Ways to Stay Well on Summer Vacation

Swimming with questionably tame sharks, diving off a mountainous cliff, jumping wakes with jet skis. You’re on vacation – and likely by the beach, pool, or lake. It’s time to throw caution to the wind, right?

photo-1422405153578-4bd676b19036If that’s what you want to do, then go right ahead! (You thought I was going to say “wrong,” didn’t you?) Vacation isn’t the time for you to deprive yourself of small joys or new experiences. You deserve them.

While any rest and relaxation is a warm welcome, there are certain activities and choices that can help squeeze the most out of some well-deserved time off while still working towards building healthier habits.

Ditch the Beach Chair

You’ve finally made it to the beach or lake, and you’re ready to plant your chair, kick back, and dig your toes into the sand. But there’s plenty of ways to stay active and still enjoy all the sights and sounds experienced from a beach chair.

Unless you’re privy to a private beach or own some lake-front property, a quick jaunt in dry, loose sand provides a rare physical activity opportunity for you to take advantage of. Studies show that running in sand requires more mechanical work and energy than running on concrete, meaning you can work less used muscles and hit your exercise goals faster by running in sand.

But sand can feel more like hot coals if the sun’s out, so a dip in the water might be best. Wading has its benefits, but swimming increases bone mass and reduces inflammation. And those partaking in vigorous aerobic exercise, like swimming, see a 25 percent decrease in anxiety and depression.

Staying active on vacation may not be your utmost concern, but some added physical activity helps keep you on track and balances out the occasional indulgences in other areas of your time off.

Don’t Go Overboard on Meals

Contrary to popular belief, what you eat on vacation does count and can leave you with some souvenirs you didn’t intend on bringing home from your trip.

A TripAdvisor survey found that 29 percent of vacation goers gained weight from an overabundance of food and beverage temptations. While that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy some treats on vacation, you may look to make up for those added calories elsewhere.

Overeating on vacation can leave you feeling sluggish once you return home and make the transition back into work routines much more difficult than they need to be. Find balance by substituting healthier eating options for regular meals. A salad for dinner will go a long way once you opt for that late night ice cream run with the family.

Take Control of the Ship

Spending time with family and friends is at the heart of any vacation. Building relationships, taking time to relax, and enjoying the activities you choose to do show the highest return on recharging your well-being long after vacation ends.

Taking time off drives a better outlook on life, and makes people more motivated to achieve their goals. This would explain why vacationers experience an 82 percent increase in job performance, as reported by Bloomberg Business.

What matters most – both personally and professionally – is that you enjoy your vacation and use it as an opportunity to relax and recharge in whatever way works best for you. And if that means going snorkeling with sharks, then dive right in. It all sounds so simple sometimes.

Looking for more ways to help employees make the most of their time off? Read our survey to learn more about how relaxing and recharging helps drives productivity.

M. R. Brown writes content for the marketing team at Virgin Pulse. He looks to dispense his know-how on well-being to help get employees and employers alike engaged in healthy workplaces. You can find him running trails on weekends, endlessly motivated by the thought of being chased by a wolf. Follow him on Twitter @writermrbrown.

5 Tips for Healthy Eating to Energize Employees

The saying, “You are what you eat” goes a long way. For many employees, a busy schedule makes it easy to choose convenient meals because it means getting back to work faster. But convenient doesn’t mean it’s better.

An on-the-go meal may get your employees back to their workspace sooner, but poor nutrition can take an unhealthy toll on their health and productivity. Eating too much sugar, carbs, or fat can cause cognitive impairment. Motivate employees to make a few slight changes to their diet and you’ll help them maintain their focus, raise their energy levels, and improve their overall well-being throughout the day.

Instead of Potato Chips, Try Kale Chips

kale-413719_1280Who doesn’t crave a salty and crunchy snack once in a while? Usually potato chips are the answer, but make them a bit harder to reach for in the office. Not only do they contain mass amounts of sodium, leading to high blood pressure, but they’re hard to put down – meaning mindless eating and empty calories.

A healthy alternative is kale chips. Kale provides at least 10 different vitamins and minerals, which will help keep energy levels high. And, like potato chips, they have a crunch to them – except employees can eat as many as they want and not feel bad about it.

Instead of Red Meat, Try Fish

salmon-774482_1280Studies show that eating red meat regularly may lead to a shorter lifespan. Due to its high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, it can increase risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Substituting meat with other protein-filled foods can help prevent these diseases.

Encourage employees to occasionally switch to fish for a healthy lunch option. Fish is known for providing omega-3, which is essential for good health. Since the body doesn’t make omega-3, it’s important employees add it to their diet. It helps maintain a healthy heart and aids in cognitive health, allowing employees to stay healthy and focused during the workday.

Instead of Mayo, Try Avocado

avocados-318198_1280Mayonnaise is ideal for enhancing sandwiches, but too much of it can be dangerous. It’s filled with unhealthy fats and artificial ingredients, leading to negative long-term effects. Even low-fat mayonnaise isn’t healthier, because it’s filled with more added sugar.

