Walking Trends on the Rise

Walking trends have become trendier not only for recreational enjoyment but also as a regular part of the workday.  More and more employers are actively encouraging employees to take up walking during the workday and even biking in their commute to work.

It’s been suggested that millennials (those born between 1982-2004) are the driving force behind more companies promoting exercise as part of work routine.  Whether this is because they are less traditional than generations past or because they tend to see fewer limitations when it comes to their professional future remains to be seen.

There is, however, one millennial trait that influences employer decisions regarding exercise and wellness programs:  Millennials believe that life itself is better than trying to balance career and life. We love how Dixie Gillaspie expresses this: “They believe in life, not work-life balance.” (5 Ways Millennials Are Like No Generation Before Them)

Simultaneously, employers are dealing with the rising cost of health care. When part of an employer’s wellness program, walking (and/or biking) can accomplish numerous corporate health objectives. It’s starting to look like the Millenials preference of “life” and a less traditional approach to the workday might be mutually beneficial to the employer and the employee.  Check out these reasons to incorporate a little movement into your workday.

Decreased Overall Health Care Costs

As far back as 2010, employers were made aware of wellness program benefits. Perhaps the most inspiring statistic that year was Johnson & Johnson’s announcement that an estimated $250 million in healthcare costs were saved over the previous decade.  The company estimated returns were roughly $2.71 for every dollar spent.

Since that time, varied wellness programs continue moving into structured, employer-sponsored programs.   Wellness and fitness are no longer viewed as “nice but not strictly necessary” options.  Study after study, newer evidence points to corporate wellness programs as essential and critical to a company’s bottom-line.

Walking Combats Mental And Physical Illnesses

Walking, specifically,  prevents 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.

Walking Reduces the risk of Type 2 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.

Walking and Exercise Combats Depression. There is a growing body of work that shows that one of the best ways to combat poor mental and emotional health is through daily exercise programs, such as the ones offered by Walkingspree. In fact, researchers at Duke University studied people suffering from depression for four months and found that 60% of the participants who exercised for just 30 minutes three times a week overcame their depression without using any antidepressant medication.

Walking Helps Fight Obesity. One study, by Cawley and Meyerhoefer, meanwhile, found that “per capita medical spending was $2,741 higher for obese individuals than for individuals who were not obese—a 150 percent increase.”    According to another source, obesity rates have more than doubled since the 1980’s.  Additionally, the average American over 24 pounds heavier today than in 1960.1

Decreases Presenteeism. Presenteeism refers to productivity loss resulting from real health problems; these health problems are often side effects of “unseen” health conditions like migraines, depression, asthma, arthritis and more.  The impact on productivity is staggering.  The Wall Street Journal reports that depressed employees cost companies $23 billion each year in loss of productivity.

With these statistics facts, one can hardly deny the benefits for both the employee and the company employing him or her. You don’t have to be born in the Millenial age group to share in the philosophy of living a better life. All it takes is one step and then another. If your employer isn’t offering a walking wellness program, send your HR manager a link to Walkingspree. In the meantime, who say you can’t use your lunch hour for a quick walk? You’ll feel better, you’ll be more productive and your mind and body will thank you.

1Odgen CL. Childhood Obesity in the United States: The Magnitude of the Problem. Power Point. (accessed June 2013).

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The Benefits of the Before-Stroll Stretch

Warm-ups and stretching routines aren’t just for those running a 10K. Any physical activity – even a leisurely walk – can lead to achy, sore, and stiff joints or muscles. This is true for the occasional walker as well as those on their feet all day, each and every day. So, as tempting as the sunshine and blue skies might be outside, it’s wise to take a few minutes to prepare the body before heading out and then again to cool down when you return.

A few minutes of stretching can provide a wealth of benefits. It can boost flexibility and range of motion, improve performance, reduce post-exercise soreness, and decrease your risk of injury. Stretching helps you feel even better over the long run and makes you more capable and motivated to keep it up.

As a general rule, it’s smart to warm muscles up with approximately five minutes of low-intensity activity, such as marching in place, before you stretch. You could also work stretching in by walking slowly for a few minutes beforehand. Once your muscles are warmed up, gently stretch the major muscle groups that you work regularly, such as calves, hips, thighs, hamstrings, hip flexors, and the lower back. Popular stretches for walkers include loose front-to-back leg swings, ankle circles, standing hamstring stretches, quad stretches, and calf stretches.

Aim to hold each position for 30 to 60 seconds, but don’t bounce as this can cause injury. When stretching muscles, strive for light tension only and always avoid positions that cause pain. Though positions may feel slightly uncomfortable, it’s essential to breathe normally the entire time. Stretching routines – like workout routines – should be adapted and adjusted based on each individual’s needs.

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New Study Finds Immediate Mood Boost After Lunchtime Walk

For office workers dealing with the inevitable afternoon slump, exercise might be the last thing on their minds. But a brief 30-minute lunchtime walk may be more effective than we previously thought for crushing those mid-day blues and handling work stress. At least that’s what researchers from numerous universities including the University of Birmingham report in a new study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (January, 2015).

