Wellness tip: Get back to your roots

Research points to a direct correlation between spending time outdoors and improving mood, attention and cognition

According to Nielsen, most Americans spend more than 10 hours per day with their eyes on some kind of screen1. Assuming this screen time takes place largely indoors, and with research showing outdoor exposure can help boost mental health and benefit cognition, it’s no wonder our workforces are struggling with mental health and stress.

There are several health and wellness benefits linked to spending time outdoors. According to WebMD, these range from getting more exercise and vitamin D to improving sleep, fostering social connections, enhancing self-worth and focus, fortifying the immune system, bolstering creativity, and lowering stress and anxiety2.

An article from the American Psychological Association details just how much getting outside could benefit our overall wellbeing, including lowering stress, boosting mood, increasing empathy and cooperation, and improving attention3. According to a 2019 study cited in the article, people with exposure to natural environments showed improved memory, cognitive flexibility and attention.

Making time to be outdoors can be challenging in today’s bustling society. However, it doesn’t take much to receive the benefit — according to a study conducted in the United Kingdom, people who spend at least two hours in nature over the span of one week reported “significantly greater health and wellbeing.”


[1] Nielsen. “U.S. Consumers are Shifting the Time They Spend with Media.” https://www.nielsen.com/insights/2019/us-consumers-are-shifting-the-time-they-spend-with-media/. Accessed Oct. 20, 2023.

[2] WebMD. “Health Benefits of Getting Outside.” https://www.webmd.com/balance/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-nature. Accessed Oct. 20, 2023.

[3] American Psychologicl Association. “Nurtured by nature: Psychological research is advancing our understanding of how time in nature can improve our mental health and sharpen our cognition.” https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature. Accessed Oct. 20, 2023.

WellSpark’s Commitment to Cultural Competency – Understanding Workplace Culture and Beyond

An employee struggling with their health isn’t just a person with a weight problem or a diabetes diagnosis.

Factors like support systems, mental health issues, socioeconomic struggles, and cultural differences, to mention a few, can seriously affect someone’s health. A lot of wellness programs ignore these factors that make up the totality of a person’s life. They may try to fit people into a one-size-fits-all box. But we know this isn’t the best way to go about making lifestyle changes that last, in this case, for everyone.

Everyone, and every job, has a different culture. With culture comes unique languages, diets, schedules, environments, beliefs, and general practices. So, when wellness programs introduce a ‘one size fits all’ program for a workforce, how do we expect these programs to succeed for everyone? Everyone’s health is their own. It’s personal. Every program designed to help people get and stay on a healthy path needs to connect with each individual’s life.

At WellSpark, we believe that to engage people in health programs, you must make the program relevant to that person’s culture and life. Nutrition education needs to be about what people eat in their everyday life, not just lessons about the standard programming of the western American diet. Typical exercise and activity programming needs to be more than going to a gym. It could include things like dancing with your extended family after a holiday meal. And while you might conjure up thoughts of a holiday meal served on plates, at a table gathering, with everyone conversing, for others, it might look different – served in a communal bowl, sitting on the floor, with minimal conversation – creating a connection to one’s culture.

What is culture? When we think about the culture of a workforce at Wellspark, we go beyond what, when, and how employees may eat or exercise. We think about culture in terms of the workplace, the workday, and the actual work itself. Is it conducive to living a healthy lifestyle? Does the work itself make a person sick? Is the work sedentary? Does it impact a person’s sleep patterns? Is it lonely?

The physical workplace also factors into our cultural programming. What if you don’t work in an office? What if you are in a delivery truck, on a shop floor, or working the night shift doing patient care? Programs must be relevant to a person’s life AND accessible during the day to fit a person’s lifestyle. At WellSpark, we’re focused on reaching these economically diverse, multicultural, hard-to-reach populations. WellSpark is committed to the cause of developing culturally relevant and accessible health programs to connect with a culturally diverse workforce. Given these statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health:

  • 42% of Black or African American adults have hypertension
  • 22% of Hispanic Americans over the age of 20 have diabetes
  • Indigenous Americans have the highest rate of cigarette smoking compared to all racial/ethnic groups in America
  • Asian Americans are 40% more likely to have diabetes compared to non-Hispanic White Americans

WellSpark connects programs with the people we are endeavoring to serve.

