The Well-Being Journal

Just In: Healthy Behaviors on the Rise

Jennifer Rudloff

This week, the February findings from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® were released. They indicate that Americans starting 2012 on the right when it comes to healthy eating and exercise. In fact, since December, the percentage of Americans who reportedly ate the recommended servings of fruits and veggies at least 4 days in the last week (5 servings) increased by 3.3 percentage points. That’s quite an improvement for just a few short months. But healthy behaviors aren’t stopping in the kitchen; they’re also extending to the gym as more Americans are exercising more frequently. These 2 factors together boosted the Healthy Behavior Index score by nearly 3 points since December. Looks like those resolutions are paying off after all.

And yet there’s still more positive news – it seems that we’re starting to reverse or at very least slow the trend when it comes to obesity. In February, the Well-Being Index shows that Obesity dropped to 25.6% -- that’s tied for the lowest monthly level Gallup and Healthways have found since October 2008.

Now that’s the good news. The bad news is that when it comes to healthy behaviors, American’s still have a long way to go! There’s no doubt that most Americans know what it takes to be healthy, and there’s no shortage of resources out there to help. But we often let our desire for immediate gratification get in the way of doing the right thing. Take heart health for example: The American Heart Association has a list of 7 heart healthy behaviors they refer to as “Life’s Simple 7” which include some fairly straight forward behaviors including:

  • don’t smoke
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • engage in regular physical activity
  • eat a healthy diet
  • manage blood pressure
  • take charge of cholesterol
  • keep blood sugar, or glucose, at healthy levels

Seems pretty straight forward, no? Yet a recent study shows that only 1.2% of Americans are following these simple seven. And that’s why heart disease remains America’s number one killer, folks.

So how do we move forward and build momentum behind a healthy behavior movement? The first step towards impacting populations is to recognize where the gaps lie. You know that thing "they" say about know knowledge being power…it's true! As you explore your population and identify gaps, you'll begin to better understand the needs of your people and poise yourself to more effectively support their journey towards better well-being.

If you’re not sure where to start, you’re in luck -- we have the tools to help! For organizations, the Healthways Well-Being Assessment™ makes the process of understanding your population easy! It offers simple, complete, and actionable insights into the social, emotional, and physical health factors that are impacting the well-being of your unique population. It also help brings awareness to each person as they'll each receive a personal well-being report and plan. The plan is reflective of their responses and risks, and provides targeted feedback to help them make progress towards improving their health and well-being.

Topics: In the News Exercise Well-Being Index Simple Seven Healthways Gallup Eating Healthy Healthy Living

6 Ways to Make Walking Wonderful

Jennifer Rudloff

Couple Walking hand in handWe know that being sedentary can be a major drag on personal well-being, but the alternative doesn’t have to be signing up for the next iron man triathlon. In fact, before plunking down the dough to sign up for a gym, consider ramping up slowly by doing something that’s simple and that almost anyone can do every day—walking. Often overlooked, walking has one of the lowest barriers to entry, and it’s something that very often can be done socially—with a friend, family member, or co-worker—for even more motivation and support.

Walking should be fun, easy, and good for you, but the same stroll can get a little dull day after day. To make that daily stroll a bit more interesting and enjoyable, we’ve compiled a half dozen ideas to mix things up and enhance the normal walking experience. Hopefully you’ll feel the benefits in both body and mind, and enjoy a creative way to work in a walk each day. Enjoy…

Change your walking terrain. Take a walk on a natural surface of grass, sand, dirt, or gravel. Some research shows that always treading across man-made expanses could increase your risk of joint pain and overuse injuries. Natural surfaces like grass, sand, dirt, or gravel offer a more cushioned walking surface and force you to use your legs and abdominal muscles to stabilize yourself as you mosey along.

Hoof it to a favorite spot. Pick a favorite local spot and pledge to go there on foot in the next week. This could be a coffee shop, store, park, or view—any place where you feel happy and that you can get to on foot in 10 or 15 minutes. If you connect exercise with a local destination that makes you happy, you increase your chances of actually taking the walk—while also benefiting from going somewhere you enjoy!

Aim high while you walk. As you plan today’s walk, incorporate some nearby stairs. Some possibilities: If you live near a school or university, head to the running track, and after walking, climb to the top of the stadium steps. Or if you work in an office building, take a walk at lunch and use the stairs instead of the elevator to return to your office. Adding stairs to your stroll can change up the pace and get your heart pumping, creating an even-better-for-you walk.

Walk tall and pay attention to your posture. Are you slouching? Favoring one leg over another? Leaning forward or back while you walk? Imagine an invisible string is being pulled gently upward from the top of your head with every step you take. Try also to look forward (not down) while you walk, and remember to breathe deeply, opening your chest and shoulders as you do. By walking tall, you’ll help to reverse some of that strain and soreness, and take in more oxygen, to boot.

Make some moves. Incorporate knee lifts and jumping jacks into a walk today. At the start of your walk, set a timer on your phone or watch for five minutes. When it goes off, stop, stand in place, and do a set of three knee lifts. Walk for another five minutes, and then stop and do three jumping jacks. Repeat this cycle as often as you like, until your walk is done. By incorporating some calisthenics into your walk, other parts of your body and different muscle groups will get additional conditioning.

“Read” while you walk. With an audio book or podcast, that is. Thousands of books are available online; most are inexpensive and some are even free. You can also download free podcasts on a wide variety of topics. By listening to an absorbing story or compelling podcast, you’re more likely to focus less on your walking and more on what you hear. This kind of healthy distraction often leads to longer (and more enjoyable) walks.

Reposted from Well-Being Wire by MeYou Health

Topics: Healthy Living Exercise Physical Health walking How To Walk More

American Exercise Habits Remain Relatively Unchanged in 2011

Jennifer Rudloff

Last year, 51.6 percent of Americans reported exercising three days or more per week, a slight increase from the 51.4 percent who did so in 2010, Gallup reported March 15.

In addition, the number of Americans who got no exercise at all dipped half a percentage point — to 29.7 percent — in 2011, according to the latest findings of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. However, Americans’ overall exercise habits — aside from a small decrease in exercise rates in 2009 following the financial crisis — have remained essentially stable since Gallup began tracking that data in 2008.

In 2011, most overweight and obese Americans (66.9 percent) got no physical activity in a given week, while a slim majority (58.1 percent) of normal-weight adults worked out three or more days per week, the survey shows.

While doctors are increasingly prescribing exercise to patients and government initiatives such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign are working to get more people active, “moving the needle on a national scale remains a challenge,” the report says.

How often do you exercise? How does your employer help you get moving?

Topics: In the News Physical Health Research Well-Being Index Healthways Gallup Exercise

It's never too late to start exercising

Jennifer Rudloff

Physical activity is important to people of all ages - it helps us control weight, combat health conditions and diseases, improves mood, boosts energy, and promotes better sleep. It also helps to combat aging by improving strength, flexibility, balance and endurance which helps enable people to live happier, healthier, more independent lives. And when exercise becomes a social activity – it encourages new friendships, and adds an extra element of fun.

Well the seniors of Wheat Ridge have no shortage of friends to have fun with SilverSneakers® style. With more than 5,200 eligible Silver Sneakers members living within a five-mile radius, this community is invested in health. Learn more about this program, hear instructors talk about the program components, and get a sneak peak at some of the classes in action.

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Learn more about the benefits to exercise >>

Topics: Healthy Living Exercise Aging Fitness Seniors Prevention Silver Sneakers Healthways