The study looked at the immediate benefits of exercise as opposed to the long-term effects of a day-in, day-out fitness routine. Participants volunteered to commit just 30 minutes to walking during their lunch hour three times per week. Tests were conducted before the program began to assess participants’ baseline health, fitness level, and mood. All 56 volunteers, primarily middle-aged women, were deemed out of shape yet emotionally and physically healthy. Using a phone app, researchers were able to gauge immediate mood fluctuations, which offered a more accurate benchmark than other studies relying on participant recall.

The first group walked self-paced with no required speed or distance. The second, or control, group did not walk for the first 10 weeks. Volunteers met three times per week. Responses were notably different between the two groups, with those who walked during lunch reporting more enthusiasm, improved relaxation, reduced tension, and an increased ability to cope. Other health measures including aerobic fitness levels had improved for all participants after they had walked for just 10 weeks.

Though work productivity was not measured as part of this study, Dr. Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani, the study’s lead author, noted: “there is now quite strong research evidence that feeling more positive and enthusiastic at work is very important to productivity.”

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A Podcast a Day Might Keep the Doctor Away

The podcast. It can help you learn Spanish, catch you up on “This American Life”, and fuel your already fanatical knowledge about major league baseball. But for those who believe that time flies when you’re having fun, the podcast can also offer the motivation needed to accumulate more than your daily dose of steps in a snap.

Podcasts are audio programs that can be easily downloaded to your portable media player or smartphone, with topics that range from full-length novels to political commentary shows, comedy skits, mysteries, fitness tips, educational lectures, how-tos – even old time radio shows. The best part: they’re absolutely free.

The only caveat is that, once you’re hooked, you may want a larger device to keep all of those downloaded broadcasts for future reference. But Apple does provide the option to stream or erase episodes just in case you’re not inclined to listen to the How to Make the Perfect Christmas Ham podcast every time December rolls around.

Podcasts are easily accessed from any iPad, iPod, iPhone, or Android phone. From your computer, you’ll need to download the iTunes application. From a mobile device or tablet, you’ll need to download the Podcasts App for iOS or a podcast player for Android through the PlayStore. Once you have the right application, simply browse all categories or scroll through the most popular.

To download a podcast on your iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone:

1. Download the Podcasts App.

2. Open the Podcasts App.

3. Browse or search for a podcast.

4. Click or tap the podcast to view full details.

5. Click or tap the individual episode you’d like to play.

To download a podcast on your Android:

1. Visit the PlayStore on your Android phone to download a podcast player app. Pocket Casts and Podcast Addict are two popular options.

2. Open your podcast player app.

3. Browse or search for a podcast.

4. Click or tap the podcast to view full details.

5. Click or tap the individual episode you’d like to play.

To download a podcast to your classic iPod, PC, or Mac computer:

1. Open iTunes.

2. From the top menu bar, click View and then Podcasts.

3. Toggle the top sub-menu from My Podcasts to iTunes Store.

4. Browse or search for a podcast.

5. Click the podcast to view full details, then click the individual episode you’d like to play or download.

6. Sync your iPod with your PC or Mac to listen anytime and anywhere.

If you’re on a continuous Internet connection, streaming can help you save space. Download an episode if your Internet connection is unreliable or if you’d like to play it offline. Subscribing to a podcast will automatically download new episodes as they’re published.

So the next time you slip on your walking shoes, make sure your smartphone or media player is queued-up with all of your favorite podcasts. That way, in addition to skyrocketing your health, you can also simultaneously get your daily dose of global news, economics, and brain food. You might also become trilingual. Who knows? There’s nothing stopping you, now.

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Sit Less Often to Reduce Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Levels

Sit Less Often To Reduce Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Levels

Even if you exercise regularly at the gym or on your at-home weight bench, sitting for prolonged periods of time can still lead to increased blood sugar and cholesterol levels, concludes a new study published July 31 in the European Heart Journal.

The Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study used activity monitors to track the length of time 789 participants spent sitting or lying down, standing, walking, and running during their day. Monitors were worn and data was compiled for a full seven days – 24 hours a day. They were also measured for vital statistics including blood pressure, height, weight, and waist circumference. Blood samples were also taken. Participants included both men and women ranging in age from 36 to 80.

Researchers discovered that substituting just two hours of sitting with standing per day was associated with a reduction of average triglycerides by 11 percent and a two percent reduction in blood sugar levels. A drop in bad cholesterol, or LDL and an increase in good cholesterol, or HDL, was also associated with increased standing vs. sitting.

Lead author, senior research fellow at the University of Queensland in Herston Genevieve Healy, said that merely substituting some sitting time with standing could benefit your heart, blood sugar levels, fats in the blood and cholesterol levels – even your metabolism. In fact, two hours of walking or running instead of sitting was also associated with an approximate three-inch decrease in waist size and an 11 percent decrease in average body mass.

So even if you play by the rules with a dedicated strength training and cardio routine, be mindful of your activities during the hours in-between. Avoid long periods of sitting by walking or standing whenever possible to break-up long sedentary stretches.

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