Webinar: How to Start an Engaging Wellness Program

October 19, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Webinar: How to Start An Engaging Wellness Program

Successful workplace wellness programs focus on behavior change and provide employees with the tools they need to move toward and maintain healthy behaviors. Every company has different needs and different starting points. But creating a wellness program from scratch doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

In our upcoming webinar, Cornerstone’s Director of Wellness Leah Hammel will introduce a variety of wellness solutions for employers in every category. She will also discuss the top three elements every wellness program needs to succeed.

Whether you’re interested in learning more about jump-starting a wellness program or looking for tips on how to increase engagement in your current wellness initiative, this webinar will discuss ways you can provide employees with healthier choices.

Join the discussion on Oct. 31, 2017, from 10-10:30 am. Click here to register.

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Jump Start Your Wellness Program

October 12, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Jump Start Your Wellness Progra

A thoughtfully implemented wellness program can have outstanding effects on office culture, health-related costs for employers, and ultimately the well-being of employees.

But buying a Fit Bit for every employee in your company and ordering healthy snacks for the break room once a week can add up quickly. To increase your office health and morale, you need to choose a well-rounded program that reaches every employee in your company (but that doesn’t mean it needs to be expensive).

Identify your needs and resources

Achieving a positive return on investment begins by pinpointing the wellness initiatives that will have the most impact on your employees. Use a survey to assess their current health concerns and fitness levels, as well as their goals and interests. A biometric screening will complement your survey, giving you detailed information about the aggregate health of your team.

Then, determine the resources you will allot to managing and improving your program over the next year. For wellness programs to succeed, they need the backing of the leadership team and a dedicated group of individuals who will manage the effort.

Plan your program

The team of volunteers who will run your wellness program will need to use the survey data to determine the areas of focus. These could include disease prevention, fitness, smoking cessation, nutrition education, weight loss, stress management, or behavior change.

Choosing 4-6 areas of focus at the beginning of an annual program will help the committee create a calendar.

If a high percentage of employees surveyed mentioned that stress limits their productivity at work or at home, then the wellness committee may want to select stress management as an area of focus for the quarter or the year.

Next, for each area of focus, the wellness committee will plan 2-3 events that will engage the largest number of employees depending on their interest level and time available. This may include challenges, professionally guided seminars, or community activities.

Example of a 3-month area of focus

Here is a sample of what a quarter focusing on stress management may look like:

  • Month 1: Invite a guest speaker from a local health care provider to come in to speak about stress management techniques. A lunch and learn session for each area of focus will allow employees who do not have enough interest to make changes outside of work to become more educated on the topic.
  • Month 2: Create a stress-free zone in your office space. Encourage employees to use the space for 10-minutes per day to de-stress. Sending out emails that discuss the effects of stress and 10-minute relaxation techniques will help employees to feel comfortable making the small daily change.
  • Month 3: Offer an incentive to those who participate in a stress-management schedule. Each employee will meditate for 10-minutes three times a week for the month and keep track of their progress. Once the month is complete, individuals who completed each meditation session are entered into a raffle to win a free yoga membership and yoga mat.

These examples are low-cost and can have a high impact on the stress levels of your team. If you’d like to get started, Cornerstone’s Wellness Director Leah Hammel will be a great resource. To find her contact information and more information on the wellness program, click here.

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Cornerstone’s Director of Wellness Featured in Constructor Magazine

January 14, 2017 | Leave a Comment


Leah Hammel, Cornerstone’s director of wellness, was featured in the January/February issue of Constructor Magazine, discussing why wellness is important for businesses in the construction industry. From leading by example to knowing your audience, her wellness tips are useful for any industry interested in implementing an employee wellness program.

Click here to read the full article, on pages 20-23 in Constructor Magazine’s digital issue.

If you have plans to implement a workplace wellness program at your company, please contact Leah Hammel, director of wellness, at leahh@cornerstoneinsurancegroup.com. 

