Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Seven Minute Investment

Life is demanding and our ability to meet these demands can be impaired if we are exhausted and out of shape. High intensity circuit training or HICT can provide a convenient way to maximize the benefits of exercise without expensive equipment and an extensive time commitment. The program can be performed anywhere with only an office chair or step stool for assistance, making HICT an effective way to maintain physical fitness when time and money are short.

HICT is an efficient way to lose excess body fat because resistance training generates metabolic benefits that can last up to 72 hours after the workout has been completed. In other words the body burns its fuel more efficiently for up to three days and a seven-minute investment is all it takes. This seven-minute HICT workout is efficient and effective because it combines aerobic and resistance training. Depending on how intense the training is the workout can be repeated in seven-minute increments in any location. Historically, resistance and aerobic training are performed separately. While this is an effective way to maintain physical fitness, someone working more than a forty-hour week may struggle with scheduling a traditional exercise regimen. HICT is a great option for people who are busy.

The exercise circuit of your choice should promote muscle development by using large muscle groups to create resistance and aerobic intensity. It can be modified for each person’s fitness level, environment and safety. Each of the individual exercises last for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest between exercises, making the workout seven minutes. Here is an example of an HICT workout: 1. Jumping Jacks 2. Wall sit 3. Push-ups 4. Abdominal crunches 5. Chair Step-ups 6. Squats 7. Triceps chair dips 8. Plank 9. High knees 10. Lunges 11. Rotate up 12. Side plank. The exercises in HICT should be ordered so that opposing muscle groups alternate between rest and work, for example; an upper body exercise such as push-ups would be followed by a lower body exercise such as squats. Alternating different muscle groups allows sufficient time for the muscles to rest between exercises meaning performance and form are not sacrificed for speed and efficiency.

If you struggle to maintain physical fitness because life gets in the way, HICT may be the perfect option for you. After all, it only takes seven minutes to find out.

Written by: Ariel Beaird, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

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Nutritional Yeast: The Two Tablespoon Powerhouse

Have you heard of people using nutritional yeast, but aren’t sure what it is or how to use it?

Nutritional yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a powdered yeast that is packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. It’s considered a vegetarian supplement because of its B-vitamin content. While it can be purchased in a pill form, the focus is on the versatility of the powder form.

With only 45 calories per serving, it packs in six to eight grams of protein and four grams of fiber in only two tablespoons. That’s as much protein as a half a cup of most types of beans and lentils and as much fiber as a half cup of broccoli.

One serving also contains about 24 milligrams of magnesium and three milligrams of zinc. That’s 20% of your daily zinc needs. Magnesium is involved in almost 400 different functions including maintaining good heart, metabolic, mental, bone and digestive health. Zinc optimizes the metabolic performance of carbohydrates in the body to use them for fuel. This is important for your blood sugar, overall energy, immune health and weight maintenance.

Sounds pretty good so far, right?

But it’s really the B-vitamin content that makes this food such a powerhouse! One serving contains: 640% of thiamin, 570% of riboflavin, 280% of niacin, 480% of vitamin B6, 60% of folate, 10% of pantheonic acid and 130% of the vitamin B12 our bodies require every day. B-vitamins are important for body functions such as using carbohydrates for energy. Although these amounts sound high, B-vitamins are water-soluble so the body does not store excess nutrients as it does the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

One thing to keep in mind if you follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet, despite the high B12 content, nutritional yeast should not be your only source of this vitamin. Talk to your doctor about a supplemental sublingual form of B12 since the body absorbs it more efficiently.

How to use it: Sprinkle it on scrambled eggs, kale chips, over salads and sautéed vegetables, baked potatoes and popcorn, or use it like you would parmesan cheese on pasta dishes. Incorporating nutritional yeast can decrease saturated fat and cholesterol intake by swapping out cheese and butter. 

Some well-known brands of nutritional yeast include: Bragg's, Bob's Red Mill, Red Star, Frontier Naturals/Organics.

Written by: Stephanie Coburn, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Are You Weighing Yourself Down?

Walking into a gym can be intimidating. If you’re familiar with how to go through a series of strength exercises, targeting specific muscle groups, it can help put you at ease. Once you master the proper movement pattern using weight machines, you can progress to free weights, which engage more of the stabilizing muscles. Follow the how-to instructions on the machines to ensure proper alignment. If the instructions are not clear, ask a trainer or facility employee to further explain the proper range of motion. Be mindful of not letting the weight plates hit at the end of each repetition. The loud sounds can be disruptive to those around you at the gym. Also, focusing on where the weight is helps you focus on a smooth range of motion.

The chest press for targeting the chest muscles (pectoralis, biceps, triceps)
This machine mimics a push-up. In a seated position you will push the bar away from you. The seat can be adjusted so the bars are at the proper chest height. If you’re trying to build strength in these muscles, you can start with a low resistance. As you build strength, you can increase the weight.

