Warming Up to Workplace Wellness

February 12, 2013 § 1 Comment

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EVERYONE WITH A JOB OR WITH AN EMPLOYEE – IT’S TIME TO PAY ATTENTION!

At least 68% of adults and 17% of children in the US are obese or overweight.* Physical inactivity and poor diet cause more than 400,000 deaths each year.** Health care costs are reaching peak numbers in US history, and employers are the ones shouldering the burden.

Are poor diet and not enough gym time causing these high numbers? They both certainly play a big factor, but studies are showing that a large part of this country’s weight gain may in fact have more to do with our jobs. We went from a nation of farmers and manufacturers – people who worked with their hands – to a nation that is often found sitting behind a computer for the majority of the day. Even desk jobs have become more sedentary with the increased use of internet, email, and online chat tools. You never really need to leave your desk at all anymore.

Besides the obesity issue, sitting alone can harm your body and well-being in several different ways. “Sitting is the worst thing you can do for your body,” says Nuhar Jaleel, owner of The Pilates Principle in Latham, NY. “Our bodies are not made to sit. They are made to move.” And sitting hunched up in front of a computer, on the phone, or at the steering wheel can cause aches, pains, and chronic disorders you might not even think about.

This puts even more added pressure on businesses. Employers are realizing that it’s time to pay more attention to the health of their workers and step up their efforts for health initiatives among their employees. Ross C. Brownson, an epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis says that as a society, “We need to think about physical activity as a more robust concept than just recreational physical activity. In many ways we’ve engineered physical activity out of our lives, so we’ve got to find ways to put it back into our lives, like taking walks during breaks or having opportunities for activity that are more routine to our daily lives, not just going to the health club.”

Employers are slowly starting to listen and are looking for ways to cut their employee health care costs. One study from the Omaha, NE-based Wellness Council of America reported that a company that contributed about $100-$150 per employee on wellness initiatives can actually generate about $300-$450 in return in reduced medical care costs. In other words, it’s worth it.

The simple measure of setting up the structure of the office differently is one easy way to encourage some movement:

  • Move printers and copiers as far away from people’s desks as possible
  • Make the designated smoking areas not so convenient by placing them a ways away from the building
  • Keep the food area separate so employees have to walk a little to get their lunch
  • Offer healthier choices in vending machines

These are simple tools to add a few extra steps and some healthy messages, but still are not enough for today’s sedentary lifestyles.

Many workplaces are adopting full wellness programs, offering incentives for their employees to participate and add some extra health back into their lives. Some companies offer competitions, no smoking incentives, and health screens. Others offer fitness programs right at the office, nutrition coaches, stress relief programs, ergonomic training, and instructional workshops on many topics.

The key to finding a lasting and successful program for your work is to not fall in the trap of modeling a program after another company. Each business, and each employee population is different. Employers need to consider the set up of their building and the health needs of their employees, before deciding what kind of program will work for them. It’s also important to show that management is behind this, supporting them, and willing to participate themselves. Initially, it may seem like a lot of work to set up a program, but in the long run, a successful program has proven to lower health care costs and make for happier, less stressed, and more productive employees.

The New York State Public Employees Federation is one local business that decided to run a trial to see how implementing a wellness program in their office might work. They started with an after work exercise class right in the office building. The response was tremendous and they even had to start a waiting list due to space issues. “We were pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed by the number of people interested in this first session,” says Nancy Holford, one of the coordinators. “It was an exciting beginning to the program.” The participants were also excited by this new opportunity and are hoping that management will agree to continue the program. They were amazed not only at how much better they felt even after just the first class, but also by the great night’s sleep each participant had that night, and by those that were pain-free from chronic conditions for the first time in years.

Most of us cannot change what we do for jobs, or what we need our employees to do, but with a few simple life or organizational changes, we can change how these jobs affect us. A workplace wellness program is one simple measure that can benefit everyone involved!

*According to one Department of Health and Human Services Study
**Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistic

Sources:
-“Getting Well: Addressing worker health with wellness programs”, Thomas J. Bukowski, National Safety Council Safety + Health, April 2012
“Less Active at Work, Americans Have Packed on Pounds”, Tara Parker-Pope

Photo Credit: lululemon athletica via photopin cc

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Zumba Survival Tips

June 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

There is no denying it – Zumba is a great workout.  Burning 700-1000 calories an hour, while making you feel like you’re in a dance club instead of the gym, the reason for the popularity is obvious.  But if you’ve never tried it before, making it through that first Zumba class can be a little daunting.  You look at the commercial and it looks so fast.  Everyone looks spectacular… and sweaty.  But once you get the full Zumba Experience, you realize it’s not about perfect moves, graceful coordination, or breath control.  It’s about having fun, doing something good for your body, and just letting loose.  Go ahead and pant as much as you want!