10,000 steps a day – does it add up?

Reaching 10,000 steps a day became a mainstream fitness goal with the rise of as wearable fitness trackers. But do we really need to hit this magic number?

The origins of the 10,000 step goal dates back to 1965, to a Japanese devise called Manpo-kei, which translates to “10,000 steps meter.”

Walking is a simple exercise with many proven health benefits, from maintaining or losing weight to improving joint healthOpens a new window. People who sit a lot during the day may find it more difficult to reach 10,000 steps than someone who is always on their feet. Adding physical activity to your normal day, though, can be good for you, regardless of the number on your fitness tracker.

While the “magic number” of 10,000 steps may just be a clever marketing toolOpens a new window, the important thing to remember is that any amount of movement is good.

“Some activity is better than nothing!” explains Wendy Pernerewski, health coach educator at WellSpark Health. “Our bodies were made to move, so every little step we take is just good for us, body and mind.

Benefits of walking
Going for a walk every day can improve your mental wellbeingOpens a new window. Those who practice regular exercise may have a 30% less risk of becoming depressedOpens a new window and may also notice reduced feelings of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Exercise can also improve the quality of your sleep.

Older folks who enjoy a nice walk get some added benefits. They may see improvements in their cognitive function, memory, attention, and processing speed. Walking can even reduce the risk of developing dementiaOpens a new window. Pernerewski adds that walking after a meal can also help with digestion.

A new studyOpens a new window, led by Dr. I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, found that older women who walk 4,400 steps a day have a 41% less risk of premature mortality, compared to those who walk 2,500 steps or less a day.

Steps add up – by the day and by the week
The Physical Activity Guidelines for AmericansOpens a new window suggest 150 minutes per week of exercise, which can include brisk walking. The guidelines recommend spreading those minutes throughout the week. So, you could do 30-minute sessions five days a week or multiple 10-minute sessions each day.

You’d rather measure steps than time? Not to worry. “If getting 10,000 steps a day seems daunting, break it up into smaller bouts of movement each day,” says Pernerewski. She offered these tricks to help you rack up steps:

  • Start your day with a quick 10-15-minute walk to get the blood moving and kinks out of the muscles and joints.
  • Try to take a quick walk every hour or so.
  • Park far away and take stairs whenever possible for extra steps.
  • Have a bunch of conference calls? Put on your headset so you can walk and talk.
  • Drink plenty of water so you have to keep getting up to go the bathroom.
  • Put on some tunes and have a dance party.

Whether you walk 10,000 steps or 4,000, the key is to make sustainable exercise part of your daily life. “There are so many ways to get your steps in every day,” says Pernerewski. “Stay motivated by making it less like a chore and more fun.  Before long, you will be feeling all the amazing benefits of consistently moving your body.”

For more information

Five Simple Tips to Getting A Better Night’s Sleep

Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Hurt your Health.

Can’t stop yawning? Getting enough sleep is important to keep your energy levels up as well as help you function normally throughout your day. Sleep plays a big role in good health. Overtime, not getting enough sleep can develop into a problem that hurts your health and well-being.

According to The National Sleep Foundation, adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep each day. However, many adults say they do not get the recommended amount of sleep. While this may be fine for a day or two, not getting the recommended sleep overtime can lead to health problems. Lack of sleep can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke or heart attack. In addition, poor sleep can cause high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity. Sleeping problems such as sleep apnea or insomnia can develop. With not enough sleep, unhealthy habits are born that could hurt your overall health including less motivation to be active, higher stress levels, and have a terrible nutritional diet. Sleep is critical to good health. Here are some tips on how you can establish better sleep habits.

Five Simple Tips to Better Sleep

1. Start a sleep schedule
Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning. Be sure to include the weekends.

2. Cut off foods and drinks a few hours before bedtime
Avoid eating or drinking a few hours before you go to bed, especially foods high in fat and sugar. Plus, caffeine and alcohol beverages that could interfere with your sleep.

3. Make your bedroom a sleep-inducing space
Keep your bedroom dark and at a temperature that is comfortable for you. Avoid watching television so you have a quiet space. Avoid artificial light.

4. Spend some time outdoors in natural light earlier in the day
Go for a morning or afternoon walk to get some natural light that helps improve your mood.

