NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Short Sleeps, Big Benefits: What a Power Nap Can Do for You

ThinkstockPhotos-530249969.jpgCan you remember preschool when the teacher would turn down the lights and break out the cots? Nap time! You might not have had that exact experience, but as humans we are prone to napping. In our go-go-go life, time is money. To society, sleeping during the day is seen as a luxury that we cannot provide ourselves, and is usually thought of as a sign of laziness.

Unfortunately, napping doesn’t pay the bills. Even so, many physicians as well as wellness-oriented CEOs have championed the idea that a little afternoon snooze is actually beneficial, and can not only provide enough rest to fight off fatigue, but improves your alertness, improves motor learning skills, boosts memory, and enhances creativity (Soong, 2010). Can napping actually make you a better employee at work, give you better results in the gym, or enable you to have a better social life with your family and friends? Yes, in fact, it can! Here is a closer look at napping and its benefits.

What Is the Optimal Nap Length?

First, I’d like to break down naps into two parts. The duration of nap that you are taking will be specific to you, but there is information that gives a good indication that for optimal power naps, 10 to 20 minutes of sleep will provide the best results. Longer naps can make you groggy; this is known as sleep inertia (Dvorsky, 2013). The longer naps, such as a 60- to 90-minute siesta, can put you in a state of REM (otherwise known as our dream state). There are some links to cognitive function associated with longer naps, but the time frame doesn’t always work with our hectic schedules.

When Is the Best Time to Nap?

The second part deals with necessity. Our naps can be planned, in which you know you are going to need extra rest for a long night, so you take a nap. Another would be an emergency nap, where you take a nap because you otherwise would have put yourself in a dangerous situation (think about getting sleepy behind the wheel and then deciding it’s best to pull over at a rest stop for a nap). Then there is the always popular appetitive napping—in other words, taking a nap for the sheer enjoyment of it (Dvorsky, 2013).

What Are the Benefits?

Your health and wellness can benefit from a simple, short nap. At the right length, your nap can provide much-needed alertness, mental capacity, creativity, energy, reduced stress (in turn reducing the risks of heart disease), and more effective learning abilities for children. With all these positives attached to something that can be done quite simply, it’s hard to understand why anyone would not take more naps. For businesses, your employees would be better workers with higher productivity; for teachers, your students would have a better chance of learning; and for you, your overall well-being would be improved. Don’t wait; take a nap TODAY!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress Thomas' Corner employee health sleep productivity heart disease wellness naps memory

Eat Better, Work Better? Nutrition and Productivity

grainsWe have all heard the phrase that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but who knew that eating a balanced diet would also make you more productive at work? That is what a recent study, conducted by Brigham Young University and published in Population Health Management Journal, found. The study included 19,000 employees from three large companies and showed that employees with unhealthy diets were 66 percent less productive than those who ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

So, how can you be a more productive employee? Try these three simple ways to eat a more balanced diet. Then get ready to impress your boss!

Whole-Grain Goodness

Swap out your old rice, pasta, bread, and cereal for grains that are higher in fiber and are less processed. Brown and wild rice are excellent alternatives to white rice. Whole-wheat pasta, couscous, quinoa, millet, and oats are more whole-grain options to incorporate into your diet. When it comes to breads and cereal, check the label. Choose options that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Check out the Whole Grains Council website for more information.

Fabulous Fruits

Most people need three pieces of fruit per day to meet their individual requirements. This can easily be done by incorporating a fruit into your morning cereal or oatmeal, grabbing a piece of fruit for a quick and portable snack, or having a bowl of sweet fruit after dinner for dessert. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber in fruit are all great reasons to include them in your diet.

Vary Your Veggiesveggies

One of the most challenging food groups to get into your diet, but also one of the best ones for you, is vegetables. It can be difficult to meet that 4 to 5 recommended servings per day, so how can you get these in to help balance your diet? One thing is to make sure that you are spreading them out throughout the day by including a vegetable serving at lunch and snack time. At lunch, grab portable veggies such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, mini bell peppers, and sugar-snap peas to add some variety and crunch along with your typical sandwich. Or nibble on veggies with a hummus dip for an afternoon snack. Make it a goal to try one new and different vegetable each week!

Kale has become a popular vegetable choice these days, primarily because of its health benefits. It is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K -- and sulphur-containing phytonutrients. Here are some recipes for enjoying it.

