This morning chamber members gathered for a rather unconventional, and early, First Wednesday Business Breakfast entitled “How Fitness Can Change your Work Life in 2015 – A Moving Breakfast.” Participants were asked to “move’ throughout the entire breakfast, either via a spin bike or a step-up platform while the three speakers addressed the crowd. (Thank you to breakfast sponsors TD Bank, LA Fitness and GNC Winter Haven).
There were quite a few takeaways from the session that I thought would be helpful for those that couldn’t make the breakfast.
1. Exercise is great for your body, but it’s even better for your brain.
Nat West, retiree from Winter Haven Hospital and advocate for improving fitness, education and access to music in Polk, presented on a book written by Dr. John Ratey called Spark- The Revoluntionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Dr. John J. Ratey, MD is a an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the basis of his studies for Spark is that exercise has a direct correlation for brain function. (Watch a fabulous Ted Talk from Dr. Ratey below that breaks it down perfectly in 10 minutes).
In this book he outlines how school systems who emphasize physical education as an important part of their curriculum and a stimulant for student learning. He cites an example in Naperville, Illinois where they had 19,000 student and every day each student would spend 45 minutes moving. What caught attention nationally was that only 3% of their students were overweight (compared to over 30+% of ours according to Nat). They also tested the students academically. According to an international benchmarking test called TIMSS – Trends in International Mathmatics/Science, the Naperville students tested #1 in Math and #6 in science, in the world (US normally in the low-to-mid teens). They also found at other schools where the implemented similar exercise programs that behavioral problems, suspensions and class skipping dropped dramatically. So definitely great info for your kids, but what about for you?
According to Dr. Ratey, exercise affects the part of your brain that you probably use most during your work day (slide from YouTube video shown above) :
Exercise also keeps our brain cells “young and perky” which can help ward off certain cognitive disorders that can come with age. It also enables our brain cells to grow, which we need to retain new information. Bottom line – exercise optimizes your brains ability to learn.
Nat cited a few examples of teachers that “get this” in our own community including:
- Mary Fisher at Jewett Middle Academy who is doing work on exercise to boost learning inside the classroom.
- Shannon Rasmussen at Pinewood Elementary who is hosting a before school running group of which participation is contingent upon math scores.
- Lisa Meyer at Garden Grove Elementary is doing innovative things to keep kids moving in PE to keep the heart rate up to optimize learning capacity.
2. Polk County is still in the top 10 most obese DMA’s in the country. But there are people trying to change that.
Next the group heard from Colleen Mangan, Florida Department of Health, and volunteer chair for the Building a Healthier Polk initiative with Polk Vision. Colleen discussed what Building a Healthier Polk is focusing on which includes the fight to combat obesity through 6 key strategy areas:
The Building a Healthier Polk Initiative is a three year plan to reduce obesity based on 6 key strategy areas:
- school based - increase overall wellness among youth in Polk County. Strategy 1
- neighborhood/community - increase access to and participation in physical activity for all members of a community. Strategy 2
- physicians - access clinical practices in addressing Body Mass Index (BMI). Strategy 3
- work based – support the use of evidenced -based employee health promotion/wellness programs to promote healthy behavior. Strategy 4
- higher education – support college wellness programs that address unhealthy dietary patterns and inadequate physical activity. Strategy 5
- communication – raise awareness through an on-going community-wide campaign that supports the Initiative’s activities and progress towards the goal. Strategy 6
With the work based focus, Building a Healthier Polk has brought together the Polk Wellness Professionals who have put together a Worksite Wellness Toolkit for businesses to build their wellness programs. Download the Worksite Wellness Tool Kit here. They are also kicking off their year with a walk around Lake Mirror in Lakeland next Monday, January 12 at 4:30.
3. Being “trapped at work” is not an excuse.
Finally, the attendees heard from Aaryn, a master personal trainer at LA Fitness who gave tips to how you can still stay healthy at work even if getting to the gym isn’t always possible.
- If you get an hour for lunch, take 2o minutes to do this simple lunchtime exercise circuit. Or walk. Just be active.
- Prepare your food day. Bring your healthy lunch. Stock healthy snacks. Don’t allow candy jars! If you have to go out to eat, choose the smart meal options.
- Get up and stretch and take a break from looking at a screen.
- Get a support group. If you are all doing planks or squats at your desk, then it will become the norm!