Monthly Archives: February 2010

Creating a Heart Healthy Workplace

If you are like most workers you work a nine to five type of job. That is at least 40% of your waking hours at the worksite. Since you invest so much time in your career, wouldn’t it be great if some of that time not only benefited your employer, but also your health?

Before we understand how important it is to create a heart-healthy workplace, we need to face the facts. Heart disease, stroke, heart rhythm disorders, peripheral artery disease, heart failure, and others are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. The American Heart Association estimates that up to 30% of medical costs paid by businesses each year are spent on employees with risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as cigarette smoking, excess weight, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Let’s take a closer look at home:

  • Heart disease was the leading cause of death for Ohio residents in 2004-2006
  • 27.6% of Ohio adult residents reported having high blood pressure
  • In Ohio, 36.2% of adults are overweight and 26.5% are obese
  • In Ohio 37.9% of adult residents have been told by their doctor that they have high cholesterol

Creating a heart-healthy workplace will not only help the company’s return on investment but wellness programs will help the employees get healthy and stay healthy.  A heart-healthy program does not need to be complex or expensive. Here are some tips for employers to start a healthy work environment.

  • Information to employees: Newsletters, healthy email tips
  • Health policies: no tobacco use
  • Healthy eating habits: change vending machines, offer nutrition information, adding more fruits and vegetables to the cafeteria
  • Exercise: walking paths, on-site fitness programs, encourage fitness during breaks
  • Offer health screenings

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach but the efforts should focus on: smoking cessation, increasing physical activity, reducing stress, healthy eating, weight management, and education.  There are many ways to incorporate a heart-healthy work environment and many models to follow. If your company doesn’t have a program, create one that fits your needs. The Rite Bite can help!

No-Equipment-Necessary Workouts

A body weight workout is perfect for people on a budget, who travel often, who prefer home workouts, and who want to add variety to their regular exercise routine. The best part about it is no expensive equipment is needed.

Start your workout with a 5-10 minute warm-up. This can be walking, marching in place, or stepping side to side. The goal of the warm up is to get your blood circulating and raise body temperature to prepare for exercise. Then pick your favorite “no equipment necessary” exercises to create your own custom workout plan. There are many examples below.  Cool down with five or more minutes of stretching.

- WALKING or JOGGING IN PLACE (cardio): If the weather isn’t nice, you can just as easily get an effective workout walking in place at home. If you would like, there are many DVD’s with walking/jogging routines for indoors. The only equipment you will require is a good pair of shoes to eliminate stress to your legs.

- JUMPING JACKS (cardio): They are great cardio and good for warming up, too.

- DANCING (cardio): Dancing is great for your heart and can lift your spirits as well!

- STAIRS (cardio + legs): Using steps in your home do repetitions and tone your leg muscles.

- SIDE LUNGES (legs): Stand with feet wider then shoulder-width, toes turned slightly outward. Sink into your right leg as deep as you can without moving your left foot. Then, push yourself back up and repeat the movement with your left leg. Alternate side to side until you’ve completed 10 reps per leg. Keep your chest lifted up.

- WALL SIT (legs): With your back against a wall, and your feet about 2 feet away from the wall, slide down until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Hold as long as you can.

- PUSH-UPS (chest): Hands are a little wider than your shoulders, put your toes (or knees) on the floor, raise up into an arms-extended position. Slowly lower yourself until your chest hovers above the floor, return to the starting position and repeat. (Pushups can also be done standing and leaning forward into a wall for those who are not comfortable on the floor).

-  CLOSE-GRIP PUSH-UP (triceps): ADVANCED Do these the same as you do the regular push-ups, except bring your hands closer so that your thumbs and index fingers form a triangle beneath your chest. As you descend, your elbows will point outward; once your chest comes in light contact with your hands, slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

- CHAIR DIPS (triceps): You’ll need a chair, (or a bed and a chair or a counter, etc…) for this one. Sit on the chair with your hands palm down and gripping the edge of the chair. Slide forward just far enough that your behind clears the edge of the chair and lower yourself so your elbows are at 90 degrees. Do as many repetitions as you can.

- REVERSE CRUNCH (abs): Lie on your back with your hands out to your sides, and bend your knees. Bring your knees toward your head until your hips come up slightly off the floor (don’t rock). Hold one second and repeat.

- PLANK (total body + core): Get into push-up position on hands and toes, or on elbows and toes. Contract your abdominal muscles (and core). Keep your back straight (don’t collapse in the middle) and hold this position for as long as you can.

If you are motivated and a little creative, you can get a full body workout anytime, anywhere.

**Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program and always listen to your body.

Defining the Terms “Functional Food” and “Functional Cooking”

February is American Heart Month and in its honor, this week’s blog post focuses on the concepts of “functional food” and “functional cooking”; two concepts that may help in the fight against heart disease.

