a Day America” (May 2002), a survey had showed that 37% of American workers work more than 50 hours per week.  It also discovered that Americans have the least amount of vacation time in the industrialized world, averaging two weeks per year as compared with European workers who average six. In Europe, vacation is a guaranteed right mandated by federal statutes.  Here in the States, there are no legal rights to a paid vacation. Vacation time however, should be a higher priority when you consider that the average American works 12.5 weeks more than German workers, 6.5 weeks more than British workers, and 6.0 weeks more than they did 20 years ago.   There could be numerous reasons as to why we are reluctant to take time off from work, such as not wanting to fall behind schedule or thinking our bosses will perceive us as not working hard enough. But in the long run, it puts us all at risk for any one of the stress-related illnesses.  Basically, we are overworked and over our heads by trying to do it all, all the time.

In the New Year, make it a point to set time aside not only to vacation, but to devote time to unwinding or de-stressing from your daily grind.  Activities like exercise, yoga, massage, meditation, reading books, etc. can be both a distraction and a benefit to your health.  Do whatever you can to not be swept into the rut and take care of yourself.  Afterall, it is one beautiful country to enjoy, “…from sea to shining sea!”

Featured in October 2006 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Making It Through The Day

93aa2e9b48a34dc0f4ed7885fb3f5526How many times have you seen yourself in this scenario?  It’s only 2 p.m. yet it feels like it should be 10.  Your eyes, while wide open, could very easily slam shut and yawning has become incessant.  Your body continually slides towards the floor as you slump in your chair and your arm has gone numb from trying to support your head on the desk. Then almost to your amazement, the clock that you have been staring at for the past umpteen hours says that it is only 1:30 p.m.! You might ask yourself, “Will this day ever end?” Sound all too familiar?

In today’s so called fast pace workplace, too many workers find themselves not only moving slower, but perhaps struggling just to keep up.  Is the workplace really that physically demanding or are we just not properly “conditioned” to deal with the stress and obstacles of our daily vocations?  Training for work? Is this some new kind of fitness industry trend? Not exactly, but when you read about all the statistics regarding stress in the workplace, days lost to absenteeism, the staggering increases in health care costs, and decreased work productivity, the evidence is clearly apparent that our biggest nemesis may be the fact that we are just not adequately prepared to handle the stress of our daily grind. Has the workplace become such an exhausting race that even with all of the advances in technology, we still find ourselves throwing coffee in our eyes by midday?  It does not have to be that way and since everyone still needs to make a living, perhaps there is an alternative to having work get the best of us and fighting the good fight.  What should come as no surprise to anyone, this training regimen involves exercise, good nutrition habits, supportive nutrition, proper hydration, and rest.

Exercise:  There is just no avoiding the fact that regular, consistent exercise can and will make all the difference in not only your ability to relieve stress, but the ability to handle it better too.  Physical activity is something we all need and unfortunately do not get enough of.  Exercise in all of its forms can provide limitless health benefits, but increased blood flow and circulation is paramount to keeping awake and staying alert. Even something as simple as getting up from your work station to move around every 45 to 60 minutes will help boost energy levels and is a healthful way to pass the time.

Good Nutrition Habits: Skipping breakfast, fast food, vending machines, binging, etc. are all common pitfalls when it comes to eating right.  The subject of nutrition can be very daunting and intimidating because if you ever put everything together that the “experts” say you can or can not eat, you would be left with virtually nothing to eat or drink.  Conversely, there are numerous best sellers that claim to have the “balanced eating” equation all figured out, yet each year another one is introduced.  Who are you to believe? Good nutrition habits begins with common sense; the common sense that says if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.  Food is fuel, and like trying to drive a car that is low on gasoline, the body will function poorly without it.  Low energy is often times more a function of poor nutritional habits than it is lack of sleep so keeping yourself properly fueled will keep the motor running.

Supportive Nutrition: Often associated with taking supplements (vitamins, bars, shakes, etc.) supportive nutrition involves anything that is taken in addition to or compliments good eating habits. Contrary to what most think, using supplements provides absolutely no guarantee to improved health, energy, or vitality.  However, in combination with good nutritional habits, they may provide a bit of extra insurance for making sure that the body gets what it needs.  It should be clearly understood that supportive nutrition never should take the place of properly balanced and consumed real food.

Proper Hydration: How can something so simple be so powerful?  When you consider that our bodies are approximately 80% water and that it provides the necessary transport for vitamins, minerals, and support of all life functions, it is virtually impossible to function without it.  Problem is, most of our fluid intake involves water combined with sugars, artificial sweeteners and colors, caffeine, etc. all of which can have a profound effect on hydration levels.  Being properly hydrated means drinking anywhere from 8 to 10 glasses of clear, zero calorie water, may be more or less depending on your current activity level.

