Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Baby in a Clean Home

Healthy and Clean Home

This week on social media each day, we gave you tips and articles on how to keep your clean home healthy.

First, we helped you find and clean trouble spots in all the different rooms of your house. Did you know doorknobs are one of the most dangerous bacteria spots in your home?

Looking for the best way to clean something? Check out Real Simple’s guide on cleaning A-Z for the best ways to tackle your messes.

Take a virtual tour of a home to learn about the health danger zones and to make a clean home today.

Check out this Health Magazine list of how best to keep a super clean home and clean in every room:

House plants can be great for your home by cleaning the air. Learn about what kinds to keep.

Check out Real Simple’s list of 66 All-Natural Cleaning Solutions and skip the chemicals.

Food safety is one of the most important parts of keeping your family and home healthy. Refresh yourself on the basics.

Protected Against the Flu

Chasing Health: I Got My Flu Shot

Hi, I’m Nicole Mechling, and I’ve worked at Health Alliance as a communications coordinator since April. I’m not a health buff—or a health insurance buff for that matter—but I don’t have to follow all the health recommendations to be a communications coordinator, right?

I mean, I take two-hour walks and regularly bust out my own dance routines in my living room during Glee and So You Think You Can Dance. I even go through spurts of intense crunch and pushup regimens and take a Zumba class here and there.

I eat berries and apples, and sometimes I even go a whole day without chocolate … OK, maybe I have a few things to work on. At least I try.

I got my flu shot[1] copy

But when it comes to vaccines, this girl is ready to throw in the towel and run the other way screaming. I absolutely hate needles. I’m 26 years old and have never had my ears pierced because needles are just too scary.

Earlier this week, it was flu shot day at Health Alliance. Remember when you used to get shots in grade school, right in front of your classmates? This was the same thing, only worse because as an adult, people assume you’re not going to cry or hide under your desk. And if I got the shot, there was no guarantee I wouldn’t do both.

I went into the office that morning with every intention of not getting my flu shot. I had never had one before, so in my head, that clearly meant I was going to have an awful reaction and die. (I also feel this way about car washes and gas fireplaces. I know it’s crazy, but I always think they’re out to get me.)

Anyway, part of my job is to tell people to get their flu shots. After a few hours of editing fliers about vaccines, I had to ask myself, “What kind of person am I if I tell people to get this shot but am too scared to get it myself?”

My ethics got the best of me, and I decided to take the long walk upstairs to where the nurses were giving the shots. By the time I got there, I felt sweaty and weak, and my stomach hurt more than a little bit. The room was spinning slightly, and my heart was beating so loudly the nurses could probably hear it.

The rest happened so quickly. I sat down, got the shot (which only hurt a little), stayed for 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t have a bad reaction as a first-timer and then went back to work. I survived.

I’ve heard all the excuses—I’ve used them myself. One of Michael Jordan’s best games was his “flu game,” so why should I deprive myself of that opportunity? The shot is not 100 percent effective, so why even try? What if I want a reason to stay home from work at some point?

I did it anyway so that I could tell all of you fine people to go get your own flu shots. Don’t let my shot be for nothing. Go get vaccinated.

(Regardless of what you do, I’m guessing my shot will be worth it to me when I don’t get the flu later this year, though.)

Thank you all for unintentionally making me overcome my fear of getting my flu shot. Maybe next time you can do something about my chocolate addiction.

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Bond Missions

My Healthy Journey: Your Missions, Should You Choose to Accept It…

We’re diving back into Rally this week, and I’m picking my missions. But first, an overview of some of the things that you can do once you’ve registered on Rally.

Once you’ve taken your health assessment and are in Rally, there are four major categories to explore.

The first is missions. Missions are little challenges meant to help you make healthier life choices. There are really amazing options on here, and they’re still making more. Based on your assessment, some are recommended for you specifically, and then there’s a whole list of other ones you can explore.

Missions cover a wide range of options. From eating or exercising, to managing your medicines, cutting your tobacco use, getting enough sleep, to having a healthy and fulfilling social and personal life. This is great because it means you don’t have to start too big! It means that maybe you start exercising by stretching or dancing during the week. Or maybe you try going meatless on certain days, or using a smaller plate before you dive into a diet.

The second category is challenges. Challenges are when you compete against other Rally users. They move you along virtual courses and let you unlock achievements and earn coins (we’ll get to those.) Right now, there is a challenge going on called SF Stomp. As you keep track of your steps, you travel a virtual course across San Francisco. Leaders reveal interesting facts on a real-time map. If you’re a competitive person, this is a fun way to get started being active.

The next part is the communities. Communities are a place you can talk to others about causes and treatments for issues and to just get support. There are ones for depression, women’s health, pregnancy, parenting, diabetes, smoking, and many more. It is always comforting to know that others know what you’re going through, even if they can’t actually help. I’ve struggled with depression in the past, and it’s nice to know that if I need someone to talk to, I just have to hop online.