No matter what your attitude is, sometimes that first Zumba class is a little overwhelming. So here are my top 10 tips for surviving your first Zumba experience:

1. Good Shoes & Comfy Clothes
Start with the right workout gear.  Fancy designer clothes are not required, but the right shoes are.  Your feet will take a lot of impact, so make sure your shoes have good support, fit properly, and have a smooth sole.  If you have too much traction and no lateral movement, you’ll likely tear up your knee or worse.  Look for sneakers that are labeled for dance fitness to be sure you have something with the proper traction.

2. Stay Out of the Back Row
Your first inclination may be to go in the back.  If you’re like me, you want to stay out of the way and make sure no one is watching you. But many of the songs rotate, and if you start in the back, you’ll soon find yourself in the front.  Yikes!  Not to mention, if it’s a big class, you’ll have a very hard time seeing the instructor.  If the front of the pack is too daunting for you, go in the middle.  At least that way you have people all around you.  It will be easy to hide, and when the moves turn you around, you’ll still have someone in front of you to follow when you can’t see the instructor.

3. Keep Space Around Yourself
Don’t park yourself too close to someone else.  Zumba moves go in all directions and sometimes require your arms to go out to the sides, etc.  You don’t want to accidentally punch someone out or infringe on their personal dance space.  Being too close is a recipe for injuries, so keep a little distance around you on all sides.

4. Water & Sweat Go Hand in Hand
You will sweat.  A lot.  No doubt about it.  So be sure to bring plenty of water.  It is very important to keep yourself hydrated to prevent injuries or other issues.  It will also help to flush out all those toxins you just stirred up.

5. No One Is Watching You!!
Stop worrying about what everyone thinks.  Trust me, no one is paying any attention to your moves (or coordination challenges – whichever the situation may be).  Everyone is completely caught up in their own worlds trying to keep up and picturing themselves as the latest, greatest, sexiest dance star.  So don’t be afraid to go for it 100% – no one will laugh (except maybe you!).

6. Don’t Stress About the Footwork
Zumba moves fast and there is usually very little to no instruction on the choreography ahead of time.  That’s because exact, technically perfect dance moves are not the point.  Keeping your body moving, is.  If your feet are not quite right at first, don’t give up.  Keep moving.  That’s what really counts.  You’ll get it eventually!

7. Use Your Arms
Sometimes arm movements feel goofy.  Or just too much to concentrate on when you’re still trying to get your feet in the right place.  But try to keep moving your arms as much as you can, since the added movement is what really torches the calories and tones your whole body (no weights required!).

8. Wiggle Your Hips & Just Keep Moving
Not sure what the heck the instructor is doing?  Just keep moving.  And wiggle your hips as much as possible.  Many of the moves are Latin based, so hips are key! Every wiggle also requires you to use your core so you’re giving yourself a constant ab workout, while continuously burning calories.

9. Breathe & Be Smart
Sometimes it seems easier to just hold your breath, close your eyes, and pray you make it through.  However, you want to make sure you breathe through each song.  The more oxygen you get, the better your body can perform.  And be smart!  Only go to your own current physical level.  Yes, you always want to push yourself if you’re ever going to see any results.  But don’t push yourself beyond what your body can currently do.  You don’t have to completely match your instructor, or the girl next to you.  If it’s too much, take a step back.  After you do it for a while, you’ll get to that level.  You just don’t want to hurt yourself in the meantime!

10. Feel the Z-Love
There is something about the Zumba community that is very empowering.  I’m not sure what it is, but there’s a natural support system, therapy session, stress relief – everything good you can think of all rolled into a 1 hour class.  Feel the music, the support, and confidence in the room just wash over you.  Have fun.  Laugh.  Let your true and wonderful self shine.  Enjoy doing something great for yourself.  Your body will thank you!

Don’t know what the heck I’m talking about?  Check out:
What Is This Zumba Thing??

Find Your Zumba

For more info about Zumba or to find a class near you: www.zumba.com

What Is This Zumba Thing??

April 24, 2012 § 3 Comments

Have you heard about this Zumba thing yet?  If you haven’t, you might want to check to see if you’ve been living under a rock lately, because Zumba seems to be EVERYWHERE these days!

