Getting the Most from Your Wellness Program

Authored by: Sarah Troup


Limited results, low engagement and recent media articles can tend to leave you wondering, can wellness programs really ever be successful?

Understandably, as the Director of Wellness Strategy for a national wellness company, my answer is going to be "Yes!" But it comes down to more than just blind faith in wellness, and rather, what experience over the last 10 years has shown us.

When designed properly, we have seen workplace wellness plans boast high engagement, positive health outcome changes, and in some cases, significantly reduce overall lifestyle claims.

One great example of this is the 4-year partnership between us (Motion Connected), Garmin, and the Cleveland Clinic Healthy Choice Program.

One key piece of their comprehensive wellness program design for an employee and spouse population of over 60,000, emphasizes improving physical activity levels using wearable activity trackers.

Since launching the program, some of their powerful results include:
  • Successfully flatlining their annual medical and pharmacy costs year after year
  • In 2018, 68% of their employees and spouse population eligible for the premium incentive actively participated in the program. 
    • Of those, greater than 80% met the medical director’s threshold for meaningful physical activity levels. 
  • Better yet, the participants had great things to say, “I track my steps daily. What’s given me the positive feedback is my own body. I sleep better at night, I’m not as tired towards the end of the day, and I dropped about 35 pounds.”

Are you interested in beating the status quo, and creating this positive narrative in your own, or your clients’ wellness program?

Then download this webinar to listen to Brian Green from Garmin Health and me, Sarah Troup. During this 45 minute conversation we’ll explore more examples of evaluating wellness program results, plus:
  • Is there a cost to doing nothing?
  • What's wrong with the current wellness model 
  • Must-have trends/employer efforts for success 
  • Evidence for high-impact programs w/ data from wearables 
  • Going beyond just step

LISTEN ON DEMAND NOW! >>>



Hope to see you there!


Sarah Troup
Director of Wellness Strategy
Motion Connected



Is 6,000 Steps the New Daily Standard for a Healthy Population?


There is no doubt that more active employees are happier and healthier employees.

For many years 10,000 steps per day has been viewed as the daily benchmark for physical activity. In comparison however, the CDC Guidelines promote 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.

This equates to about 20-25 minutes daily – or around 3,000 walking steps for the average person.

That’s a 7,000 daily step swing! So what gives? How much physical activity is “enough” to have an impact on the goal for most employers – population health risk reduction?

Let’s take a closer look at the two book-end standards and also examine some real wellness program data and outcomes.

First, let’s take 10,000 steps per day. 

This benchmark was established when pendulum/mechanical pedometers were the leading technology – these devices were notorious for over estimating. Many folks promoting this standard were also overachievers (the “already active”) so 10,000 steps was often a stretch goal or badge of honor. Finally, 10,000 is a wonderful “round number” – easy to promote and remember.

So what about the CDC guidelines? These actually promote “conscious” activity or exercise sessions – meaning that this doesn’t include steps taken as part of a daily routine – walking around your house or at work or walking to/from your car. 

Including this “regular” movement would increase the number of steps recorded by an activity tracker or smartphone beyond the `3,000 step guideline per day. 

The other note about the CDC Guideline is that it is a minimum level, so activity levels above this can equate to more individual and aggregate benefits.

Our experience with 10+ years of program management and observation is that 10,000 steps is often viewed as an “impossible goal” by the majority of employees. 

Let’s say an employee uses a wearable device to establish their baseline level is 2,500 steps/day – 10,000 steps now feels like a Mount Everest sized goal and can actually be demotivating! So, what does make sense as an achievable goal that will impact aggregate health risk?

There are a number of studies or programs that can help us point the way to an answer:

  1. A few years ago UHC commissioned a study that showed an inflection point in healthcare claims costs between 4,000 and 5,000 steps per day. For instance, those who walked greater than 4,000 steps cut their claims cost by over 50% compared with those who walked less than 2,000. 

  2. Our long-time partner, Cleveland Clinic’s Healthy Choice program, has had tremendous success in terms of lowering aggregate health care risk and costs for it’s 60,000 employees and spouses.

    A significant piece of the program focuses on keeping the healthy healthy. For those members who do not have any of the six modifiable conditions the program is built around, the clinic incentivizes one behavior – be active. The medical management team at the clinic have established the monthly goal at 150,000 steps per month – or 5,000 steps per day. 

  3. Analysis that we have conducted with another one of our partners shows that 6,000 steps is a significant threshold in a number of ways

      1. In the initial year of the program for employees with a starting BMI of greater than 25, those with over 6,000 steps per day averaged a 6.4 lbs weight loss. The remaining employees with less than 6,000 steps averaged a slight weight increase (<1lb). 

