Category Archives: Wellness

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4 ways to avoid sitting all day

Recent research shows that sitting for long periods of time may be as bad for you as smoking. Sitting for extended periods of time raises the risk of disability, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, not to mention obesity. Being too sedentary and spending too much time on our behinds is a real threat to our health.

To top it off, this new research shows that even if you exercise or go for a run outside every day it may not be enough to counteract the effects of sitting too long. If you’re like much of the working world, you’re stuck sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day and oftentimes find yourself relaxing at home on the couch when you get home. Here are some tips to help get you out of the sitting rut and up and standing or moving throughout the day.

1. Workout at your desk (or the couch)

Whether it’s doing a few squats or lunges every hour at your desk or getting up and walking around during commercial breaks, those little exercises help. Set a goal of doing some desk pushups, standing squats and chair dips throughout your work day to increase the blood flow in your body. If you like to watch TV at night, try doing 5 squats, 5 pushups and 5 sit ups at every commercial break. Any form of exercise will help break the sitting habit.

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2. Set an alarm to move every hour

Immersed in your work? Set an alarm on your phone or in your work calendar to move every hour. Walk to the other room to fill your water bottle or get a cup of coffee. Do a few squats or lunges at your work station. Get outside for a walk around the block. Use the bathroom! Make a point to use your body in some way every hour.

3. Sit on a stability ball

This may seem strange to some people but sitting on a stability ball and not wobbling around actually engages your core muscles. It can also improve your posture and help decrease some risk for injuries from sitting down in a chair.

4. Take a stand

If sitting all day is a problem, try working and standing for part of the day. If you don’t have access to standing desk, try standing while talking on the phone or answering emails. Or simply stand and stretch throughout the day.

Use these ideas to counteract the negative effects of too much time on your behind. You should set a goal of standing up at least once an hour, if not every half hour, and moving around.

 

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How to live a balanced and healthy life

Even though it may seem difficult to focus on personal health and well-being, living a balanced and healthy life is certainly well within your reach! Making small, attainable changes to your daily habits can help you to achieve the well-being you yearn for, and more importantly, deserve. Making a pact to take care of yourself is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your mental and physical health. In fact, researchers describe life imbalance as being a contributor for:

  • Mental disturbances
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic stress
  • Elevated hormone levels
  • Chronic headaches
  • Sleep issues
  • Impaired immune system

While it may occasionally seem as though there is no way around these issues, there are ways to give yourself the attention you deserve—without taking away from family, friends, work and other important aspects of life. Curious about how you can improve the balance in your busy life and improve your health along the way? Let us help you!

Tip #1: Make sure to make “ME TIME” each day

This can be a 60-minute exercise class, a quiet morning coffee break, a brief walk around the neighborhood or just soaking up some sun during your lunch hour. It is important to take this time to appreciate yourself and how incredible your body and your mind truly are! Give yourself a few moments to reaffirm how grateful you are for what you’ve been given in life. Try saying “I appreciate what I do” or maybe, “I really am a hard worker” or “I am the best parent I can be to my beautiful children.” Whatever you tell yourself for, make sure it’s genuine. You deserve to be reminded of what makes you great!

Tip #2: Organize your priorities

With how hectic life can be, it is easy to lose track of time and to let tasks fall by the wayside. Create a daily or weekly list—either on paper, your computer, tablet or smartphone to plan ahead. Include check boxes so that you can determine which items have been completed and which require more effort. It can be such a rewarding feeling to be able to check off items on a list once they’ve been completed. This can include not only work tasks, but even at-home chores, family obligations and even personal goals. This will also help to alleviate any stress that comes with trying to remember all the things you have planned for your busy day.

Tip #3: Expect and accept the setbacks

Life is never guaranteed to go 100% as planned and even the smallest of setbacks can become great stressors. Accepting that this is sometimes the case will help you to better adapt to surprises, both great and small. With the current pandemic, vacations are being cancelled, kids are out of school, and work is being done from home (if you’re lucky). Reframe your mindset and see this as an opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones at home. Maybe there’s a home project you’ve been meaning to complete. Even if it seems challenging to do, always try to seek out the positive nature in all things.