This Latin-inspired dance fitness program actually was created over 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until the last couple of years that it’s become an international phenomenon and is now the world’s most successful dance fitness program.  Hearing that it burns about 700-1000 calories in one 1-hour class, needless to say, my curiosity was piqued.  I needed to find out more than just what I was seeing on the infomercials.  And knowing that I was going to soon need to lose the “after baby” weight, I was looking for something that could help me get back in shape without the torture of “standard” workouts.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always hated “normal” exercise.  I love how I feel when I workout, but the repetitive and boring task of walking on a treadmill, lifting weights, aerobics – BLECH!  I guess that’s part of the reason why I had gravitated toward ballroom dancing.  It’s a fabulous workout that’s fun and never actually feels like a “workout.”  Plus, it has the added benefit of learning to dance, enriching my mind (dance is a great tool in fighting Alzheimer’s, among other things) and being out in a social atmosphere.  But ballroom has 1 big problem – you need a partner.  And once my regular partner moved away, I was not out dancing as much as I used to.  So for the first time in several years, I needed to implement a fitness program for myself that would compliment my dancing and keep me in shape, despite not dancing as much as I used to.

Zumba looked like the answer.  Combining aspects of many of the dances that I already loved and/or wanted to try (like various Latin styles, Tango, Swing, Bollywood, African, Belly Dance, HipHop) with cardio moves and exercise technique set to blood-pumping music, Zumba provides a full body workout that sheds pounds, tones muscles, strengthens the heart, releases stress, and lifts the soul.  And the cool part? No partner, no experience, no grace required!  I was in.

I went to my first class taught by local instructor, Carla Schlist, at the Ballroom on Sunset in Latham.  I walked into the gorgeous ballroom and was greeted by about 80 other people (the class now easily goes over 100!) all lined up and ready to go.  There were people of all ages and all fitness levels there.  Despite the reputation for being such a high-energy workout, this Zumba really did seem to have universal appeal.  But not really knowing what to expect, I snuck in the back row so I could be as unobtrusive as possible.

Then the music started.  And the energy in the room instantly rose to an electrifying height that I had never felt in anything that even remotely resembled an exercise class before. I was hooked and I hadn’t even stumbled through the first song yet.  I quickly realized that the back was not the best place to be.  There was no one in front of me to watch when the choreography required us to turn around.  Not to mention, it was hard to see the instructor.  So by class 2, I quickly moved up to the front of the pack and parked myself a couple of rows back.  Much better.

As a dancer, my first inclination was to try to get each step perfect.  And as a ballroom dancer that is usually in a frame hold and doesn’t normally have to do a whole lot with her arms, I suddenly felt very uncoordinated and a little overwhelmed with the concept of all the arm movements in conjunction with the feet.  But I quickly realized that it wasn’t about knowing the choreography perfectly.  It was about the movement (shake those hips, baby!).  It was about letting your body move to its fullest potential without restriction.  It’s about letting go and in the process becoming a leaner, stronger, more confident, less stressed, better version of you that carries through long outside of the class.

Zumba is not just a fitness program.  It has become a community.  Internationally, it’s a group of over 12 million people that are connected through the pulsating rhythms across over 125 countries.  Locally, it’s a supportive group that encourages, uplifts, and cheers each other on not only in class, but in life, during the work day, on Facebook, through our kids, and at the many local fundraisers that Zumba helps support through “Zumbathons.” Schlist explains it very well.  “Zumba is the world’s most successful dance fitness program because it changes lives far beyond losing weight.  The universal appeal of music and dance, combined with the party atmosphere nurtures a social aspect that empowers its participants and creates a bond that is constantly striving to do good for their respective communities.  It’s electrifying, addicting, contagious, and rewarding.”

Zumba Fitness is constantly expanding, adding to its popularity.  Besides exploding on the video game and DVD market (good for getting you through on a day you can’t go to class, but doesn’t even come close to a live class experience), Zumba also offers Zumba Gold (great for beginners, those with physical limitations that would require modification, and active seniors), Zumbatomic (for the kids), Zumba Toning (uses toning sticks for extra strength training), Aqua Zumba (in the pool), Zumba in the Circuit (at Curves locations as part of a strength training circuit), and recently Zumba Sentao (coming soon – an intense sculpting class using chairs).