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Health Tips to Survive the Holidays

December 22, 2016 | Leave a Comment



















There is food everywhere this time of year. It seems like an endless stream of culinary temptation from Halloween until Valentine’s Day – that’s almost half the year!

So how can we attack this holiday food frenzy, while still enjoying the season?

Tip 1: Be realistic.

Don’t try to lose weight during the holidays – “Maintain, don’t gain”.

Don’t plan to diet after the new year because it sets you up for binge eating. Instead of starting your diet at the New Year, use this current holiday as an opportunity to make better eating decisions NOW.

Tip 2: Keep moving.

Walk the mall. Rake leaves. Go for walks after family meals. Plan a party that involves fitness.

All exercise helps relieve stress, even a quick 10-minute walk. If you want to get the family involved, ice skating is a fun activity that can replace a daily trip to the gym.

Tips 3: Plan ahead.

Visualize your meals and plan ahead before a party so it’s easier to watch your intake and consume fewer calories.

If going in to the party, you know Aunt Edna is going to bring her famous green bean casserole, you need to plan how you can fit that into your calorie budget. You may need to miss out on pumpkin pie.

Tip 4: Don’t skip meals.

Don’t skip breakfast or lunch! Eat a healthy snack before leaving for the party. You’ll be less likely to over-indulge if you are not famished.

Consider eating veggies and hummus, deli meat and olives, or a hard-boiled egg.

Tip 5: Make ONE trip to the buffet.

A typical holiday meal contains 3,000 calories! The average person only needs 2,500 calories a DAY. So scope out the buffet before you grab a plate. Plan for what you have to have and choose reasonable portions.

It helps to move socializing away from the buffet table. Avoid arguing with Aunt Edna over a plate of cookies. It’s tempting!

Tip 6: Eat to savor, not to gorge.

Change the WAY you eat, in addition to what you eat. Eating mindfully is eat with intention and attention. It gives you permission to eat all the foods you love, slowly tasting and enjoying every bite.

You’ll be more satisfied and have less cravings. You might even change your love-hate relationship with food!

Tip 7: Don’t punish yourself.

If you do stray from your party plan and overindulge, let it go! Studies show that punishing yourself for one instance of overindulgence will set you up for a full blown tumble off the wagon. Instead, just go light on the next meal and focus on what you did right.

Compliment yourself! “Wow. I said no to a third glass of wine, just like I planned! Go me.” This will help your healthy habits stick all year.

Tip 8: Drink up.

That’s water – not eggnog, wine, or vodka. Staying well-hydrated will help you feel your best. Staying hydrated can also help you feel satiated.

If you do indulge in choleric or alcoholic drinks, be sure to have a plan.

For instance, if you plan to drink two choleric glasses of wine at a party, be sure to work in two glasses of water in between those drinks.

For more tips, and to see how many calories are in each of your favorite holiday drinks, watch the full webinar here.  

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Get Active! Brush Up on the Basics

November 18, 2016 | Leave a Comment

getting started

People of all ages benefit from physical activity. It doesn’t matter how out-of-shape you feel or how long you have been inactive – it is never too late to start aerobic activity. Simply stated, an aerobic activity is one that gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. It is also important to fit strength-building activities into your daily routine, in order to make your muscles stronger and prevent osteoporosis.

The benefits of physical activity

Exercise can help control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight; help raise your “good” cholesterol; and prevent diseases such as colorectal cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Becoming active can also:

  • Help you look your best
  • Raise self-esteem
  • Improve sleep
  • Strengthen bones, muscles and joints
  • Reduce falls and arthritis pain
  • Lower your chances of becoming depressed
  • Be fun!

How do I get started?

If you are not that active but want to get there, start by building physical activity into your life slowly. Begin at a comfortable level; once you get the hang of it, add a little more activity each time you exercise. Then, try doing it more often. Remember, any activity is better than no activity – even if you feel that you are not working out as vigorously as you should be, you are still doing your body tremendous good. Make exercise part of your daily routine; you are much more likely to keep up with activity if it becomes second nature.