Tip #4: Speaking of adventure…

Spontaneity is not an easy feat, but when you allow yourself to find randomness in your life, it’s incredible how your spirits can really lift! Try to think of an activity or skill you’ve always been curious about. Maybe you’ve been wanting to hike a new trail, or maybe you’ve been wanting to learn how to knit, or rock climb. Have you been considering learning a new language, but never got started? Parlezvous français? Regardless of what you find interest in, make sure you allow yourself an opportunity to seek it out and to fulfill your curiosity. You might just find something new to really excel at!

Tip #5: Allow joy

Always welcome the opportunity to smile. Whether it’s in knowing the love of a friend or spouse, the goofiness of a pet, or the beauty on the horizon, we all have things that warm our hearts and bring us joy. Don’t fight the urge to smile, to laugh, and to be grateful of these wonderful things. They are ultimately what we live for—what drives us to be human and whole. And if you feel you cannot find enough joy to fill your life, try seeking out new joys. Altruism through giving to others, whether volunteering time or energy, is one way to not only give joy to yourself, but also to others who too seek true happiness. Sunshine and fresh air are also especially effective for increasing those feel-good moments. Remember to breathe in the positivity in what’s around you and to breathe out the negative. What a difference this can really make on our stress levels and overall feelings of relaxation! Speaking of improving stress levels—exercise and healthy eating have a positive physiological effect on the body by improving hormones (did someone say endorphins??), energy, sleep patterns and more! And laughter…well who doesn’t enjoy a little laughter every now and then? Allow yourself to laugh out loud wherever possible.

Did we miss anything? Of course we did! Balance comes in so many shapes and sizes and that’s what makes us all uniquely special. Find your unique balance in life and always allow yourself the pleasure of knowing you are a healthier person for it!

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Remote Rescue

The world is a crazy, scary place right now. There’s no hiding from the fact that life has changed and requires a completely different set of skills than the ‘normal’ we may know. Closures and physical distancing are creating new norms like home schooling, distance learning and remote working.

Working from home is a foreign concept for many individuals. And while it may feel freeing for some, it can feel untethered and distracting for others. Not to fear, though. With a few guidelines and some structure, you may even find you increase your productivity!

Start Strong

Don’t wake up and immediately check your emails in bed. While it may feel as though you are being extra proactive in doing this, it will end up hurting your overall performance. Think of it like warming up before you workout. You need a little time to wake up and adapt. Get out of bed and do something other than work—go for a walk; do a workout; listen to a podcast while sipping a cup of coffee; journal; eat your breakfast—something where you are entirely focused on the activity and not on work. Yet.

The Clothes Make the Man, or Woman

While it may be extremely tempting to crawl out of bed and stay in PJs all day while working from home, you’ll actually feel more focused if you maintain your morning routine. Shower, if that’s your preference and put on actual clothes. You don’t need to go full tilt and dress in your finest (unless, again, that helps you feel your best) but get out of the PJs and save them for bedtime. Being in your ‘real’ clothes will create a mentality in line with work, and put a stop on those distracting activities like cleaning the fridge or mopping the floors. These are far easier to slip into when you’re dressed for less than success.

Space for You

It may feel strange to not have your desk with its pencils just so and the stapler in the exact right spot. Carving out an ‘office’ for yourself can go a long way toward creating some normalcy. This may be the kitchen table for a certain block of time; or the garage or couch. Put in the effort to create a space that allows you to do the work you need to do. Invest in a ‘standing desk’ adapter (quite cheap on Amazon) if that helps; or an essential oil diffuser—whatever it is that will help you stay focused. And, you may need to communicate with your family regarding times when you need extra focus—it’s ok to shut the door. Maybe even lock it.

