corporate wellness

Challenge: Be “More Present” in 2017

Challenge: Be “More Present” in 2017

What does it mean to be “more present” and how can it assist you in your own personal and wellness goals?

Being present is the conscious practice of being engaged not only mentally but also emotionally.  Engaged in what, exactly, you ask?  The answer is going to be different for each person but is generally whatever is going on around you. It also means consciously paying attention to what you are doing.

One way to explain the difference between being present and not being present is to look at how much time you are spending “in your head” as opposed to experiencing life. One of the ways you can determine if you are present (or have not been present) is to recognize when you’ve lost track of time. Sometimes, this also feels like you weren’t aware of things that were going on around you for a period of time. For example, many of us can relate to “spacing out” while we are on a treadmill.  Music might be playing in our ear buds but we didn’t hear it because our thoughts were elsewhere. We might have an audio book playing in our ears or be sitting in church but later we realize we didn’t hear a word because we weren’t being present.

Can you think of other ways you aren’t fully present? Ever sat down to watch a movie and halfway into it realize you somehow ate a family size bag of chips?  What about while you are driving somewhere familiar or on a long stretch of road? We all tend to “zone out” and go into auto-pilot. Before we know it, we are at our destination and we can’t recall each moment of the drive home or to work.

Zoning out on the way home isn’t all bad. The important point here is considering what is going on in your mind while you are zoned out. What kind of “chatter” is taking place that is keeping you from completely being in the moment?

How can our Bodies Benefit from Being Present?

We can improve our physical well-being by being more present. When you are more fully aware and present, your body tends to relax. The reason for this is rather simple. When we are not present, we are usually worrying, planning or remembering things we need to do, things we forgot to do, issues that stress us out or possibly dreading something in the future. Your body is physically in the present. Therefore, even your past thoughts, memories or future concerns are felt by your body as something that is happening in that moment. As you can imagine, this is part of the way that stress and tension develop.

If you can increase the amount of time that you are mentally present, your physical body and well-being will benefit because you’ll be letting go of excess tension and stress.

Other benefits of being more aware and present in your daily environment include being more confident, having more energy, sleeping better and having better memory. All of these benefits lead to a more healthy, happy YOU.

When you make the conscious decision to switch from not present to being present, it’s a definite switch with purpose and intention. For most of us, it doesn’t come naturally and it takes practice. There are many ways to be more present. For some of us, it’s a matter of walking away from digital devices, spending more time away from Facebook and other forms of social media. For still others, it can be a simple matter of breathing deeply, wiggling your toes or just taking the time to intentionally notice the texture of your clothing, the colors in your office or the sounds you can hear at this very moment. (Just run “ways to be more present” into a search engine for great ideas. We found this one called 12 Simple Ways to Be Present.)

Experts say that as we keep practicing at being more present, it will eventually come naturally without our thinking about it so much. But make no mistake, it will take an intentional effort on your part to become more present daily. The pay offs include better relationships, lasting marriages, career fulfillment and promotions, physical fitness, more energy, better sleep and so much more.

So, take a few moments and practice being more mentally engaged with your surroundings and those around you. It’ll make 2017 your best year yet.

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Health and Exercise Benefits of Pokemon Go

Health and Exercise Benefits of Pokemon Go

All over the country, people are suddenly exercising, going for walks, hikes and (gasp!) breaking out into a sweat. All of this, in search of Pokemon.

For those who are not familiar with this phenomenon, a Google search for Pokemon Go will tell you all you ever (and never) wanted to know but here’s a quick online explanation.

When it comes to reality games, there’s been research and data showing that players can become so involved they lose track of time and even of what’s going on around them. While this can be dangerous, (like the person who crashed his SUV into a cop car while playing Pokemon Go this past week), it can also have fitness benefits.

Health and Exercise Benefits of Pokemon Go

  1. You ‘Forget’ that You Hate to Exercise.  If exercise isn’t really your thing, it helps when you can focus on something besides discomfort and exercise boredom. Instead, you’re excited about an activity that interests you.
  2. Bragging Rights. Participating in a walking challenge with your friends or through your employer? Don’t be surprised if you end up as the “Top Walker” on days that you are out hunting Pokemon.
  3. Social Interaction. Instead of staying inside watching tv, playing on the Xbox, your interest in the game causes you to get go outside, get fresh air and possibly run into others who are also playing Pokemon Go. Short conversations sharing a common interest can occur. You never know: you might make a new friend.
  4. Time Flies, More Steps. When you lose yourself in a reality game, you lose track of time and forget to keep checking how low you’ve been walking or how many steps you’ve taken.
  5. You Burn Calories. You can get so immersed in the game, you don’t notice you’re sweating, tired and more active than normal. More movement = more calories burned. Pokemon Go may seem like “just a fun game” but don’t forget, you can also use it as a fitness tool. If you practice good Pokemon Go safety habits, this can be a great way to get your steps in and be more active while using a Fitbit, Garmin or other activity tracker. If you are involved in a walking program or step challenge, Pokemon Go could be just the inspiration you need to get moving.With countless social media updates about preventing sore feet, tired legs and players burning more calories than normal, it’s easy to see why many people are claiming to walk more than they ever have before.