In the nutrition world, the terms “functional food” and “functional cooking” have been circulating for some time now. As these words begin to circulate not only in the nutrition arena, but to the general public, the question is often asked; “What do these fancy buzz words mean?”

The term “functional food” is a marketing term that refers to a food that has been enriched or enhanced to promote health in some way. One example is Iodized Salt. The body needs iodine to make thyroid hormone. The body cannot make iodine and therefore must get this mineral from the diet. Iodine deficiency may lead to an enlarged thyroid, also known as a goiter. Salt does not naturally contain iodine, but since the addition of iodine began there has been a decreased incidence of iodine deficiency.

Many food companies have taken to adding ingredients to improve the nutrition and health of their products. Benecol® spread is one example of a food product (butter-type spread) that has added plant stanols and sterols. These plant ingredients have been clinically proven to help lower cholesterol. The only caveat is that the clinical benefits were seen with a dose of at least 2 grams of the spread per day in combination with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. The cost of the spread and the amount you would need to eat to see results, may lead you to ask yourself if the benefits are worth the price.

“Functional cooking” refers to the addition of nutritional ingredients to a recipe to improve the health of a particular food or meal. Many of us do this without even realizing it. For example, cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil in place of vegetable oil or butter is considered functional cooking. Did you know that Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the first pressing of the olives, hence the term virgin? This first pressing means that you get more antioxidants, phenols, and Vitamin E with Extra Virgin Olive Oil compared to oils collected from later olive pressings and compared to other types of cooking fats (i.e. butter or margarine). That is why adding it to a recipe is considered “functional cooking”. It may promote heart health.

Bottom line, the terms “functional food” and “functional cooking” are used to describe foods and recipes that have been boosted nutritionally. Choosing “functional foods” and cooking “functionally” may help lower risk of stroke, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer, and when combined with a calorie appropriate diet may help with weight management. When deciding whether or not to purchase  functional foods, ask yourself if the price tag is worth the benefit. In some cases, like iodized salt, you may already be a “functional food” consumer. Happy Heart Month!

The Rite Bite goes RED!

Go Red for Women celebrates the energy, passion, and power we have as women to band together to wipe out heart disease and stroke.

We at The Rite Bite are joining the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement  to raise awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of women and men! Join us by wearing RED on Friday, February 5th and drop in for a free health screening from 9am to 2pm EST and FREE Salsa class at 5:30pm EST! For more details see theritebite.com.

Exercising While Pregnant

For many years, it was thought that engaging in exercise while pregnant was not good for the baby.  We now know that is a myth. The truth is that exercising while pregnant is great for both the mother and the child. There are many benefits to remaining active during your pregnancy. You will sleep better, your delivery will be easier, returning to your pre-pregnancy weight will happen faster, and the boost of energy and “feel good” endorphins from your workouts will improve your mood. Try taking a walk around the block or doing a couple of yoga stretches to see how your body feels afterwards.  These benefits also apply even if you are not pregnant.

The core muscles are specifically important to exercise while pregnant.  These muscles include the muscles that are supporting the baby and are going to be used during the delivery. Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, and bowel.  These muscles can be worked by contracting the pelvic core muscles. For example, when you stop your stream of urine, you are using these muscles. You can contract these muscles anytime, hold the contraction for three to four seconds and then relax.  Repeat ten to twelve times. You can repeat this exercise several times a day.

The lower back is often the forgotten part of the core.  When pregnant it is important to work this muscle group because it compensates for the extra weight. It is also important to work these muscles before becoming pregnant to condition them. My personal favorite lower back exercise is The Pointing Dog.  Kneeling on all fours, lift one arm straight out in front of you, then lift the opposite leg straight out behind you, hold for 3-5 seconds and return to starting position. Then repeat with the opposite side.  Perform 10 repetitions. As your pregnancy progresses, modify this exercise as you may not feel comfortable getting down on the floor.  Stand at the edge of a desk or table and put one hand on top of the table, and do the same as you would on the floor.  It is important that if you start feeling strain on your lower back that you do not do any lower back exercises.

A pool is a great exercise tool when you are pregnant. The water adds resistance to all of your movements.  Swimming raises your heart rate without the impact of other cardiovascular exercises. A few other exercises that are low impact and great during pregnancy are stretching, walking, pregnancy yoga, and low impact aerobics.

During pregnancy, there are some exercises that involve risk. Avoiding these types of exercises until after you deliver is a good idea. Exercises that involve balance, pose a risk of falling and injuring the baby, so hold off until after you deliver. Heavy lifting should also be taken out of your workout routine because you do not want to take any chances of straining the muscles that are used to support and deliver the baby. It is not safe to start an exercise program if you were not doing a constant exercise program before the pregnancy. It is recommended that you consult with your doctor before starting a new program. So check with your doctor first, and then once you have the A-OK, prepare to enjoy the many benefits of exercise (whether you are pregnant or not)!