Siri, What’s on my Schedule Today

Create a schedule for yourself—it’s easy to get distracted by every email that comes in or every notification that hits your laptop or phone. Turn off notifications and block out your day into chunks. For example, choose three times during the day that are devoted to emails. Only check/send emails during those blocks. Make sure conference calls with your team are on the calendar as with any appointment. A routine will ensure top productivity and that workflow is smooth(ish)—and it helps when you get hit by a distraction. You’ll have a schedule to help you get back on task.

But, Be Flexible

Schedules are crucial, but flexibility is even more so. As is a change in perspective. Things will go wrong. Your cat will puke in the background of your call. Your child will toddle in during your Zoom conference (remember the BBC interview with Professor Robert Kelly?). Your day can get sidelined and not go as expected. But, keep your perspective loose and laugh about it—we are in strange times and a little grace and humor can go a long way.

Get Out

It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and work all day without a break. But, your brain needs rest in order to be at its best. And your eyes need to focus on distances rather than your screen for a bit. Go for a walk around the block. Get outside and stretch. Chat with the neighbors from a safe distance. Physical distancing does not mean social distancing. Which leads to the final tip:

No Man is an Island

Working remotely can be isolating and lonely for many. Make sure to stay in contact with friends and co-workers. While we need to stay physically apart, there’s no reason to stay socially distant. Talk to others about your day. Watch Netflix movies with friends. Engage with others.

And I’ve neglected to discuss kids, but the same rules go—they need schedules, too! And socializing. Don’t shut yourself off from them completely during the workday. There are a number of resources out there for activities like obstacle courses, arts projects, virtual museum visits and so much more. Maybe they can even help with some of your work. But keep them in a routine as well, and engaged in both physical and relaxing activities. They might be picking up on your stress and feeling the anxiety you’re trying to hide. Family yoga, anyone?

Most importantly, stay safe and healthy out there!

 

 

 

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Sleep On It

It’s no surprise we are a sleep-deprived society. Sleep deprivation has reached such a state of significance that it’s created a multi-billion dollar industry. Last year alone, sixty million prescriptions for sleeping pills were doled out (and Amazon saw a boost in midnight shoe sales).

Ask someone how they’re feeling these days, and the answer will most likely be “exhausted.”

Most of us experience the common side effects of not enough shut eye: foggy brain, impaired memory, irritability and butterfingers. But what’s more worrisome are the subtle dangers that build over time with continued loss of sleep. High blood pressure, weight gain, lowered immunity, diabetes and heart disease risk, loss of sex drive, suicidal thoughts, and decreased balance threaten not only our health but our work and personal relationships.

How then to get enough sleep when counting sheep just doesn’t cut it? Read on for a few tips to guarantee those extra zzz’s:

Make Space: Your bedroom is for sleeping and sex. It’s not a workspace, gym, bouncy house (unless for the latter activity) or movie theater. Spend the money on a good mattress—it’s worth every penny. The one you have been using for ten years isn’t going to cut it. Equip your space with blackout curtains. Turn the thermostat down to 60-65 degrees. Get a weighted blanket if you suffer from anxiety or restless legs (it really helps!) Add an infuser and experience the relaxation that can occur from a few drops of lavender.

Rhythm of the Night: Create a relaxing ritual each night. Set a regular time to go to bed—and stick to it, even on the weekends. Avoid bright lights, especially the blue light from screens (TVs, phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) at minimum within an hour of bedtime. Read a little or listen to a soothing meditation—use the last hour before bed as a wind-down time where relaxation is the focus.

Sweat those ZZZs: Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality. Physical activity increases the time our body spends in deep sleep—that healing, dreamless state we need to be in for full repair. Exercise at any time is beneficial, but morning workouts seem to promote the deepest sleep. Aim for at minimum thirty minutes a day. Added bonus: exercise can decrease stress and anxiety, two big factors that get in the way of our beauty sleep.

Food for Thought: Nighttime is not the time for alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes or sugars. While these may feel like nice ways to wind down, they can actually disrupt sleep and lead to a restless night. Heavy meals slow down digestion and can cause indigestion. If you find yourself hungry before bed, aim for a light snack that is easily digested. Almonds, kiwis, fatty fish and tart cherry juice promote a restful night.