      2. During the next two years of the program we noted that increasing daily steps from less than to more than 6,000 showed a high likelihood of losing weight.

        While all employees who tracked in the opposite direction (from greater than to less than 6,000 steps per day) gained weight with an average of +10 lbs. 
      1. Finally, this year we looked at activity levels in relation to health risk. 6,000 steps per day maps to low risk aggregate biometric outcomes – passing 3 or 4 of body max index, blood pressure, cholesterol, & blood sugar. 

    So circling back to where we started, there is no doubt that more active employees are healthier employees. 
In terms of guiding a population however, 10,000 steps per day feels like it should be the top end of a healthy range that starts around 5,000 steps per day. 

Our partner’s data analysis narrows in on 6,000 steps per day as a meaningful population health target level. We have found that engaging employees in this level of activity yields results in terms of aggregate health risk reduction.

New Activity Challenge Features Released!


Our Challenge Code is Heating Up!

The core of our Motion Connected myInertia plans center on wearables and physical activity challenges. These automated challenges are inclusive, fun, create camaraderie and are a great way to build healthier cultures.

Our clients have had the best success with engagement when running challenges at least quarterly. To continue to help time-strapped administrators achieve that goal, we’ve released four brand-new tools.



1. Team Building Wizard
Building team challenges is easier than ever with our new building method. Employees can self-select their team from a menu of options, or be randomly auto-assigned to teams in our new round robin function.


2. Preset Challenges
“Click and go” challenges are ready for administrators to promote! Clients simply select a challenge that interests them, select a start date and invite employees. There’s even an option to download a poster to promote the challenge to their employee base.



3. Message Board Alerts
We automatically notify participants when the challenge is starting and ending in their message board. Our system handles this behind the scenes, so no additional work for the client! Clients can also choose to post the invite to the message board to garner more signups.


4. Outlast Challenges
We created a new type of challenge sure to take the friendly competition up a notch. Participants compete to see who can “outlast” the step or active minutes goal each week. If they miss the goal they are eliminated from the challenge, and as the weeks progress, the goal gets harder!


These challenge enhancements are just the tip of the iceberg for what we have in store for the year!



Want to learn more about what our myInertia plans can achieve for you or your clients? 

Schedule a time with one of our sales associates here.



Why Getting People Active is the Ultimate Well-Being Solution



Every wellness provider has a “secret” wellness program ingredient that drives their mission to deliver healthier employees.

...The biometric vendors say employees have to “know their numbers” so they can address specific health concerns...
...The stress management providers say no one can take care of themselves until they address their stress issues... 
...The EAP programs assert when participants are bogged down by the blues and other emotional health issues, they simply don’t have the energy or willpower to take healthy actions...
...Sleep programs show that a poor night of sleep leads to poor food choices and decreased will power the following day...
...You can hardly open up a wellness news brief without some article about how alleviating financial pressures through financial wellness is the key to healthier employees...

The magnitude of varying messages can leave many employers asking, where do I start? What can give me the biggest bang for my buck?

It’s time to look to physical activity.

Why?

Instead of focusing on solving one health problem at a time, slowly and with limited engagement, physical activity programs allow you to impact a wide range of health issues all at once, for low cost, and with more inclusivity. Helping you drive the higher engagement needed to save money and change behavior.

Not only is getting people active one of the most powerful disease prevention and treatment initiatives available to improve all the numbers on biometrics, it can make powerful impact on your other well-being goals.

Here’s how it helps:

STRESS: Exercise provides immediate and powerful improvement on stress by reducing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. In addition, exercise itself can be an incredible mindfulness tool, where your brain finally relaxes. Does sitting through a stress awareness course have an immediate benefit to lowering stress and lead to other great things like reducing cholesterol, blood pressure and more?

MOOD: Just 10 minutes of exercise increases serotonin levels that will leave you feeling less anxious, more relaxed, and overall happier. Also, studies (1) show that 16 weeks of regular exercise is just as effective as anti-depressant medication in treating people who were not exercising previously.

SLEEP: We can put people to sleep during a boring talk on sleep or according to Mayo Clinic (2), “Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster, get better sleep and deepen your sleep.” This is also supported by a national study (3) with more than 2600 people that found meeting the physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes/week provided a 65% improvement in sleep quality.

FINANACIAL HEALTH: So there is no way that exercise can help with financial stressors and decisions, right? Actually, there is evidence (4) that people who exercised regularly had better willpower than those who did not and specifically: “Saved more money” and “Splurged on impulse purchases less.”

Check out these other well-being benefits from the American Heart Association – are any of these goals for your wellness program?