If you are interested in having your questions answered during a personal nutrition consultation, please contact me at ascheetz@nifs.org or 317-274-3432, ext 239. Learn more about Nutrition and Wellness services at NIFS.

This blog was written by Angie Sheetz, NIFS Registered Dietitian. Read more about the NIFS bloggers.

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Topics: nutrition healthy eating employee health workplace wellness productivity

7 Quick Tips to Get Moving at Work

Are you one of the many Americans who are glued to a desk throughout the day? On top of that, do you have other responsibilities outside of your work hours that limit the amount of time that you can spend exercising throughout the week? Here are some ways that you can become more active at work. Remember, 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week can make a huge difference in your long-term health!

1. Bike or Walk to Workbusinessman walking

If you can ride a bike or walk to work each day, you can add a significant amount of physical activity minutes to your week. If you have a bike path or walking trail near your home that leads to your work, this is an excellent option. Many do not have this luxury or live too far away, but that doesn’t mean it is completely out of the question. If you have a longer commute, you can drive to a path and park nearby and bike or walk the remainder of the trip. This is a great solution for those who work in busy cities.

2. Take the Stairs

Even if you are stuck at a desk the majority of the day, you can get in some quick cardio bursts if you have a set of stairs in your building. Anytime you have the opportunity to switch to a different floor, utilize the stairs instead of the elevators. For example, instead of using the restroom that is a few steps from your office, take the stairs to a restroom on a different level to sneak in some extra steps. (You can even go up and down a few extra times while you are up!) 

3. Walk on Your Lunch Break

Squeeze in a few extra minutes on your lunch break by taking a stroll around the block or through the hallways. If your time is limited, do not underestimate the value of a short 10-minute walk. The small additions of physical activity throughout your day add up fast! Some companies even offer incentive programs at work for walking so be sure to join in!

4. Walk During Meetings and Brainstorms

When possible, have meetings while walking. This can be especially beneficial during brainstorms. Instead of sitting for 20 minutes with a colleague discussing the next task, walk!

5. Desk Exercises

When you feel like you have brain block or just need to pause for a few minutes from what you are doing, complete a few exercises right at your desk! Try alternating between incline push-ups on your desk and body-weight squats for 3 sets, 10 to 15 reps for each exercise, for a quick burst of energy. All you need is your own body weight and your desk!

6. Sit on a Stability Ballbusiness women on ball

Not all companies will allow this, but if yours does you should definitely take advantage of it! Sitting on a stability ball throughout the day improves posture, strengthens the core, and is an excellent piece of equipment for a few quick desk exercises throughout the day. A regular stability ball will work, but balance ball chairs are excellent and provide additional ergonomic benefits.

7. Stand Up

Simply stand up at your desk when possible! Standing burns more calories than sitting and allows for your body to stretch from the seated position. Oftentimes we need to be seated to complete a job task, but you can easily stand during a phone call or while you are reading a long document. If you want to add an extra burst of cardio along with this, try marching in place to increase your heart rate.

Have specific questions on ways to incorporate more physical activity into your day? Sign up for a free fitness assessment with one of our expert trainers!

This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser, ACSM certified Health Fitness Specialist. Meet our bloggers.

Topics: staying active walking employee health exercise at work

What’s In My Lunch? Nutrition for a Productive Day

We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but what about lunch? Lunch is just as key because it allows your body to rest and renew and get geared up for the second half of the day. If you are choosing the wrong thing at lunchtime or skipping altogether, this can lead to overeating in the afternoon and evening, poor performance at work, or an unproductive evening workout.ANGIE2

Whenever people find out I’m a dietitian, I get asked a lot of questions about what I eat. My typical response is “I eat normal.” However, I guess everyone has a different version of normal! For me that means following the recommendations in the USDA guidelines at ChooseMyPlate.gov. Half of my plate is filled with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of my plate grains, and a quarter of the plate protein. Then you can sprinkle in a little dairy with that. There is also room for some good, healthy fats and even the occasional dessert!

My rule of thumb is 80/20. 80 percent of my diet is filled with fresh, unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and nonfat dairy; and 20 percent includes foods such as cheese, chocolate, and alcohol. On most days I try to make sure I get the 80 percent met first before even thinking about the 20 percent!