Talk it Out: If it’s the tumbleweeds of thoughts rolling around in your head all night that keeps you up, try journaling before you tuck yourself in. Keep a notebook on your nightstand for those middle of the night genius ideas—it’s easier for the body to drop into sleep once the weeds are cleared out. Scheduling regular therapy sessions can also be great for the soul!

If you still find sleep to be an elusive beast, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a sleep therapist. Lack of sleep is not something to sweep under the rug. Make sleep a priority, and you’ll notice the differences in all aspects of life!

One in Eight

Breast Cancer Awareness {Not just for Women}

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No one likes the ‘C’ word. It’s scary, unknown, expensive and can change lives in an instant. However, the more you know about cancer and the more measures that are taken towards prevention and detection, the better off you’ll be.

Did you know that one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime? If that’s not you, its someone you know, someone you sit by at the office, a high school friend, a daughter, sister or Mother. While women do take the brunt of breast cancer, it is important to remember that men can be diagnosed as well.

Signs and Symptoms
  • Tenderness
  • Lumps or ‘thickening’ of tissue near underarms
  • Skin texture or pore enlargement
  • Change in shape/size/placement {bigger or smaller}
  • Dimpling, swelling or discoloration
Have you done these things yet? {Have your friends?}
  • Stay physically active and control weight
  • Limit alcohol and give up smoking
  • Breast feed (if possible)
  • Avoid radiation exposure and pollution

Know your body and when things are different. Do self exams and if something even seems questionable, go to a screening facility or your doctors office. Even if you think, “it’s probably nothing,” set your mind at ease, or begin the on your path to treatment.

So, what’s the good news…..

By reading this you have further educated yourself and will {hopefully} pass on at least one piece of information to another women {or man} that will help raise awareness and increase the estimated 180,000 SURVIVORS of breast cancer each year.

Is there such a thing as a ‘healthy Halloween’?

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When you think of Halloween I doubt the  word ‘health’ comes to mind. I think of candy-corn, gummies, and the over-the-top neighbors that pass out king size candy bars. To my surprise there is a way to still have a good time but not completely derail your progress.


  1. 1. Eat before pulling out the candy dish.
    1. Whether you are heading out for trick-or-treating or are in charge of passing out candy, make sure to eat a substantial meal before the candy makes its way out. Our family tradition is Halloween homemade chili. It is a quick and healthy meal that is great for a chilly October night, even with doorbell interruptions (See the recipe here)
  2. 2. Don’t over buy or early buy the candy.
    1. Set yourself up for success by not getting too much candy or tempting yourself by keeping it in the house for too long before the 31st. If you still have a lot of leftover goodies and the trick-or-treaters are beginning to dwindle, be generous! Increase that one/two piece ratio to a handful. The kids will love it and you won’t be stuck with the Snickers.
  3. 3. Trick-or-treat with your kids, if you don’t have kids (or they are too cool for you) walk around to see the costumes and fall leaves.
    1. Trick-or-treaters can cover some serious ground. Throw on your tracking device and try to get a couple thousand steps in. You can even make this a competition among your family to see who can get the most steps.
  4. 4. Treat yourself!
    1. It is a holiday so don’t be too hard on yourself. Pick out two of your favorite candies (snack size) and don’t feel guilty letting yourself indulge.
  5. 5. Keep your water bottle close.
    1. Water intake is a great way to keep your sweet tooth at bay. Make a game of it; every time someone says, “trick-or-treat,” or “happy Halloween,” take a swig.

I would love to hear some tips and tricks you have used in the past or are planning to implement this year to have a “Happy Healthy Halloween!”

How to Avoid Added Sugar

Sugar has been getting a lot of negative attention in the media over the last few years. That’s because not only is it one of the main causes of our countries obesity epidemic, but it also can cause a lot of preventable diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, and cavities just to name a few. Cutting sugar out completely can seem impossible but here are some simple things to look for to avoid consuming more added sugars.