Want to incorporate Pokemon Go into a walking routine? Walkingspree clients have the option of setting up a Pokemon Go themed walking challenge. If your company isn’t a Walkingspree client yet, visit the Walkingspree website to learn more about how we use wearable tech, mobile apps and more to help employees be more active or share this article with your HR manager.

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Smart Shopping on a Budget

On a budget and trying to eat right? Sometimes all the advice and instructions on how to eat right without breaking the bank can be overwhelming. With that in mind, we found this hand tip sheet from the American Heart Association (which, by the way, has a wealth of tips, easy to read ideas and resources to help you be your best self). The smart shopping tips and advice on how to save money at the grocery store. These tips work together to help you naturally make better, healthier food purchases.

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National Walking Day and Famous Walkers

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 is National Walking Day. The American Heart Association has sponsored this occasion on the first Wednesday in April since 2007.

National Walking Day is all about encouraging Americans to be active and start walking but also to turn physical activity into a consistent part of a healthy lifestyle.

If you haven’t been active or exercising in awhile, don’t sweat it. You can start with one step at a time. Start with a few minutes when you begin, and each day you can gradualy increase the time and distance you walk. Walking is easier to stick to and an easier commitment to work into your life. Statistics prove that people keep walking and “stick to it” more than any other form of exercise.

Most articles and posts about National Walking Day will tell you about all the health benefits of walking or how quickly you can experience benefits from walking. We could also share with you why your boss wants you to wear a Fitbit or other activity tracker. We aren’t going to do that in this post. You can get facts about walking or learn more about the benefits of walking here on Walkingspree’s blog or on the American Heart Association’s website which has a section devoted to walking.

Instead, we want to bring your attention to three famous walkers who were known for their intelligence and their creativity in their time. It is said that these men used walking as a way to generate ideas, creative thinking and to solve problems.

Once upon a time, people walked pretty much everywhere. When there were no planes, trains or automobiles, people walked. Often, a family could not afford a horse or other conveyance. So, they walked. You might think they walked because they had to – and you’d be right. But history also shows that some individuals walked because they knew they functioned and performed better when they took walks. Let’s take a look:


Portrait of Aristotle set on a restored bust. Mid-2d Century A.D. (artist unknown)

When most of think of Aristotle, we envision some “old dude” with a long beard. Probably in robes. And, if you’re like a couple of us here at Walkingspree, you envision him sitting on the ground in a circle talking to his followers and his students as they listen carefully, taking notes a on a scroll or something.

Well, it turns out that Aristotle (born in 384 B.C.) was not only a Greek philosopher, whose contemporaries included Plato and Socrates, but he also headed a school that he, personally, founded. The Lyceum was commonly known as the Peripatetic School. Again, if you are like most people, you won’t recognize that the word “peripatetic” is actually a form of the Greek word , peripatetikos – which means “walking around.” (If you are one of the few who knew that word already: You rock! Now, give yourself a pat on the back and keep reading with the rest of us…)   Aristotle recognized the brain’s ability to focus on the matter at hand  (instead of daily stresses an anxiety) while walking. Walking was so much a part of the way that Aristotle taught that his students (or followers) literally followed him about as he taught and they became known as Peripatetic’s.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~Aristotle

William Wordsworth at age 28 by William Shuter

Perhaps one of the most famous poets, William Wordsworth walked nearly 175 thousand miles throughout his life while sustaining a high-volume writing vocation. “Wordsworth’s walking was writing, in a way. As he saw it, the actof walking was “indivisible” from the act of writing poetry.  He needed to walk in order to write.”**

Charles Dickens in 1858. Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens, by G. K. Chesterton, Published 1911.

Charles Dickens, considered the greatest author in the Victorian era (A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist and more) was also an avid walker. History says he would write from 9am-2pm and then head out for a long walk.  Apparently, walking a 20-30 miles in a day was all a part of his normal routine. Dickens walked so far, so much at different times friends would worry and wonder if he had a harmful addiction.  Dicken’s wrote plays, more than a dozen novels and other materials. Walking was very much is inspiration.

Dickens once said that if he couldn’t walk “far and fast,” he would “explode and perish.”

That’s just three people whose work was dramatically and positively impacted by walking.

