Tuesday, December 9, 2014

You can keep in shape without spending

Fitness experts usually recommend at least 45 minutes of moderate exercise, which should be performed at least three times a week. Staying fit helps a person sleep and handle stress better. It also keeps the mind sharp. When people exercise or workout regularly, it can also reduce their risk for conditions such as heart attack, diabetes…

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pillow & Neck Pain

There could be several reasons for neck pain, use of a bad pillow is one among them. Though most of the times people don't even think of the fact that using a substandard or an old pillow can lead to serious neck pain but it still is a common reason for neck pain. A pillow doesn't…

Saturday, December 6, 2014

6 Tips to Handle Depression During the Holiday

Wellness strategy: An unconventional approach to wellness planning

December 1, 201Andy Stonehouse

Displayed with permission from Employee Benefit Advisor Benefit managers often find themselves stranded in no-man's land when it comes to bringing wellness to a workplace. As a concept, wellness is a thriving and transformative experience for many employers, but justifying those costs - or adopting a wait-and-see attitude to measuring a wellness program's success - is a difficult case to make with a company's financial decision-makers.
In tracing the wellness success story of Elkay Manufacturing - whose wellness program saw a 76% reduction in major health issues among staff most likely to incur substantial health care costs, not to mention a projected increase in 2015 health care premiums limited to just 1.8% - some of the secret may lie in the unconventional approach taken by the company's wellness champion.

Don't scare management

Carol Partington, corporate manager of compensation and benefits with the 3,000-employee maker of sinks and water coolers - speaking during EBN's Benefits Forum and Expo - said her company's unimpressive early results with wellness required her to take a more straightforward tack.

"You need to get leadership support to create an effective program, but you also don't want to scare the hell out of senior management," Partington says. "My approach was, 'I know where I'm going, I'm just not telling everyone where we're going yet.' You also can't be too aggressive; you need to put disciplined steps in place and be willing to be flexible."

And while most company executives need to be shown the hard facts before committing to any additional wellness spend, Partington says she simply admitted to her company's leaders - a business founded in 1920 - that return on investment is often impossible to demonstrate in a wellness effort, opting to emphasize value of the investment instead. Rogue as that may seem, Elkay's current wellness results - and its low anticipated health care cost increases - earned her the respect of her managerial team.

"We have a company that's 70% manufacturing workers in 15 locations across the country, two of which are unionized, and I don't get a lot of time with people," she notes. "But my job is to remove distractions from our employees' lives - we work in a setting where people can lose body parts if they're worried about their own health, their parents, their sick kids, on the job. How can I give them a solution that works?"

Elkay first adopted biometric testing-based wellness in 1994, offering a $25 incentive to employees to participate, but Partington says that the company so almost no results after 12 years, with the company still paying approximately $23 million a year on its employee health care plan. Partington said a high-deductible plan never fit into Elkay's culture, and costs continued to escalate. Even a $700 premium differential for employees who demonstrated better health results wasn't the answer, she says."We asked our employees why they took part in the health screenings, and most said they were doing it just to get the premium. I realized we'd failed in our mission," she notes. "And with no dedicated wellness staff at our company, wellness is only 15% of what I can pay attention to - it's one of my many responsibilities."

Partington opted to join forces with Interactive Health to introduce an evidence-based program that could seriously improve her employees' health, especially those with the most potential health risks, as well as actively addressing those escalating health plan costs. The use of aggregated health data was instrumental in finding some customized solutions for workers.

She says it was also critical to match any incentive programs to company culture, a task somewhat more difficult, as Elkay has manufacturing sites in more than a dozen very different and often remote parts of the country. In some rural sites, hunting and fishing licenses were seen as extremely valuable motivating commodities, or even Jiffy Lube coupons for oil changes.

Cultural differences

Partington also shied away from gamification efforts, given employees' limited access to email and smartphones, and also did not establish fitness challenges as a companywide initiative. She says she also had to be mindful of other cultural differences: Championing the company's successful tobacco-cessation efforts at a manufacturing site in the middle of tobacco-growing country, where employees' spouses and families were often employed in that business, required a bit of extra sensitivity.

In the end, by personalizing the incentives and communication, Elkay has created an almost $1,200 differential in its better-health insurance rates, resulting in a 20% savings. Of 636 employees tracked with a litany of five serious current or potential health indicators, Elkay produced a 76% reduction in those health issues. And 77% of employees taking part in more personalized health tracking met their personal health goal in the second year of the enhanced program.

"Change is hard," Partington says. "So you gotta talk a lot."

Friday, December 5, 2014

Why Water is So Important to Your Health.

December 2, 2014

Lori Nickel

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services 

Hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, yes. Warm apple cider with a cinnamon stick, yes.I don't know if it's just me, but when the snow is falling and the wind is howling, the last thing I want is another tall glass of water.

And yet I can't stop reading and hearing how much water plays a role in good health.