Lat-pull down for targeting the back (latissimus dorsi and shoulder girdle)
This is a great machine to build strength if you want to progress to pull-ups. In a seated position, arms extended above you grasping the bar, pull the bar down to about shoulder height. Return to the starting position. If you are new to this machine, use an under grasp (palms facing you). This engages the biceps allowing you to engage more muscle into the exercise. You can also use the reverse pec fly or the seated row machine if your gym does not have a lat-pull down machine.

Overhead machine press for targeting the shoulders
Gyms may vary in whether a standing or seated overhead machine press is available. Position yourself so that, whether standing or sitting, the barbell is at a height where your arms are almost fully extended. Starting position is with the bar at about your chin or nose height. With palms facing forward you push the bar up, extending your arms. Exhale on the extension. Inhale as you lower the bar to the starting position.

Leg press for targeting the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves
The leg press is a great way to target all of these muscles if you only have time for a short workout. As you build strength you can move from the machine to body weight squats. In a seated, semi-reclined position you will begin in a squat, knees bent. Feet are squared about shoulder-width apart. Exhale as you push away from the base plate and inhale as you lower back to the starting position.

Cable biceps bar for targeting the biceps

Using the bar, versus dumbbells or free weights, allows you to slowly raise and lower the bar while avoiding a swinging motion. The cable machine can be customized – you can use a straight bar, rope or V-bar depending on your preference and what is available at the gym. In a standing position, hold the bar with arms extended down, palms facing out. Exhale as you lift the cable up and towards your body, like a bicep curl. Inhale and return to the starting position.

Cable triceps bar (or triceps push down) for targeting the triceps
Building strength with the triceps bar helps with push-ups and pull-ups. Just like the cable biceps bar you can customize your grip by using a straight bar, rope or V-bar attachment. While standing, position the bar so you can hold it with your arms at your side,elbows bent, palms facing out. Exhale as you press down until arms are extended. Inhale, return to the starting position.

Hanging leg raise for targeting the core and hip flexors
There is no weight to add or take away from this piece of equipment. Your legs will hang freely as you support yourself with your forearms and your back resting against the backboard. With legs extended, exhale and raise your legs up so your hips are at about a ninety-degree angle. Inhale and return slowly to the starting position. If a hanging leg raise is not available, traditional planks are an excellent alternative.

Written by: Stephanie Coburn, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

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Are Juice Cleanses Worth the Money?

The promise of a slim physique and toxin-free body may convince consumers to spend a pretty penny on pressed juices. Are juice cleanses and detoxes worth the money? There is no question the juicing industry has exploded recently and does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The cold pressed juice market is expected to grow globally to $845 million and domestically to $311 million in 2024. But do juice cleanses really provide the health benefits they claim to?

A juice cleanse regimen typically permits only juiced fruits and vegetables for a period ranging from a few days to a few weeks. Due to these restrictions, those who follow this regimen do not eat solid foods from other food groups. Juice cleanses provide very little fat and protein, which are two macronutrients needed for body function. Additionally, the process of making juice leaves fiber behind, a nutrient responsible for helping us properly digest food and feel full.

So, what does a juice cleanse provide? Over the course of a day, juices may provide a mere 1,000-1,200 calories since fruits and vegetables are not calorie dense. Restricting your caloric intake to this extent does not meet the average person’s needs of 2,000 calories. It is likely a juice cleanse could lead to temporary weight loss because it provides minimal calories, but it is not a suitable diet for weight loss. Lost weight will most likely be regained once a person returns to their usual diet pattern. In addition, a juice cleanse will not meet a person’s needs for fat and protein.

Bottom Line: Thanks to our kidneys and liver, our bodies naturally process and eliminate toxins on their own. A temporary juice cleanse will not magically “detoxify” or “cleanse the body of toxins.” The best type of diet for sustainable weight loss is a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Fuel your body with these nutrient-packed foods and skip the juice cleanse. Save money and opt for a more nourishing diet instead.

Written by: Melissa Kowalski, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

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Monday, April 10, 2017

4 Key Elements of Well-Being Programs

The Happiness Factor. Economists at the University of Warwick found that employee happiness is in fact directly correlated with business productivity. Workers who responded that they are happy saw a 12 percent increase in productivity compared with those who were unhappy.

To bolster the happiness factor, businesses are prioritizing employee well-being by offering programs to stay physically fit, mentally healthy, socially stimulated and financially educated. There are four key elements to a comprehensive approach to employee well-being: physical, psychological, social and financial.

Physical Wellness should be one of the most straightforward issues to address. Prevention is better than treatment and less costly in the long term. Insurance and medical costs have a huge impact on corporate balance sheets, both when providing coverage plans and when dealing with lost productivity from sick days. Health insurance premiums have doubled in the US between 2001 and 2011. By making healthy choices easy, accessible and affordable in the workplace, employers can help promote behavior change. Consider offering free fruit at work, providing fitness incentives like cycle-to-work schemes, or contributing towards employee health care insurance packages.