Moderate exercise:
  • Helps in the battle to quit smoking
  • Keeps weight under control
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Promotes enthusiasm and optimism
  • Increases muscle strength, increasing the ability to do other physical activities
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Improves quality of life


The bottom line is, you can fill your wellness year with lunch and learns, articles and educational courses on how to lower stress, beat the blues, get better sleep, and budget better, or you can begin to create immediate change tomorrow with an engaging physical activity program.

The evidence is abundant that if we can motivate people to move, there will be a domino effect on their entire well-being.

Author:



Sarah Troup
Director of Wellness Strategy


Sarah has over 10 years of experience helping employers implement engaging wellness programs that drive true positive outcomes.



Article Sources:
  1. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389?pg=1
  3. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep
  4. Oaten, Megan, and Ken Cheng. "Longitudinal Gains in Self-regulation from Regular Physical Exercise." British Journal of Health Psychology 11.4 (2006): 717-33. 2. McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. New York: Avery, 2012




I'm Better when I Run



I’ve been reminded many times in my life that I’m at my best when I consistently run.

You’re not into running?

No worries this message still applies to you.

My 2019 challenge to you is this - find what makes you better! Chances are it will be grounded in the gift of physical activity.

Here’s my story…

Recently, I dialed back my running for a few weeks. It’s definitely important to get some rest after a year containing a couple marathons, a 50K trail race, and my first 50-miler. However, dialing back helped me remember once again what running provides.

Running quiets and slows my inner dialogue. It allows me to sort through all the random thoughts, ideas, and self-criticisms. It has a way of turning a heap of tangled and dirty laundry into a basket of crisp, organized clothes.

Running builds my confidence. When I’m running frequently and strong, I stand taller and take on more challenges. I flinch less at the bullets and mud.

Running humbles me. The marathon usually wins. This keeps me coming back for more – after recovering from the physical and mental anguish. Running taps me on the shoulder and gently reinforces my humanity and the importance of grit.

Running makes me a better listener. It offers a calmness and positive energy that I have a difficult time explaining,

Running reminds me. It reminds me to be thankful for the important things in life. When I run, I’m not thinking of material possessions. Rather, I’m thinking of the present and how wonderful it is to be able to run. I’m thinking of the past, and how relationships and experiences have blessed me and shaped me. I’m thinking of the endless possibilities of the future.

With limited running in recent weeks, its absence reminded me why I miss it.

I’m better when I run.

The year ahead will consist of countless miles, gruesomely early mornings, and aching muscles that want to quit.

Fortunately, the lessons of my first 41 years tell me that it’s also a tasty recipe for countless growth opportunities away from the roads and trails.

Will I be faster? Questionable. Will I be better? No doubt.

What makes you better?

2019 awaits your answer…





Authored by: Mark Cumicek 

Mark is the Engagement & Operations Leader for Motion Connected. He provides creative strategic advice, cultural insight, and project leadership in a way that embraces Midwestern values. He loves helping people thrive and grow!

This post originally appeared on his blog, happyrun.net


3 Lessons from Pushing 61.29% Further


Sometimes we need to do crazy things to learn, to live, and to better love.

I did just that in October by running a 50-mile race – something I never dreamed I would do. Well, maybe in a nightmare!

Prior to this, the longest distance I covered was 50K or roughly 31 miles. So this was a considerable stretch from any semblance of a comfort zone. 61.29% of a stretch to be exact.

Here are three lessons that I learned.

1. BHAGs rock


In the book Good to Great, author Jim Collins describes the setting of large, sometimes daunting organizational goals. He affectionately refers to such goals as Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGs… pronounced Bee Hags).

Running this distance was truly a BHAG for me.

I set this BHAG almost on a whim 2 years prior at the start of the same race. The year of BHAG declaration I was competing as part of a relay team splitting the distance. It was accidental, but essential for me to set this goal with a proper amount of lead-time to be able to build for it – mostly mentally, but physically too.

Another important piece of this was to declare and share my BHAG with others. I did this from day one in a very specific, no wiggle room way – I WILL complete the Fall 50 solo in 2018. Declaring created sound accountability. Sharing created a channel of encouragement and support. 


2. Small goals get the job done


Though the presence of the BHAG provided the inspiration to get to the start line, it meant little when it came to executing on race day. Small goals dominated my mind.

What began as simple task mantras like get dressed and get started, or relax and get to the next aid station turned even more short-term as the race progressed.

Thinking one-mile marker at a time got me through the first three quarters of the race. However, the final heart, thigh, and gut wrenching quarter consisted of a different variety of thoughts… just make it to that tree... or get your ass to the mailbox…. or make it to that curve in the road and you can stop.