For more info on Zumba or to find a class near you :  www.zumba.com
For info about Carla Schlist and her classes in the Capital District: https://www.zumba.com/en-US/profiles/50755/

I’m addicted, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about Zumba from me.
Check out my tips on Surviving Your First Zumba Class.

Related article: Find Your Zumba

National Dance Day

July 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

Executive Producer of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), Nigel Lythgoe, has started a grassroots initiative to encourage the nation to move. Declaring July 31st as National Dance Day, Lythgoe hopes that individuals, communities, organizations, and families will come together and express themselves through dance.  However, this grassroots experiment is quickly turning into a big deal!

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) is planning on introducing a National Dance Day resolution at a press conference this Saturday in Washington, DC to promote not only dance education, but physical fitness across the U.S.  No stranger to the healthy lifestyles scene, Norton introduced the Lifelong Improvements in Food & Exercise (LIFE) Act this past January to help promote exercise and diet changes to fight the sedentary lifestyles and obesity epidemic that are creeping through our nation. Norton comments that, “More than 30% of Americans are obese, and childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years.  Television shows such as SYTYCD are not only entertaining but are also encouraging people to live a physically active lifestyle.  Holding a National Dance Day in the nation’s capital is a terrific way to promote fitness and fight obesity.”

Lythgoe is excited that the effort is taking off and encourages everyone to come up with their own activities for their community.  He has even set up an arena to submit your plans to SYTYCD and they will pick several venues to send their cameras to while covering the event.  Dancers can also upload their videos to share on the Facebook page as well.  Lythgoe makes it clear that, “National Dance Day does not ‘belong’ to any single corporation, television show, or charity.  It belongs to the people.  It will be up to the individuals, corporations, and charities of this country to come up with ways to take part – wherever they may be and whatever their motivation: whether it’s to lose weight, raise money for a non profit, or just have fun.  It is my hope that countless exciting dance ideas will come to fruition on National Dance Day, like the world’s longest conga line in Miami or the world’s longest kick line in front of Radio City Music Hall or scores of breakdancers taking over the Venice boardwalk.  The sky is the limit.”

Not sure what you can do to celebrate? Nap&Tab, two of SYTYCD’s choreographers, have created a short hiphop routine that anyone can try at home or with a group of people. Learn the dance below or make up your own routine!

Although the day is to generate a national awareness for dance – a medium that can bring together all individuals regardless of culture or society’s boundaries into a “positive platform” in which we can all share a moment of peace, expression, and passion – but more than anything, the day is meant to promote health and wellness, so the goal is just to get moving.  Lythgoe hopes to “prove that the ‘Power of Dance’ can MOVE an entire country.”  So throw on some comfy shoes and join the country in moving this Saturday!

Source & for more info, or to upload your videos:  http://dance.blogs.fox.com/tag/national-dance-day/

Albany Dance Examiner

If you would like to share what you and/or your community is doing for National Dance Day, click on comments and we’ll start a list!

Making Exercise (or training) Fun!

February 19, 2010 § 2 Comments

Why do most of us view exercise as such a chore?

There is no denying how amazing it is for our bodies in many different ways – both physically and mentally. It helps us to look good, feel better about ourselves, make us more graceful and stronger, protects our bodies, and helps fight diseases as well as signs of old age. When we do finally make ourselves do it, we can’t get over how much better we feel right after – more energized, happier, ready to take on the world.  We say, “Man, I gotta do this more often.”  But then, the next day comes and we have too much work to do, the kids were up all night, or some excuse manages to prolong us from actually getting out there and doing something physical.

But what if it was fun?

Many people enjoy things like going for a romantic ice skate, playing in the pool, dancing at a club, sledding, the list goes on. These are all excellent forms of exercise.  But it doesn’t feel like exercise when you’re out just having fun, laughing with friends, enjoying some music, and not counting how many stupid reps you’re doing.

Volkswagon has started The Fun Theory. An initiative to see if making things fun – be it exercise, the environment, whatever – can make the world a better place. And I think they’re on the right track!

Check out their latest video on how to get people to take the stairs instead of the escalator.

Interesting how many more people took the stairs, eh? Suddenly, it wasn’t so much work to walk up those steps instead of hanging on to the escalator railing.

Make it a point this week to turn a chore into something fun. Even the best of athletes sometimes don’t want to go out and train.  But there is always a way to make it more fun for yourself. Add some music, go to a dance class, take a walk with a friend, play with your kids in the snow, use the stairs, and step your way to a happier, healthier, and better you!