If I'm fatigued, the nutritionist says I need more water.

If I'm sore from a workout, the trainer says I need more water.

If my skin is dry, the woman behind the cosmetic counter asks me if I'm getting enough water.

If I have a migraine, the doctor says I should make sure I am drinking enough water. 

I've got so much water on the brain I can barely make it through my morning boot camp jumping jacks.

My routine the last six months has been to drink a quart of hot lemon water first thing in the morning, a couple of cups during my exercise class and a couple of more cups on the ride home. If I pull it off, that's about eight cups to start the day.

Anything else I get in after that is frosting on the cake — only of course, it isn't.

Now I'm so sick of plain, boring, tasteless water I could cry — but then that just seems counterproductive.

The best thing I have come up with is buying one of those infusion pitchers, where fruit or vegetables are sliced up and submerged in the water, flavoring it somewhat.

My favorite combination is lemon, orange and cucumber, but if our local Wisconsin's Sprecher could come up with root beer flavored water, I'd be all over that.

Physician Nick Yphantides, medical editor for the national weight loss organization TOPS — Take Off Pounds Sensibly — explains why the water is so important:


—Q. How would I determine how much water — just water — I should be drinking every day?

—A. Such a simple question, yet not an easy or simple answer. There are some varying opinions, and in reality, the ideal daily water consumption is based on a variety of factors including your age, health status, the weather, where you live and how physically active you are.

I have always told my patients that an ideal target for men is 3 liters (approximately 13 cups) and for women 2.2 liters (9 cups).

—Q. What if I exercise?

—A. Physical exertion and sweating certainly increase fluid needs and varies on the intensity and duration of physical activity.

I typically suggest 3 extra cups of water for men and 2 extra cups of water a day for women who are physically active.

—Q. What if I am tired of drinking so much water? It can get boring. Can anything be subbed out for water?

—A. This can be a real challenge for folks, especially when living in cold-weather climates.

There are a host of flavored waters available, sparkling waters, dilute juices, waters with various fruits added to them, and other non-caffeinated fluid alternatives.

Personally my favorites are sparkling waters or water in which I have added some fruit for subtle flavoring.

—Q. I personally don't care for the chemicals in things like Crystal Light, but are they OK for people? The water flavor enhancers out there? Maybe for someone who won't drink enough otherwise, the benefits of drinking enough water even with artificial sweeteners outweigh the chemicals and food colorings in those drinks.

—A. This is a complex issue and somewhat controversial to some.

The concentration of flavoring in these waters is so low that I personally believe the benefits of adequate hydration outweigh any theoretical risks from the additives.

—Q. What happens to a person if they don't get the proper hydration? I have heard of fatigue and even depression.

—A. Fortunately, most healthy people have the sensation of thirst that typically prevents them from having serious dehydration.

Thankfully, our bodies are amazing in their design and capacity for adaptation to what we put and don't put into them. There is also water content in most food that our bodies can efficiently utilize if we do not drink enough fluids.

On the other hand, many folks are chronically dehydrated and there are many associated potential consequences.

These can include constipation, dry skin, bloody noses, dizziness and risk of falling, headaches and, if serious enough, mood changes, heart rate changes, blood pressure changes, kidney stones and other associated chronic health problems.

Depending on an individual's age and baseline health status the impact and consequences of inadequate fluid intake will be variable.

—Q. What happens when a person is properly hydrated? I seem to manage my sugar and soda cravings much better when I am getting in eight to 11 glasses of water a day. Is there any connection there?

—A. Being hydrated helps in a variety of ways.

Often times hunger and thirst sensations can be confused and so being adequately hydrated can lead to better and healthier eating choices.

Folks who are hydrated are optimizing their potential of physically feeling good and on top of their game and potentially avoiding the chronic health consequences previously mentioned.

—Q. Any other benefits? Is it good for our skin, our mental focus, immune system, anything like that?

—A. Adequate hydration is the easiest thing all of us can do to have vibrant and healthy skin.

—Q. I've heard that we should have a glass of water right before we eat — to help us digest our food and make us feel full, while meeting our daily water quota. But then I have heard that we shouldn't have all that water with meals. What's your opinion?

—A. I don't have a strong opinion about that.

If you are starting your meal from a point of healthy hydration, I think it is unlikely that there is any extra digestive benefit to drinking water ritually right before eating.

The idea of, on the other hand, avoiding water during food consumption makes no scientific sense either and I am not aware of any potential benefit to either strategy.

Drink up the water!

A Look Into The Healing Powers Of Om And Amen [Video]

December boasts religious holidays for Buddhists, Christians, and Jews, with one or two pagan festivals celebrated as well. While most faiths emphasize prayer, meditation, or other mindful techniques (such as yoga), many of us find ourselves questioning whether they provide actual results or real value in our lives. Do health benefits result from any (or perhaps…