What can you accomplish?  Quite a bit! By walking just 30 minutes a day, a person can drastically decrease their risk of just about every health problem: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer — even depression and Alzheimer’s.

And that’s just the beginning.  So, lace up and go out for a walk and remember to wear your walking shoes or take them with you wherever you go on Wednesday for National Walking Day.

**How Did Walking Serve as an Integrative Activity for Wordsworth? by Trina-Marie Baird, 2008, Department of Religious Studies, Lancaster University

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Why Your Employer Wants You to Wear a Fitbit (or Apple Watch, Garmin, etc.)

Corporate wellness programs are embracing wearable technology like never before. Experts point towards wearable fitness trackers (think Fitbit, Apple Watch and Garmin devices usually worn on the wrist) as performing larger roles in company wellness programs around the nation. Trends show we’ll see approximately 13 million wearable devices incorporated into the U.S. workforce in just two years (2018).

So, what is the big attraction?

Why does your employer think it’s a great idea for you to wear a fitness tracker?

One of the key reasons is that employers are able to receive greater savings from insurance companies based on the amount of participating employees and their results. Employers are seeking creative and fun ways to motivate you, the employee, while decreasing their health care costs. Everyone can agree that being healthier, getting fit and living longer are great goals to aim for. Still, there is no denying that it’s easier to motivate if more immediate rewards are on the table. With that in mind, more companies are taking steps to incentivize employees to help them become more active. Some employers offer decreased insurance premiums in exchange for wearing a tracker and reporting daily steps. Participating companies have been known to offer material rewards like blankets, t-shirts, gift cards and company discounts.

This is just the beginning. In late 2015, Target Corp. presented its 335,000 employees with the option to receive free or discounted Fitbits in an effort to encourage more walking and being active. On March 1 of this year, Qualcomm and United Healthcare revealed a new program, which allows employees to earn up to $1,460/year for reaching step and other designated goals. Several companies recently announced that their employees could purchase an Apple Watch for $25 in exchange for reaching their monthly fitness goals over a two year period – or they would have to pay the full price of the watch. This is all in an effort to encourage employees to be more active.

Why Count Steps?

Keeping track of our steps helps us to be more mindful of how active (or inactive) we are. The World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Center for Disease Control, U.S. Surgeon General, American Heart Foundation and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommend that we take 10,000 steps a day because it improves our health and decreases the risk of so many different diseases.

Why 10,000 steps a day?

It turns out that the 10,000 steps a day recommendation originated in Japan back in the 1960s. Dr. Yoshiro Hatano and a team of Japanese researchers undertook studies, which showed the average person takes about 3,500 to 5,000 steps per day. He also theorized that if people were to increase their steps to 10,000 steps per day, they would be more physically fit inside and out.

Traditional Style Pedometer

Dr. Hatano’s calculations went on to demonstrate that if people were to increase their daily steps to 10,000, they could burn up to 500 extra calories per day and possibly lose up to 44 pounds in a year. Because of this study and its influence, one or two pedometers have long been present in most Japanese households. In fact, up until the recent surge in popularity of fitness trackers, annual sales for these devices regularly topped the seven million mark in Japan.

It took over twenty years for the modern pedometer’s popularity (or devices like Fitbit and other fitness trackers) and Dr. Hatano’s research on 10,000 steps/day to impact North America. With obesity rates increasing steadily, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that other researchers and consumers began to take a second look at Dr. Hatanos’ 10,000-step research.  Today, 10,000 steps is considered the “norm” when it comes to setting a daily step goal and some fitness trackers and walking programs are automatically set to 10,000 steps when you purchase them.


Everyone (Not Just Your Employer) Wins When You Wear a Fitbit or other Activity Tracker

Walking is a proven activity when it comes to lowering heart rate, decreasing blood pressure and even helps to combat depression and anxiety.

A walking program helps prevent stroke and high blood pressure. The Stroke Association and the American Heart Association both state that walking for up to 30 minutes can help prevent and control high blood pressure.  High blood pressure can lead to strokes and according to the Centers for Disease Control is connected to an estimated $51 Billion in health care costs.

Walking reduces the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.  Current statistics show that 86 million Americans are classified as “Pre-Diabetes.”   The American Diabetes Association released a report stating that the total assessed cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion, comprising $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity. The cost of diabetes alone is enough to make corporations sit up and take notice when structuring their yearly health care benefits.

If your employer is offering an incentive to help you live a longer, healthier life, this benefits you in the long-term as well as your employer for as long as you’re employed. Providing you with a fitness tracker or discounts on a fitness tracker is a win/win situation. As you track your steps and become more active, you’ll feel better, be in a better health and, ideally, visit your physician less often which means less health care claims for employers and less time taken out of your life on medical or physician visits. More time for you and doing the things you care about is definitely something to smile about.

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