Using avocado as a substitute is a healthier option. It provides a great amount of fiber, which helps employees feel full longer. Encourage them to put it on sandwiches instead of mayo for a more satisfying and nutritious lunch. Keep avocados and other fresh fruit around the office to help further motivate employees to make healthier choices.

Instead of Cheese and Crackers, Try Carrots and Hummus

carrots-382686_1280Although cheese and crackers contain protein and fiber, they’re also packed with sodium and fats. They’re a good snack in moderation, but there are healthier options.

Carrots and hummus are a great alternative to cheese and crackers. Like avocados, hummus contains a lot of fiber and healthy fats, so it’ll help employees stay satisfied for hours. Encourage them to add this healthier snack to their lunches to keep their energy levels high.

Instead of Refined Grains, Try Whole Grains

bread-6110_1280The majority of grain-based products are made with refined flour and rice, meaning a lot of the nutrients and fiber are removed. Because there’s less fiber, refined grains aren’t as filling, making it easier to overeat.

Educate employees on the health benefits of eating whole grain foods instead. They’re a better source of fiber and have been proven to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Remind your employees to look for the term “whole” on the box next time they buy grain-based products. This way they’ll get the heart-healthy nutrients that whole grains provide.

Convenience meals full of greasy, processed foods make people feel sluggish and tired, which isn’t productive at work. Encouraging employees to nourish their body with healthy foods will increase energy levels, improve mood, and help them be more productive. Help your workforce make these minor yet beneficial changes to their eating habits and you’ll positively impact their performance, health, and overall quality of life.

Looking for more tips on how you can energize employees? Check out our nutrition ebook and learn other ways to support healthy eating habits in the workplace.

Kelly O’Donnell is a marketing intern at Virgin Pulse, where she hopes to broaden her knowledge in the area of holistic well-being and strengthen her marketing and writing skills. In her free time, you can find her exploring outdoor trails with her dog or relaxing on the beach with a good book and friends.

Holistic Well-being – It’s Good Business

177698593People are at the core of every business. That’s why it’s so important for companies to take care of their employees and support them in leading their healthiest, most fulfilling lives—both in and out of the workplace.

That’s no small task. Modern life has us on-the-go and plugged in 24/7. We’re eating poorly because it’s easier to grab fast food than cook a healthy meal after a long day. Blurred lines between work and home life mean we’re checking emails, scanning news, and social networking instead of turning in early for a good night’s sleep.

Beyond the Treadmill

Fortunately, employers are catching on and taking a more holistic approach to workplace well-being programs. More than 78 percent of employers are expanding beyond physical wellness to include broader areas of well-being, like financial wellness and mental health, our recent survey released in conjunction with Employee Wellbeing Month found. That’s a trend in the right direction.

Last week, the Washington Post highlighted how some companies are approaching well-being programs. The article does a great job outlining the importance of supporting well-being through things like on-site fitness classes and flexible work arrangements, but companies need to do more to support the whole person that comes to work each day.

Providing resources that support all aspects of employee well-being creates a workforce of engaged, enthusiastic people who are passionate about their work and drive meaningful business results. Did you know that employees who get enough sleep gain 2.5 hours of workday productivity? Yep, it’s true. Encourage employees to cut out afternoon caffeine and put down their devices in the evening as simple ways to improve sleep habits. You’ll find that better sleep is not only good for your workforce but it’s good for your business, too.

A Different Take on ROI

It can be hard to measure the ROI of wellness programs, and that’s why it’s key to create well-being programs that don’t focus solely on healthcare cost savings as a measure of success. Instead, include them in a broader view of impact– one that looks at employee engagement, productivity, and culture measures. These are all part of the top line outcomes employers can see as a result of effective well-being programs.

The ROI of wellness programs may not always easily be calculated in short-term dollars and cents, but their value can be seen across the business. According to a recent survey, 70 percent of employees say that health habits impact their ability to focus on the job. We also know that happy, healthy employees are more engaged at work and in their personal lives. Companies with engaged employees have 48 percent fewer safety incidents and 41 percent fewer quality incidents, according to Gallup. And engaged employees are 21 percent more productive and take 37 percent fewer sick days—all factors that ultimately drive your business.

Leading employers recognize that nurturing well-being and helping employees replenish are important components of a thriving organization. The investment in supporting habits that matter will be returned through a more energetic, focused workforce that feels valued and loves coming to work. And we believe that if you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your business.

Kerry Bryant is Senior Public Relations and Social Media Manager at Virgin Pulse, where she develops and tells stories about health and well-being. She believes in the power of small, healthy steps to become habits that matter and ultimately change lives. In her spare time, Kerry can be found planning her next travel adventure or nose-deep in a book at the beach. Follow her on Twitter: @kez_bryant

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