Fortunately, I never stopped!

Any deep thoughts of the overall distance would have crushed me many times during the race. The keys to executing on the BHAG jingle on a ring of many unique, tiny goals looped together.

To be completely honest, the aid station chocolate chip cookies helped a lot too :) One cookie at a time!


3. Present moment thinking frees & allows


After the race, many people asked how it was? My consistent answer - it was good, beer and pizza please!

I didn’t really remember a lot of the race in detail due to being so focused on the present moment while getting it done. Sure, pain was present… but simply embraced as part of the experience. The weather was a total shit show… but was merely conditions that I needed to outmuscle.

I did not have energy to focus on the past or the future. I could only contend with the exact moment I was in.

I couldn’t worry about what I ate yesterday and how it might affect me.

I couldn’t anticipate how sore I was going to be on Monday.

I couldn’t obsess about whether I trained enough.

I couldn’t worry about the weather forecast for the afternoon.

It was absolutely freeing to be completely in the moment. Present moment thinking was not just a luxury... it was a vital, unexpected ingredient needed to accomplish the feat. Allowing my mind to spend time unnecessarily in the past would have caused doubt. While allowing it to drift into the future would have caused anxiety.
One more note

There is one additional 4th lesson that fits somewhere in here, but I’m not going to try to weave it into any of the above.

Kind gestures from others helped me persevere and practice gratitude along the way. 


There was the man at the halfway mark who gave me his hands warmers just as doubt was creeping in. And the fellow runner that made me laugh through his jovial banter with family at a late race aid station. Then there was the course volunteer that pointed us home on the last turn of the course and graciously agreed to my request for a hug. Bless her! And finally, there was my loving wife telling me how f'ing proud of me she was with tears in her eyes.


Sometimes it takes every ounce of kindness from others to get us safely to where we need to be. This was certainly true on this day... and more recognizable because of the circumstances. One of my favorite authors, Matthew Kelly, calls such events holy moments. Too often, I'm not aware or appreciative of these holy moment gifts that others bless me with on a daily basis. I’m sure you can relate.
This day I noticed.


Takeaways:


So, I walk away from these 50 miles a bit wiser, and sincerely hope my experience can help you.

Now, you can ignore all of the words above and walk away with these concise takeaways…

  1. Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals set your destination (to learn)
  2. Small goals and present moment thinking provide the fuel (to live).
  3. The holy moment kindness in each of us, when extended to others, keeps us from falling asleep at the wheel (to better love).

Authored by: Mark Cumicek 

Mark is the Engagement & Operations Leader for Motion Connected. He provides creative strategic advice, cultural insight, and project leadership in a way that embraces Midwestern values. He loves helping people thrive and grow!

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn

Why Being Busy is NOT a Good Reason to Skip a Workout



I had an extremely full day. As I drove home, my nerves were on fire and my patience was short. Between processing the day’s events and foreshadowing a busy evening, my stress level was rising.

My first reaction was to scratch the planned pre-dinner jog from my agenda. After all, I truly had too much going on to waste my precious time out on a trail. Deep down, I knew better. This type of activity was exactly what I needed.

As I entered the house, the distractions and excuses inundated me. My instinct again moved towards ditching the workout. Fortunately, I was able to overcome the objections, get situated in my shoes, shorts, and t-shirt, and get out the door.

I managed to squeeze physical activity in between the BU and SY of busy.

The result?

I returned home with a clear mind and the words too busy evaporated with the sweat.

The day’s events were sorted and rationalized.

The evening’s agenda suddenly became easily tolerable and full of enjoyable endeavors that previously appeared gut-wrenching.

My outlook on tomorrow also changed from anxious to excited anticipation. My calendar was transformed from way too busy to an invigorating full day ahead.

The takeaway…

Though life gets chaotic and our schedules are often so full they can overwhelm, don’t forgo physical activity. Give it the priority it deserves. Doing so will ALWAYS reflect abundantly on your productivity, your attitude, and your gratitude.

Being on the move has a magical way of bringing order to chaos and optimism to a tireless schedule.

Whether it’s a 10-minute walk, a 10-kilometer run, or 10-mile bike ride, don’t make it the convenient scratch from your agenda. Instead, find a way to make it happen!

Your stress-level, your schedule, your coworkers, and your family will thank you for the investment.

Authored by:

Mark Cumicek 
Engagement & Operations Leader

Mark helps Motion Connected bring energy and action to their strategy. He loves helping people grow and thrive along the way! Mark provides creative strategic advice, cultural insight, and project leadership in a way that embraces Midwestern values.