Read the Labels: There are products that you know sugar is already in such as fruit juice, sweetened cereals and candy. The problem is, sugar is hidden in a lot of foods we typically wouldn’t expect. Everything from tomato sauce, to ketchup, to granola bars and even some spices contain sugar. Make sure to read the label fully and look for the amount of sugar per serving size. Ideally, you should aim for sugar to be no more than 48 grams. There are about 56 grams of sugar in a bottle of Gatorade… just to emphasize the importance of reading the labels first before consuming.

Buy Fresh Foods over Canned: It is recommended by the USDA food guidelines to aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day and a colorful assortment of them. Although fruit does have sugar in it, these are natural sugars and not artificially added sugars like the ones we find in our foods. Canned foods, especially fruits, are swimming in syrupy sugar water in order to preserve their freshness and shelf life. Always choose fresh over canned and just shop for the amount of fresh produce that you’re actually going to eat that week, since it will go bad faster than the canned versions.

Try Healthy Substitutions: There are a number of baking substitutions you can use to reduce your sugar intake. Applesauce is a great natural sweetener to use in place of large amounts of sugar. You can also use extracts to bring sweetness to baked goods and cinnamon and nutmeg that can cut down on the added sugars in a dish. When you bake at home, you can even cut the sugar called in recipes down and not notice the difference in taste.

Make Your Own Food: The best way to make sure you don’t consume any extra sugars is to cook your own food at home. You get to choose the ingredients, you know exactly how much sugar does/doesn’t go into a recipe, and you can control your portion sizes. This is a great way to take control of your health and really give your family the best possible food and nutrition. If you need some inspiration on less sugar dishes, check out some of the healthy recipes below.

http://www.thelittleepicurean.com/2015/02/avocado-kale-smoothie.html?crlt.pid=camp.fBbHcF49nUqK

http://www.joyfulhealthyeats.com/cilantro-lime-chicken-with-avocado-salsa/

http://fitandhealthywithdebbie.blogspot.com/2012/10/banana-oatmeal-breakfast-muffins.html?m=1#.WNvQuvnytPZ

Does being social help you lose more weight?

One of the questions we often receive here at incentaHEALTH is “What’s the secret to losing weight, and keeping it off?”

Of course the simple answer is HEAL: Healthy Eating and Active Living!  If you can find ways to eat better (my most effective thing is to remember to control my portion sizes) and move  your body more (take the stairs!) you should start to see changes in your energy level and your health.  But if you’re looking for additional ways to stack the odds in your favor, then read on.

After analyzing the performance of thousands of participants in our community program,  Weigh and Win, we recently noticed that people using our team challenges tend to lose more weight.  And those that decide to be the captain of a team have even more success.

People who join the team challenge lose more weight
People who join the team challenge lose more weight

Why is this happening?  One theory is that the very act of promising to your friends that you’re going to try to get in shape increases your commitment to change.  This “social contract” with your family and friends provides a bit more motivation to put down that donut and pick up an apple.  And if you take on the role of team captain and organizer, then you’re given an extra helping of social accountability.  Everyone is watching!

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Team challenges aren’t for everyone.  But if you don’t mind a little fun and competition with your weight loss journey, then you might want to give one of our team challenges a try!

Good luck!

Written by: Todd McGuire, CTO incentaHEALTH

Healthy Memorial Day Tips & Tricks

Are you ready for the three-day weekend that marks the beginning of summer?  Whether you’re planning on gardening, playing a game outside or getting your grill on, here’s some healthy advice to making your Memorial Day the best for your healthy and active lifestyle!

Grill Without the Guilt

Add some more fruits and vegetables to the grill to get more antioxidants out of your typical barbeque meal. Try grilling zucchini, onions, bell peppers, pears and pineapples to add some unique and healthy flavors to your plain old burgers.

Choose leaner cuts of meat for grilling. Make sure excess fat is trimmed to reduce the amount of fat dripping onto the grill. Choose meats like skinless chicken breasts, ground turkey instead of ground beef, or even fresh fish

Marinade, marinade, marinade! This gives flavor to leaner cuts of meat without adding more fat. Choose healthier marinating options like the use of less sodium sauces, vinegars, or even fresh citrus juices like lemons, limes and oranges.

