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!


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


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


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!

Best Sports for Asthma

Athletic with Asthma

You can’t keep your kids with asthma from being active, but you can help them choose the right activities.

While football can be a rough sport, it is actually one of the best sports for those with asthma. The many breaks between downs let you rest and can reduce the chances of an attack.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis is one of the greatest running backs of all time. He was diagnosed with asthma at 15, after passing out at a high school football practice. He went on to play for the Fighting Irish at Notre Dame, then in the NFL for 13 seasons. He was named NFL Rookie of the Year and won a Super Bowl in 2006.

A recent study found that walking 3 times a week for 3 weeks improved asthma control, and overall fitness.

Yoga is great for asthma because it requires good breath control. One study found that some who did yoga 2.5 hour a week for 10 weeks could cut down on their meds.

Baseball’s spurts of running with plenty of down time gives kids exercise without raising their breathing rate for too long, making it great for asthma sufferers.

Golf, with its delayed activity, is good if you struggle catching your breath, and the focus it requires is great for your mind. Just beware of outdoor allergens!

Tennis and other racquet sports let you exercise with regular rests and water breaks.

Swimming is the ideal activity for those with asthma because you breathe in warm wet air the whole time, and being horizontal can help loosen and clear your lungs.

As a kid, Amy Van Dyken’s couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs because her asthma was so bad. At just 6 years old, she took up swimming when her doctor told her breathing humid air might help her lungs. Swimming was hard at first, but with the help of her meds and support from her family and friends, Amy swam her way to 4 gold medals at the Athens Olympics and another 2 at Sydney’s.

The important thing to remember though is that your asthma should never hold you back from going after your dreams.

Look at Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who broke into track-and-field star, even though she had asthma. She is a four-time Olympian with 3 gold medals. She was diagnosed as a freshman at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA). In an interview with Sports Illustrated, she said, “I finally learned I had to respect asthma as much as I would an opponent.”

Knowing your triggers, using your meds and action plan, and working with your doctor can make amazing things possible.

Make No Bake Desserts Together

Healthy No Bake Desserts

Last week in food on social media, we featured healthy no bake desserts, perfect for your busy back-to-school schedules.

First up was a Mango and Coconut Ring that looks pretty enough to impress any guests, and at 300 calories a serving, you won’t feel too guilty after.

Mango and Coconut Ring


Try these Peach and Raspberry Pavlova Parfaits made with store-bought cookies for a fresh dessert at just 193 calories.

Peach and Raspberry Pavlova Parfaits


These Lemon-Blueberry Twist Pops take just 10 minutes to put together. And once they’re frozen you’ll have a tasty treat with only 123 calories!

Lemon-Blueberry Twist Pops


This Peanut Butter Pie is rich without ruining your diet at just 302 calories!

Peanut Butter Pie


Today’s very adult dessert is Honeydew Melon with Sparkling Wine. It’s quick, easy and just 97 calories! Perfect for date night.

Honeydew Melon with Sparkling Wine


This Kit Kat-Filled Angel Food Cake, using a store-bought cake, saves you time and tastes delicious without guilt. Just 334 calories.

Kit Kat-Filled Angel Food Cake


Try whipping up this Last Minute Tropical Sherbet. It takes just 12 minutes and is only 144 calories!

Last Minute Tropical Sherbet


Active Aging

Long View: Active Aging Week Encourages Health into Golden Years

As I get older, I have noticed the changes that come with it. I think the one I notice the most lately is inertia. You find yourself sitting down to open the mail and not getting up for the rest of the evening. OK, it happens to all of us once in a while. My concern is inertia may become my hobby unless I take action.

The International Council on Active Aging sponsors an annual event called Active Aging Week. Its website explains, “Led by the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA), Active Aging Week is an annual health promotion event held each year during the last week of September. The weeklong observance celebrates adults ages 50 and older as fully participating members of society and promotes the benefits of leading an active, healthier lifestyle. It also highlights the ability of older adults to live well, regardless of age or health conditions.”

It got me thinking which of my family members had the best quality of life as they aged. The dividing line was very clear. The active (some would say hyperactive) ones who kept a healthy weight were the ones who made the most of their mature years. The sofa-sitters aged well into their 80s, but didn’t get the same enjoyment from their golden years. The prospect of that fate was enough to get me up and moving again.

And now the disclaimer: As with any type of exercise, it’s important to talk to your doctor to make sure you choose an activity safe for you. I started with a 15-minute walk in the morning and another 15-minute walk in the evening after work.  It’s no marathon, but it’s doable and even enjoyable in good weather. I miss my walks when our Central Illinois climate doesn’t cooperate. Plus, I am seeing results and notice I feel better overall.

Health Alliance Medicare is working with Clark-Lindsey (a continuing care retirement community in Urbana) to sponsor an Active Aging Week from September 21-27. As the hosts, we can craft a program of activities that suits our own community (and weather). Maybe you would consider doing something similar in your area.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to help. Or visit Clark-Lindsey’s website and click on “news and events” for more information. It’s time to get moving!