Rest: Probably the most overlooked component of all, rest or more specifically sleep, is often neglected as the cause to our struggle to keep functioning optimally throughout the day.  Despite our heightening need for rest, most of us work and work and work and fail to take very serious consideration for rest.  Despite all of the research that suggests that everyone gets 8 to 10 hours rest every night, what is most important is that you find what works best for you.  Too much sleep can be just as counter productive as not enough sleep.

Adhering to this training regimen will not solve all of your problems, but it will certainly cause a dramatic change in your energy levels no matter how much you feel you struggle to make it through the day.  What is most important to understand is that the only one who can initiate the change you want is you, and that starts by taking control of all the little things that you can control.

Featured in April 2006 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Cognitive Fitness

a7021_2730Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. Unless you have spent the last few years of your life under a rock, most of us are well aware that exercise or even more precisely put, physical activity, is something that should be a part of our daily routine. Unfortunately, while there is no secret that we need to exercise more, not enough of us are doing it.  Consider that 20% of the population over age 18 exercises less than 10 minutes per week and only 46% engage in the recommended 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise, five times a week, we are not entirely heeding that advice. But what if you discovered all of the sudden that the one organ that we take for granted stopped working optimally. No, I am not talking about your heart.  I am talking about that state of the art processor in your noggin – the brain.

The countless benefits to regular exercise have been reported for years: improved blood lipid profiles; increased muscle strength and bone density; decrease in adipose (fat) tissue; enhanced energy levels; a better sense of well being; etc. All of these benefits and many more are proof positive yet rarely is it ever mentioned the benefits that regular physical activity can have on brain function.  That’s right! Exercise is good for your brain too. Exercise and its benefits for the brain, collectively known as cognitive fitness, has been a new area of interest for researchers in the medical community.

Recent research into cognitive fitness suggests that many forms of physical exercise from weight training to gymnastics may be more beneficial to brain function than previously thought.  “It’s common knowledge that exercise is good for the body,’ observes Patti Said, executive director of the New England Cognitive Center (NECC).  “But what we’re just beginning to learn is that the brain, just like the rest of the body benefits immensely from exercise.” Said points out that while the field of cognitive fitness is relatively new, it’s quickly being accepted by the medical community as a legitimate area of inquiry.  “There have been more discoveries in the past decade about how the brain works than in all of history,” she says, “and the result we’re seeing with respect to exercise both physical and mental for the brain are truly spectacular.” Not only does regular physical fitness benefit the brain; it has also been shown to have a positive effect in helping sufferers deal with some familiar brain disorders.

A study by a Seattle based research team, published in the Journals of Internal medicine in January 2006, linked moderate exercise to reduced risk of dementia.  Furthermore, NECC has conducted research that demonstrates a slowing down and in some cases, a reversal of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease when patients participate in cognitive fitness programs.  The study of cognitive fitness programs goes well beyond just lifting weights or walking. The NECC opened is first dedicated cognitive fitness center, dubbed the Brian G.Y.M.M. (Get Your Mind Moving) in West Hartford, Connecticut in May 2006. The facility focuses on memory tune-ups, mind aerobic workshops, and a new computerized memory-enhancement program developed by renowned New York neurophysiologist Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg.  “Our goal, is to help people remain active and independent as they age by providing state of the art workouts for memory concentration, focus, and endurance,” explains Said.  While it is not exactly feasible for everyone to head to Connecticut to work out their brain, cognitive fitness is something that anyone can easily start today.

Aside from regular physical exercising, old fashioned brain exercises such as reading books and magazines, crossword puzzles, solving brain teasers, or figuring out the new craze in Sunday paper puzzles, sudoku, are all time and cost efficient ways to keep brain activity up and sharp.  They will do little for your waist line, but at least your brain will not lose its edge. Still want to use time as an excuse? You could combine the benefits of both physical and cognitive fitness. Studies have even shown that reading while partaking in some light physical activity such as walking or riding a stationary cycle helps to retain more of the information that is read.  Now if someone would have just told us that when we were in school.  But no matter how you want to define it, fitness (physical, fiscal, or cognitive), is something all employers need to stay ahead of the competition. Fit employees are alert, sharp, and more productive, and that produces a better bottom line.

Featured in October 2006 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Managing Health Care Costs Through Wellness

healthcost0212_imageAnother year has passed and another year is under way. After the books are finally closed on what is hoped was a year in the black, the focus immediately shifts to a new and profitable plan to grow the business to even greater heights in the new year. This plan can involve everything from marketing to demographic analysis to new product or service development.  But one of the items most likely taken into strong consideration is figuring out a way to do more with less, or simply put, cutting costs.  What costs to cut, where to spend more or less, etc. are all under consideration when deciding how to best move the company forward.  In today’s workforce, one of the largest expenses that companies endure is health care costs and no matter how big or how small they are, the crunch is felt nationwide.