Get Active While Soakin’ Up Some Sun

Memorial Day weekend typically marks the opening of pools and water parks to help deal with the long and hot weather days. Take the time to go for a swim or even play around at a water park to increase your vitamin D intake.

Avoid the holiday weekend traffic by going for a bike ride instead. If avoiding the driving traffic is an option, try going for a walk or a bike ride somewhere instead of sitting in the hot car if at all possible. With bike riding becoming more and more popular,  bicycle friendly states are starting to help bikers out a bit when it comes to safety with improved road conditions and more signage for cars to share the road.

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Make the most out of the weekend by enjoying time together with friends and family. Whether it’s playing backyard games together, walking around at a festival or just enjoying the beautiful spring scenery, enjoy the time spent with each other and don’t make food the main focus of this special weekend.

Written by: Rachel Corcoran, Weigh and Win Health Coach

Exercise Injury Prevention

Along with the warmer temperatures comes more outdoor physical activity. Since May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month let’s review what you should practice to ensure proper exercise technique and avoid injury at all costs. Let’s face it, no one wants to be locked up inside with an injury during the summer months!

Proper Warm-up and Cool-down

A proper warm-up prepares your body for exercise by gradually increasing the heart rate and loosening the muscles and joints. A warm-up should include light movement to get your blood flowing. Start out at a low intensity and slowly work up to the intensity of your workout. Some good warm-up activities would be a light jog, bike, jump rope, or plyometric exercises like high knees or leg swings if you are planning on participating in a sport that requires a lot of agility movements like baseball, football, basketball, etc.

A cool-down is important for slowly bringing your heart rate back down to a normal level. Many of the same activities you perform during a warm-up can also be done as a cool-down (i.e. light jog, bike, etc.) You can also incorporate stretching into your cool-down routine. Focus on the muscles you primarily worked during your workout and slowly stretch these muscles and hold for approximately 10-20 seconds.

Walking

Ease Into It

When you begin a new exercise routine, it is very important to start slowly. As you become more comfortable with the movements and your body is more comfortable with the strain being put on it you can then gradually build up the intensity, duration, and frequency.

Listen to Your Body

Only do what feels comfortable to your body and do not push yourself further once you feel uncomfortable. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong and if what starts out as a small issue is repeatedly stressed, or not given proper rest, it may lead to a more severe injury.

Hydration and Nutrition

It is important to stay hydrated during a workout to avoid becoming light headed or passing out. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water before, during, and after you work out. A good general rule of thumb is to drink a full glass of water about 20 minutes before working out and another full glass of water after your workout. Along with hydrating yourself before and after your workout, you should also be drinking water frequently throughout the duration of your workout.

Aside from staying hydrated you also should be eating before and after activity in order to provide your body with nutrients and to refuel energy stores.  Practice eating a small meal or snack every couple hours throughout the day. After your workout, be sure to consume a quality carbohydrate and protein to replenish your energy body.

Hydration

Proper Equipment

Before you start any type of activity, make sure you have the proper equipment required for the specific activity. Proper clothing and footwear is the most important. Consider light weight or dry-fit type of material when you know you will be exercising to the point of perspiration. Also, make sure the shoes you have are right for the activity you are participating in. If you are a runner, you should replace your shoes every year or every 500 miles (whichever comes first) to maintain proper support and traction.

Vary Your Activity

Make sure you vary your workout. Do not overuse one muscle group because overuse can lead to injuries such as tendonitis or shin splints. Make sure you include rest days in your workout routine to allow your muscles time to rebuild.

Proper Form

Practicing proper form is very important. Something as small as leaning too far forward or having your feet too far apart can end in injury. Make sure you research the proper form for each activity you plan to do and if you are still unsure you can always contact one of your incentaHEALTH Health Coaches who would love to help answer any of your exercise related questions!

 Written by:   Deanne Emig,  Health Coach