Psychological Wellness starts with opening the conversation around mental health issues, particularly among millennials. Depression is the world’s leading disability, with approximately 300 million sufferers costing US businesses about $210 billion annually. Employers can address mental health challenges by training managers to spot early warning signs of depression, to identify opportunities for support and to direct employees to professional help services. An emotional health strategy that raises awareness, reduces stigma, fosters a trusting climate, and boosts participation in mental and emotional well-being programs can lead to a healthy workplace environment.

Social Wellness is fostered by ensuring workers are satisfied with the individuals they are working with. According to a 2012 Gallup poll, 50 percent of employees reported a stronger connection with their employer when they had a best friend at work. Team building exercises, outings and casual get togethers can create social bonds in the workplace. Emphasis on work-life balance can also lead to socialization among employees. Offering employees flexible schedules, telecommuting from home and increasing face time when in the office can help employees become more engaged with co-workers, their communities and family.

Financial Wellness and security can relieve employee stress. Money troubles often go beyond an individual’s actual compensation. Employers can offer advice on retirement, long-term financial planning, auto-enrollment savings plans and managing personal expenses. With 52 percent of employees reporting that their financial situation contributes to stress at work, employers should factor financial wellness into an overall corporate wellness program.

Wellness Workdays helps organizations across the country develop comprehensive well-being programs that address these four key areas. Contact us to find out how we can help you improve the health and well-being of your employees.

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Build Your Wellness Foundation on Good Nutrition

Avoiding employee burnout is an ongoing challenge for many employers. Organizations that promote healthy habits and positive emotional and physical behaviors can engage employees and maintain long term, sustainable company growth. 

When the obesity rates of US adults began to climb from about 30 percent in 2000 to almost 36 percent in 2010, large companies took proactive steps to keep employees healthy and active. These employers understood that managing health care costs meant helping employees manage factors like blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic conditions. Healthy eating, exercise classes and smoking cessation programs were developed to change employee behaviors. Junk food was targeted and many organizations began to remove vending machines containing sugary snacks and soda, offer fresh fruit in break rooms and create healthier cafeteria menus. 

Today, employers and employees better understand the direct correlation between what they put in their bodies and the impact it has on their work performance. A recent study examined how food affects day-to-day experiences and found that the more fruits and vegetables individuals consumed (up to seven portions), the happier, more engaged and more creative they were. Fruits and vegetables contain vital nutrients that foster the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the experience of curiosity, motivation and engagement. These same foods also provide antioxidants that reduce inflammation, improve memory and enhance mood.

Even though many employees understand they need to eat healthy food to improve their well-being, they don’t always know how to change their habits. Eating healthy is often perceived as time consuming and expensive. And with all the food choices, it’s difficult to figure out what to eat. Even savvy consumers can be misinformed when it comes to nutrition.

In order to be successful, nutrition should be the cornerstone of every worksite wellness program. Organizations that partner with their wellness vendor to create nutrition-related programs can influence employee lifestyle changes and benefit from lower healthcare costs. At Wellness Workdays, all of our nutrition programs are developed and taught by master’s level registered dietitians. It’s one of our key differentiators. Find out how we can help your organization improve employee health by developing a solid foundation in nutrition. Contact us for more information.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Boost Motivation with Fruits and Vegetables

Need a motivation boost? Find the closest piece of fruit, eat up and enjoy your boost. A randomized controlled trial found young adults had improvements in motivation, vitality and flourishing behaviors, including curiosity and creativity, when they increased fruit and vegetable consumption.

During the study, college-aged students were split into two groups. One group was given fresh fruit and vegetables to eat and the other was given produce vouchers and sent text message reminders to use them. Overall, those given the fresh produce had increased positive feelings of well-being. Many people are aware that eating healthy reduces disease risk, but this new finding on psychological effects opens a whole new door. Similar to exercise, do fruits and vegetables release hormones that change moods and feelings?

Interestingly, the group given vouchers did not have any improvements in vitality, flourishing or motivation, despite increasing their fruit and veggie intake. One explanation for this finding is the group given fruits and vegetables were given a variety of high quality, raw produce; whereas the voucher group often used it for habitual/nonvaried items or cooked the vegetables inside foods (such as vegetable lasagna).

Could the positive results be from consuming only raw produce? Possibly, yet the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables did not end up affecting mood (positive or negative) in any group. Keep in mind that the study period was only two weeks, and the students were still under the recommended servings of five fruits and vegetables a day. Although more research is needed, this study demonstrates that the average American who is not consuming the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables could see psychological benefits by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Bottom Line: We all know we should eat more fruits and vegetables every day. Motivate yourself to reach for some fresh produce instead of that bag of chips!

Written by: Kyla Greenwell, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

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