According to a survey released by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and the ERISA (Employee Retirement income Security Act) Industry Committee, United States businesses are increasingly turning to wellness programs to get a handle on rising health care costs.  Among the 365 leading companies responding to the survey, 62% offer wellness programs to improve employee health, and another 33% have been considering such programs.  Of those businesses with programs in place, 64% sat that rising health care costs were a ”major factor in our decision” and another 34% say that theses costs played some role in their decision. “Employers large and small see the potential in encouraging to employees to lead healthier lifestyles by eating better, exercising more and not smoking”, said Tommy G. Thompson, the independent chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.  “Wellness programs are a long-term investment in a healthier, happier and more productive workforce. That will be good for workers, waistlines – and companies bottom lines.”  Most CEOs, presidents, owners, managers, etc. would whole heartedly agree with the concept or idea of getting their respective businesses involved in some sort of wellness program.  The question then becomes, what type of wellness programs should their company offer?

The possibilities are endless but the concept and the benefits are the same.  A healthier work force is a more productive work force, plain and simple.  If increased profits are the goal and why wouldn’t they be, only a work force capable of handling that responsibility can make that happen. So what programs are businesses offering?  According to the survey, the top choices include the following:

  • Health risk assessments – 61%
  • Smoking cessation programs – 56%
  • On-site workout facilities – 50%
  • Healthier food in cafeterias – 48%
  • Employee diet programs – 43%
  • Subsidized gym programs – 43%
  • Time for employees to exercise during the workday – 27%

Additionally, 47% of respondents offer their employees incentives to participate in the programs.  Enticements include cash payments, reduced medical co-pay cots and rebates on program fees.  The bad news however is most companies report that fewer than a quarter of their employees are participating in the programs, evidence that it is not just enough to offer the programs, but to demand or require them to participate.

It is a “win-win” situation for everyone.  Health care costs decrease so profits rise; employees are healthy so business prospers; everyone goes home feeling great and looking forward to getting better each day. Moving into another year offers no guarantee but yet another turn of the calendar. What a better way to kick off 2006 than with the promise of a financially and physically prosperous New Year! Bring wellness to your company today!

Featured in February 2006 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Climbing the Proverbial Corporate Ladder

climbingladder380x260_crop380wEntering today’s workforce can be very daunting at best.  What jobs are available? What type of education and qualifications are sought after? What level of experience is required? What does it pay?  These are all valid questions a potential job seeker might ask themselves before landing a desired job.  But once the job is attained, the questions may then shift to one of what is the potential for growth and how is it best to go about moving up the corporate ladder.  It is often said that it is not always what you know, but who you know.  However, the day may soon come that it is neither what you know nor who you know that will jettison an employee to the top.  It could have more to do with who is the fittest to handle the position.

In a recent survey conducted recently among 1,000 businessmen with annual earnings of $100,000 or more revealed that they feel strongly that physical fitness was a prerequisite for professional success; that obesity was a deterrent; and that companies should do more to help employees reach their fitness goals.  The study, done by TheLadders.com, an on line job-search services firm based in New York City, found that 75% of the respondents consider physical fitness “critical for career success at the executive level” and regard being overweight as a “serious career impediment”  The majority, 73% believe that companies should provide on-site fitness centers or subsidize the cost of club memberships for workers, and should approve of such initiatives as cash incentives and company-sponsored weight-loss programs.  Of course, not all are in agreement with this philosophy.

The fitness naysayers represented a distinct minority: 17% said that physical fitness was less important than “fiscal fitness”; 45% called it “irrelevant” to their careers; and 3% dismissed it as “something for people who don’t have careers.”  Marc Cenedella, CEO and president of TheLadders.com. however, disagrees.  “Physical fitness is a critical issue for employers as rising healthcare costs and increased knowledge about the health risks associated with obesity related conditions have companies thinking seriously about the long-term health of their employees.”  Keith Ferrazzi is one executive who has no doubts about the value of exercise.  As the chief executive of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a marketing consultancy with offices in Los Angeles and New York, he regularly incorporates workouts into his workday, and invites employees and clients to join him.  So is the idea of having physical as well as educational and experience qualifications for potential employees such an outlandish idea?

In an effort to spark a new paradigm in the way companies take care of their own, many clubs are now offering CEO-friendly services and amenities hoping to attract fitness-oriented executives.  One such club is Bosse Sports in Sudbury, Massachusetts, which offers conference rooms, wireless internet access, and free workouts for members’ clients. Along with the thousands of companies nationwide that now utilize corporate fitness programs to increase the livelihood and well being of their employees, the message is beginning to ring loud and clear that businesses are taking the physical status of their employees very seriously

As we venture into an already underway new century, the face and shape of corporate America is not only changing, but is at a point where change must happen.  Gone will be the days of complacency of just showing up to do a job and in its place, the workforce will take personal responsibility and accountability for their individual health and their contribution to their employer.

Featured in May 2006 Issue of 422 Business Advisor