The last category is the fun one, rewards. Every time you log on and work on missions, even when you take your assessment, you can earn coins. Once you have coins, you can use them to enter sweepstakes for real prizes. Right now there are gift cards for Whole Foods and Amazon available, or the UP by Jawbone, which is a wristband that tracks your movement, and sleep with an app, or even an iPod nano to keep you moving while you workout.

So now that you have a good idea of how everything works, I’m going to tell you about what missions were recommended for me. Rally recommended that I focus on fruits or vegetables, avoid processed foods, cook at home more, run 30 minutes, walk three miles a day, work up a sweat three times a week, dance anytime, or bike for 20 minutes a day. These all sound great, but so do a lot of the ones that weren’t recommended for me.

I’m going to pick two to start working through. Because I’m also working on some other things, I’ve decided to start small with one that was recommended for me and one that wasn’t, each lasting for a month. This way I feel set up for success. If I feel really comfortable before that time’s up, I will start adding to them.

The first one I’m going to do is Dance Anytime. Its description: As the saying goes, if you can walk, you can dance! It’s awesome cardio, feels great, and you can do it anytime – try putting on music and moving for 20 minutes after dinner!

I chose this one for a few reasons. First of all, my dance moves could really use some work. I also didn’t want to start with too big of a fitness mission and fail miserably. But right now is also an extremely busy season for the Communications department at Health Alliance, so I also wanted to do something that was going to decrease my stress, not add to it. And I’m sure it will drive my dog crazy, so I will probably get a good dose of laughter in too.

The second mission I’m choosing is Track What You Eat. Its description: Are you aware of everything you are eating? Track it! You can take pictures of meals with your phone, jot down notes in a little book, or use an app. The results might surprise you.

Even though I think I could’ve handled adding more fruits and vegetables to my plate, I chose this one first for a reason. I rarely eat real meals. I usually eat a real lunch. Usually. The rest of the time, I munch. I eat a breakfast bar here, a smoothie there, a thing of candy as a snack, and when I worked at Starbucks I lived on straight coffee and milk. I have been this way for years, and it’s a real problem. I will consciously skip eating dinner if I know it means I can have a cupcake later. Instead of rewarding myself once in a while, I deprive myself so I can have things that are bad for me anytime I want.

This is not a good system! Not only am I hungry a lot of the time, I also probably don’t save myself very many calories in the long run, and I skip healthy foods not because I don’t like them, but because they aren’t as snackable.

So I’m hoping that by keeping track of what I’m eating every day, I will be forced to think about that instinctive bag of chips instead of justifying it later by skipping a meal. And once I see it all written out, I bet I will realize that I’m still eating just as much by skipping meals, but more of it is bad for me. I fully expect to be a little horrified.

I’m also going to try a different method of tracking my meals each week. So while I can test out which method works best for me, maybe that can help you if you start your own food tracking in the future.

So starting tomorrow, I’m keeping track and I’m dancing, and I will be keeping you updated every step of the way. Join me on my healthy journey.

The 19-Day Arm Challenge

My Healthy Journey: The 19-Day Arm Challenge, Day 1

Hi all! You’re back with me, Allison, for the 19-Day Arm Challenge! I’m starting this a few days later than my co-workers so that I could blog it to you. Here are some details:

What You Need for the 19-Day Arm Challenge:

You will need 5-pound hand-weights, or if you feel those are too light, try 8 or 10-pound ones instead.

About a half hour every day.

These are also exercises you could easily do during the commercial breaks of your favorite TV show, so don’t let that time stop you! There are also rest days built in. They are a key part of strength training because they give your muscle tissue time to heal and increase your strength. So if you have to miss a day, it’s ok!

That’s it! That’s all you need to do the challenge with me.

The Exercises for the 19-Day Arm Challenge:

If you’re not sure how to do anything, try Googling the names. There are lots of great workout resources and videos out there that can help.

The Bicep Curl

The Bicep Curl

The Overhead Tricep Curl

The Overhead Tricep Curl

The Lateral Shoulder Raise

The Lateral Shoulder Raise

The Front Shoulder Raise

The Front Shoulder Raise

The Bent Over Row

The Bent Over Row

The Shoulder Press

The Shoulder Press

The Push-Up

The Push-Up

The Push-Up

Each day, I will tell you how many of each exercise you need to do the next day to participate in the challenge with me. And as the number of times you do each exercise goes up, feel free to break them into two sets of eight, instead of one set of 16. Taking short breaks between won’t hurt your results!

As a beginner, Day 1 will consist of:

8 of each of Bicep Curls, Overhead Tricep Extensions, Lateral Shoulder Raises, Front Shoulder Raises, Bent Over Rows, Shoulder Presses, and Push-Ups.

If you’re feeling more confident, you can follow a harder track. For that one, on Day 1 you will do:

12 of each Bicep Curls, Overhead Tricep Extensions, Lateral Shoulder Raises, Front Shoulder Raises, Bent Over Rows, Shoulder Presses, and Push-Ups.