What if I have health issues?

If you have a health problem, it is always a good idea to speak to your doctor about what type of activity is best for you. No matter what you may be suffering from, there is always physical activity that you can do which will benefit your health; in fact, it can be a great way to help manage type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

How much exercise do I need?

You should do aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time in order to achieve its full benefits. If you choose activities at a moderate level, such as walking fast or yard work, you should aim to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of this every week. If you choose vigorous activities, such as swimming laps, jogging or riding a bike on hills, get at least 1 hour and 15 minutes per week. Strengthening activities, such as push-ups, sit-ups, and weightlifting, should be done at least 2 days a week. Focus on your upper body one day and your lower body the next.

I am already working out 2 hours and 30 minutes every week but not seeing a difference. What am I doing wrong?

Remember that the basic principle of losing weight and/or building muscle is to burn more calories than you take in. Make sure you are following a healthy diet of plenty of vegetables, fruits, protein and whole grains. If you are eating healthy foods, try stepping up your workout routine. Choose more vigorous activities or try increasing your workout time by 30 minutes each week until you can get up to 5 hours or more.

Working out is boring. How can I make it fun?

Try incorporating things you enjoy into your workout routine. Climbing on a treadmill is not the only way to get in shape! You can take the dog for a run, swim laps, go hiking, play videogames that encourage fitness… anything that gets your heart beating faster counts as working out. Involve your family in physical activity – play Frisbee, kick around a soccer ball, build a snowman – and you will find that not only did you get a workout in, but time flew by as well.

I’m busy – I don’t have the time to work out.

“Not having the time” is the oldest excuse in the book. Everyone has time to work out. Try breaking up activity into shorter sessions of 10 minutes at a time. For example, go for a quick walk on your lunch break at work, or park far away the next time you go to the store. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Take your dog for a longer walk than usual. Carry multiple grocery bags into the house instead of one at a time. Do sit-ups or push-ups during commercial breaks while watching your favorite show. There are so many ways to incorporate extra physical activity into your day.

It’s easier to get in shape than you think. The next time you are waffling between watching television and working out, set that program to record and get out there! You will be in great shape in no time.

Source: Healthfinder.gov. For more information on how to begin a workout program, how to eat healthier, or both, visit www.healthfinder.gov, www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov or www.cdc.gov.

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Biggest Loser a Loser?

May 24, 2016 | Leave a Comment

Several clients have emailed in regards to the New York Times “Biggest Loser” article.  If you are unfamiliar with the article, you can check it out here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser-weight-loss.html 

Most of the concerns were asking my input on the article and if the ever popular “Biggest Loser Challenge” in the workplace is safe and a still good idea.  Having the opportunity to personal train actual Biggest Loser contestants in the early episodes once they were kicked off the show and eligible for the second place prize, I have plenty to say about the article.

Let me first begin by addressing, challenges within the workplace, I think Biggest Loser Challenges can be fun and safe.  Some key things to keep in mind are:

  • Educate employees on healthy weight loss (I’m available for seminars and webinars to help with this)
  • Have employees sign a waiver. Some people can get a little too competitive so even with the encouragement of a healthy weight loss challenge, having a waiver signed is still a good idea to cover all bases
  • Don’t run the challenge too long where employees burn out, but not too short where people crash diet.  Aim for an 8-12 week time frame
  • Don’t make the incentive prize too large.  This is where I see issues with employees going to extreme lengths to lose weight.

My last point brings me to the article.  We have to remember the Biggest Loser show is Reality TV; TV being the key word.  It’s great the show has motivated thousands of people over the years to lose weight, however, thousands have also been discouraged when we can’t seem to achieve the same results contestants do on TV.  With $250,000 at stake, contestants are willing to do whatever it takes to win the prize money. To win the money, you have to lose the most weight.  It does not matter if that weight is fat mass or lean body mass (muscle mass).  