What Angie Eats for Lunch

So, what do I eat for lunch? Well, I tend to switch up the main part of my meal each week, but the rest stays pretty constant. I always have a Greek yogurt, some baby carrots, and a Clementine. Every Monday I bring to work four yogurts, four Cuties, and a bag of baby carrots. That way I don’t have to worry about it the rest of the week. Then, I make a homemade chicken salad, tuna salad, or egg salad mixed with nonfat Greek yogurt instead of mayo and put it on whole-wheat bread or whole-wheat crackers. Other weeks I choose an old standby: peanut butter and jelly on whole-wheat bread. Sometimes it is turkey sandwiches or even leftovers from dinner the night before. There are even a few days here and there that I grab a frozen meal because they are quick and convenient.lunch

If I want a sweet ending to my lunch, I typically stop by my co-worker’s office for a few of the M&Ms she keeps on her desk. This is much better than buying the whole package from the vending machine!

One day a week I go out to lunch with some friends, and it can be challenging to choose the healthiest options. However, the main thing I always try to do is to balance my plate! So, if I really want a slice of pizza one day, then I opt for a side salad instead of a breadstick to go with it. Or if it is a sandwich place, I will bring my own sides such as the Clementine and carrots to go with the sandwich instead of the chips. The key is to picture the plate and then fill in the holes!

Need Advice on Healthy Lunches? Ask the Dietitian!

Packing your lunch can sometimes be a pain, but it is definitely worth it in the end! Figure out what works for you so that you can make it part of your weekly routine. If you need assistance planning your meals, please contact me for a personal nutrition consultation at ascheetz@nifs.org or 317-274-3432, ext. 239.

Liten' Up starts Tuesday, September 17 – Tuesday, November 12. Register now for this upcoming class on nutrition and exercise. Find out more here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating lunch employee health

Avoiding Sweet Office Temptations for Employee Health

office sweets

Eating healthy in the workplace is an obstacle that most of us face. There are constantly birthdays, going-away parties, welcome lunches, you name it! Often, these events include desserts and special treats, so it can seem as if cookies, cupcakes, and sweet treats are a staple of your office environment. This doesn’t even account for the candy bowl that is always left sitting out.

Even at NIFS you can find us gathering for an ice cream social to welcome a new employee, bringing our favorite treat to welcome or say goodbye to our interns, and indulging in foods that you wouldn’t expect to find in a fitness center.

Simply because sweet temptation is there doesn’t mean you have to overdo it. The occasional cookie or brownie is fine, but when it seems as if these “special treats” become a daily occurrence, or you find yourself frequenting that candy bowl several times a day, it can be hard to cut those sweet temptations from your routine.

Here are five tips for handling those indulgent treats in your office setting

1. Prepare ahead of time.

Get used to packing your lunch and bringing it with you to work. This will allow you to control what you eat during your midday meal, and it will save you money by eliminating the cost of going out to lunch on a daily basis. Packing your lunch the night before while cooking dinner will save you time and enable you to sharpen those multitasking skills. If you know that there is a potluck or special lunch at work the next day, bring in part of your lunch (maybe just the sides or a healthy salad) and supplement your packed lunch with some indulgent office treats.

2. Pack healthy snacks.

Having snacks on hand will prevent you from getting overly hungry with only unhealthy foods as an option. Packing things like low-fat cheese sticks, nuts, apples, bananas, homemade trail mix, and Greek yogurt will allow you to be prepared and stay satisfied throughout the day. This may increase your work productivity, too!

office sweets

3. Drink lots of water.

Not only is it important to stay properly hydrated throughout the day, but water helps you feel fuller longer. It can be hard to remember to drink water even if you have your favorite bottle with you, so set a reminder on your calendar telling you to drink! Emptying your water bottle will cause you to have to refill and use the restroom, which are both great excuses for getting up and out of your seat during the workday.

4. Bring a healthy dish to share.

If you know that your office is holding a gathering with food, offer to bring a healthy dish! That way, you know that there will be at least one nutritious option available. Veggies and whole-wheat pita with hummus, fruit trays, or homemade granola bars are always popular options.

5. Indulge responsibly.

Have a cookie, bowl of ice cream, or donut and enjoy every bite of it! If you never have any of the office treats, this may leave you feeling deprived and craving sweet treats all day, which could lead to overindulgence later. Just remember that it is a treat, and treats are a rare occasion!

Written by Tara Deal, NIFS Membership Manager, Group Fitness Instructor, and author of Treble in the Kitchen.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits healthy eating snacks lunch employee health