For Day 2 as a beginner, you will do:

8 of each of Bicep Curls, Overhead Tricep Extensions, Lateral Shoulder Raises, Front Shoulder Raises, Bent Over Rows, Shoulder Presses, and 8 push-ups.

On the harder level, for Day 2 you will simply repeat Day 1!

 

It’s as easy as that! I will give you more exercises and how I’m feeling with the challenge everyday. Get healthy with me and Health Alliance!

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Make Ahead Meals

Healthy Make Ahead Meals

This week in food on our social media, we had easy recipes that you can make ahead of time and freeze for your busy fall schedule.

First, this Pork and Herbed White Beans recipe is a savory soup that is perfect for your fall and winter recipe collections, and it’s only $2.37 per serving.

Pork and Herbed White Beans

 

This Sausage-Stuffed Manicotti makes pasta good for you at just 292 calories.

Sausage-Stuffed Manicotti

 

Freeze these Sweet Potato & Black Bean Empanadas for a tasty 209-calorie meal.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Empanadas

 

Watch this Cooking Light Magazine video for Spicy Turkey Meat Loaf with Ketchup Topping.

Spicy Turkey Meat Loaf

 

For a cookie dough you can make a giant batch of and freeze, try these yummy Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies.

Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies

 

At just $2.49 per serving, Green Chile Chili is good for your waist and  your wallet.

Green Chile Chili

 

This Beef and Guinness Stew is a hearty meal you can make ahead and freeze for later

Beef and Guinness Stew

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Yoga for Stress

Yoga Poses to Relieve Stress

This past week on social media for Yoga Awareness Month, we connected you to some poses and workouts to help you relieve stress.

It’s a relaxing activity that’s also great for exercise. There are many poses that can help you relieve stress, and this slideshow features 10.

Relaxation Through Yoga

 

Studies show that yoga can relieve stress, boost immunity, and fight food cravings. Try these beginner moves today.

Beginner Yoga

 

These 10 easy poses can reduce stress, ease lower back pain, and rejuvenate your mind and body.

Rejuvenate Through Yoga

 

The focus on your breathing makes yoga good for stress and anxiety, the most common mental illness in the U.S. Try these 10 calming poses today.

Calming Lotus Position

 

Daily programs are a great way to prevent headaches. Remember to breathe deeply and relax the muscles in your face. Try these 13 poses to relieve tension.

Yoga to Relieve Tension

 

Meditation is a cornerstone of yoga that makes you focus on the moment and can calm your mind. Find poses for headaches.

Yoga for Headaches

 

These 9 easy moves can help erase your day of chaos and calm your nerves.

Yoga Pose for Stress

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Starting with New Beginnings

My Healthy Journey: New Beginnings

Hi blogosphere! I’m here for new beginnings!

My name is Allison Shields, and I started working for Health Alliance as the web copywriter in July. That means that I work on our social media, this blog, and our websites.

I turn 25 this month, and I’m probably pretty unhealthy. I worked at Starbucks before coming here, so I have a pretty good caffeine addiction. I don’t eat regular meals, and one of my favorite snacks is still candy. I love to cook, but I don’t do it nearly often enough. I regularly skip meals because of time constraints and to keep from putting on weight instead of changing my eating habits.

I was an athlete ten years ago, but college and adulthood have distracted me from making my health a priority. Before this job, I didn’t have the money for a gym membership, and I never work out.

I envy all the energy I had as a teenager. These days when I get home from work, all I want to do is curl up with a glass of wine in front of my TV or computer. I regularly feel exhausted by 8 p.m.

I used to love reading, crafting, and walking around Chicago during college. Now I feel like I don’t even make the time for little things I used to love. I worry that I’m wasting the years when developing healthy habits and a balanced lifestyle would be easiest.

Luckily for me, Health Alliance is a company that will help me make some changes in the way I live my life. Not only am I off my parents’ health insurance for the first time, but Health Alliance also has regular challenges for our employees, like the 19-Day Arm Challenge that I will be doing and recording here over the next month, so you can work out alongside me.

We also have a brand new tool for our members called Rally, which I’m going to start using here, with you. Rally is an online experience that helps you improve your health in small ways every day and rewards you along the way.

I’m not very far into Rally yet. So far I’ve only completed the first step, which is taking a simple test that tells you your Rally age based on your health.

It has a lot of easy questions, things like your weight and height, how many fruits and vegetables you eat each day, and some simple things about your prescriptions and healthcare use.

I was very happy to learn that my Rally age is 25, which I turn soon. While my bad habits haven’t created a huge deficit yet, I know these things will take a toll on me in the long run, so I’m still determined to start making changes.

After you’ve taken the health assessment, Rally creates recommendations for you for missions and communities. In the next few days, I will be picking out challenges to begin, and I will be back to walk you through some of the great ways you can start making little changes too!

Hurry and take the assessment and join me in my healthy journey today!