5. Enjoy some physical activity during the day
Avoid exercising a few hours before you sleep but make time for physical activity during the day.

To learn more tips and information, contact WellSpark Health at 1-877-224-7350 or [email protected].

Why Living a Sedentary Lifestyle Might be Putting your Health at Risk

Not Getting Enough Physical Activity is a Major Cause of Chronic Disease that Comes with High Health and Financial Costs

It’s easy to fall victim to a sedentary lifestyle when much of your daily activities involve little to no physical effort on your part. Think about how much sitting you do in a day: sitting at the breakfast table, sitting for your commute to work, sitting at your desk job for eight hours and then sitting on the couch at the end of a long work day to relax. That’s a lot of sitting. What we aren’t thinking about in these moments is how unhealthy all this inactivity is for us.

According to the World Health Organization, one in four adults aren’t moving enough. Thanks in part to the convenience of modern technology and an increase number of sedentary jobs, we’re becoming more inactive than ever. The American Heart Association found that only 20% of the current workforce have physically active jobs. Plus, sedentary jobs have increased by 83% since 1950. Sedentary lifestyles are becoming increasingly widespread and a serious health issue. So much sitting around can lead to many health risks.

How does leading an inactive lifestyle put your health at risk?
Living an inactive lifestyle affects your body in several ways including weight gain, bone loss, negative impact on your mental health, poor immune support and blood circulation. Most importantly, physical inactivity or lack of exercise is one of the major causes of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke or diabetes. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six in ten adults in the US have a chronic disease and four in ten adults have two or more. Not getting enough physical activity comes with high health and financial costs. Chronic diseases are conditions that generally require ongoing medical attention making them the leading drivers of the nation’s $3.5 trillion in annual health care costs. When you live an inactive lifestyle, you raise your risk for the following:

  • Heart diseases including heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

How to Start Moving Towards an Active Lifestyle?
If you are not getting enough physical activity in your day, it’s not too late to change and significantly reduce your risk of chronic health conditions and premature death. Make a conscious effort. Whether you are stuck behind a desk all day or just struggling to get motivated for exercise, here are just a few ways to help you get moving at work and during your leisure time.

Increase Your Physical Activity at Home and at Work
If you have been inactive, start off slow and add more exercise gradually. If you have a health condition, we recommend you speak to your doctor before you start any new physical activities. Try not to feel overwhelmed. Remind yourself that getting some exercise is always better than getting none. Work to reach a goal or use the CDC recommended amount of exercise guidelines.Ways to be more active at work:

  • Go for a walk in the parking lot or around your office complex. Ask a co-worker to join you that shares your passion to get fit for additional support.  
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Stand up periodically while at your desk. Find out if your company will invest in a stand-up desk that allows you to adjust the height, so you sit or stand throughout the day.
  • Get up from your chair and move around your office building
  • During you break or lunch hour, commit to getting out of the office to walk around or run errands allowing you to be active.
  • Instead of sending an email or calling a co-worker, walk to their office and have a face-to-face chat.

Ways to be more active at home:

  • Stretch during commercial breaks
  • Go for a walk or light run in your neighborhood
  • Invest in some less exercise equipment such as hand weights, exercise mats, yoga balls and stretch bands to start your own workout.
  • Try a physical activity tracker. If you’re already using WellSpark Health to track your daily movements then you know how helpful they are to boost your motivation to work out which in turn makes you healthier.
  • Household chores, gardening and yardwork can also help with physical activity. Try doing them at a vigorous pace.

These are just some ways you can incorporate more physical activities in your daily routine. There are many ways to get exercise but only you can determine what method works best for you. Keep reminding yourself that getting some exercise is always better than getting none.  

Start Feeling the Benefits of Physical Activity
Make physical activity a priority. Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine will improve your quality of life in addition to lowering your risk of chronic diseases.  Physical activity and exercise can have immediate and long-term benefits.  You’ll start to feel better and have a healthier state of mind.

  • Manage and lose weight
  • Reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Lift your mood and get better sleep
  • Increase your ability to perform everyday activities
  • Improve your cognitive thinking skill

To learn more tips and information, contact WellSpark Health at 1-877-224-7350 or [email protected].

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