Studio Spotlight: The Saratoga Savoy Center of Dance

June 15, 2009 § Leave a comment

Photo Courtesy of the Saratoga Savoy Center of Dance

Photo Courtesy of the Saratoga Savoy Center of Dance

There are many great dance studios throughout this country. If you are in the upstate NY area, keep checking back here for periodic local studio spotlights.

This week’s spotlight: The Saratoga Savoy Center of Dance.  Located in the heart of historic Saratoga Springs, NY, the Savoy is a sophisticated oasis in the social dance world. Offering the most versatile ballroom experience in the….   (Read full article here.)

How to Live with a Meathead

May 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

An old article I thought was amusing….

How to Live with a Meathead

So I started dating this guy that seemed like the whole package. Once we moved in together, I realized there was a catch – my man is a meathead. The gym is his favorite place, there’s a well used mirror in every room, food doesn’t stay around long enough for me to enjoy it, the smell of protein shakes permeates the house, and if I hear, “Honey, look at my muscles” one more time, I will scream a scream that will be heard from coast to coast.

So why do I put up with it, you ask?  I fell for the guy – plain and simple. But that left me with the problem of figuring out how to live with all this meathead stuff. So let my misery be your salvation. If you are in this situation as well, here are my:

Top 10 Survival Techniques of Living with a Meathead

1. He Eats a Lot

There’s not much I can do about that.  So I have succumbed to the fact that I will have outrageous grocery bills and I need to have my own hiding place to store away food for myself to enjoy at a later time.

2. Speaking of Food…. 

He’s a health nut so by default, I am too.  Which is OK, since I’ve always been a pretty healthy person myself.  But here’s the thing – my life does not center around exercise, muscles, and not-too-many carbs.  I don’t want to constantly be compared to the muscle women in those magazines or the super skinny women on T.V.  It’s just never going to happen.  I eat well, I’m fit, I can wear tight clothes very well when I want to, and I like it that way.  But it’s all about compromise.  So here’s the deal.  He doesn’t compare me to those other women I’ll never look like no matter what I do, and I’ll make more of an effort to work out regularly.

3. Nutritional Supplements – 

Those huge, brightly colored containers that contain ingredients no human can even pronounce.  Again, the word compromise comes into play here.  The deal?  If he considers his body a temple, then stop ingesting potentially harmful fake crap.  After a little research and a lot of good points, he finally agreed with me on this one.  So no more huge containers of funky smelling powder – just one – plain old protein powder with nothing added.  I can deal with that.  I just squeeze it into a cabinet with the shelf knocked out so I don’t have to trip over it all day long.

4. Learn the Vocab

Foreign words:  Smith Machines, super sets, dead lifts.  If I have at least a vague idea of what all these new little “catch phrases” mean, then I can be more interested in what he is talking about.  Hey, at least we’re talking instead of an after dinner belch and a protein shake on the couch in front of the game.

5. The Dreaded Gym

Actually go to it.  It gives me a chance to see where he spends his time, have some time together, and hey – lots of buff eye candy with their shirts off walking around!  Not to mention, it makes him feel good to show off for his lady love, and the added “rush” can carry into other “physical” activities outside of the gym, if ya know what I mean…. Which brings me to #6…

6. Energy for Other Activities

Compromise #8,042.  I won’t complain about time spent at the gym, as long as there’s plenty of time and energy for me.  I want to see all those muscles put to good use!

7. Find the Right Form of Exercise

If I’m exercising more, then I need the right exercise for me.  I am easily bored with structured exercise, so I try to mix it up as much as I can.  Cardio machine one day, dance class another, activities outside, strength training, or one of my favorites, yoga.  And that increased flexibility can be put to good use to go with those other “physical” activities mentioned in tip #5!

8. Find New Ways to Spend Time Together

Since the gym isn’t my favorite place to be, he skips it on the weekend and we pick a different, healthy activity to do together: hiking, cross-country skiing, kayaking, etc.  It allows us to do something new, spend time together, open up new avenues for communication, have fun, and most importantly, do something that’s good for our bodies too.

9. The Mirrors

There’s not a whole lot I can do about this one, so I’ve learned to love them. Hey, they can make for some fun lighting techniques when the candles are lit….

10. Learn to Love the Muscles

Now when he says, “Hey honey, look at my muscles,” instead of gagging and rolling my eyes, I give those gigantic arms a tight squeeze, kiss those luscious lips, and remember how grateful I am that I can bounce a quarter off his stomach instead of sinking a beer cap into a belly.  I can save the eye rolling for the mirrors….


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