To make sure we are all on the same page, muscle does not weigh more than fat as many still believe.  A pound is a pound; muscle is denser and takes up less space than fat.  Muscle is also more metabolically active meaning it burns more calories than fat, which yes, is a good thing in real life. On TV, this does not matter, pounds are the only thing that matter on the show and it doesn’t matter if those are fat pounds or muscle pounds lost.  In the real world, a good trainer or nutritionist/dietitian would hopefully never try to pull muscle off your body.  When $250,000 are at stake and the nation is watching, this goes out the window.  I’m embarrassed to say, I know this first hand.  One contestant I worked with was a former collegiate football player.  He had a ton of muscle mass and yes obviously plenty of fat mass too.   We did everything we could to break down his muscle mass along with his fat mass to get him to shed any amount of weight possible.   

Let’s dig into the actual research article that was used for the New York Times magazine article:   

  • Not once in the article is it mentioned only 14 contestants participated in the research study.  14 is a small sample size considering the show has aired for almost 12 years.
  • RMR (resting metabolic rate) can be lower or higher depending on if a person is currently restricting calories or eating in a surplus.  If participants knew they were going to be weighed for the study they were probably actively trying to lose weight for the weigh-in, thus resulting in a lower RMR at the specific point in time.
  • NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) or physical activity usually shows greater decreases than RMR and in the study there were no changes reported to actual physical activity. Physical activity actually went up and RMR went down.  Again, leading towards the idea that participants were probably trying to lose some weight before they had to weigh in.
  • At the end of the day, total energy expenditure is what matters, not the resting metabolic rate which was measured at one point in time.
  • The study also did not specify if contestants weighed themselves, if they were clothed, etc.  So there could be a lot of variation in numbers if contestants were given a scale and just told to ‘weigh-in’ at home.

The contestants on the show lost a lot of weight and many times in unhealthy ways because it’s reality TV.  Of course, some of them put weight back on after the show because contestants were most likely not educated correctly on proper and healthy weight loss.  While the article was not a bad research article, it left out some important details.  Even more importantly, the New York Times article really only gave us half the truth.  There are plenty of people who have lost a lot of weight and kept it off.  Don’t become discouraged on your workplace competitions because of one article, just make sure you are providing employees with education and resources on how to healthfully lose weight.


 written by: Gina Starnes, The Cornerstone Insurance Group, Total Wellness Director


Aragon, A.  AARR: Alan Aragon’s Research Review. 2016 April 1.

Fothergill E, et al. Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after The Biggest Loser competition.  2016 May 2.

Posted in Blog, Wellness

Worksite Wellness: Overcoming Employee Resistance

April 06, 2016 | Leave a Comment

Despite an employer’s best efforts and intentions to offer a wellness program, employees often times have different perceptions about the employer’s role in their personal health and well-being. Where does an employer begin to overcome resistance they may face?

  • Find out what your employees value. Health is a personal issue and by offering a program that fits the needs and preferences of your employees will likely help drive participation and engagement. Health interest surveys are easy to administer and a good place to start.
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate… and then communicate some more! It’s important to introduce a program or initiative using a variety of different communication strategies and styles. We all learn and process information differently. Use a variety of communication strategies and communicate often in order to help drive participation and facilitate learning.
  • Build Trust. Work towards building trust with your employees to overcome some of the obstacles of the program. This will help to connect with employees on a more personal level. This not only will help drive participation, but will assist in developing a cultural environment where employees are motivated to embrace the program and healthy habits.
  • Focus on Positivity. You want employees to perceive the wellness program as something you are doing for and with them, not something you are doing to them. The carrot approach, where employees see the good intentions of a program will help increase participation and strengthen the overall culture of the organization.
  • Target your wellness champions. Employees who already embrace health and wellness can help in cultivating the culture of wellness by creating a positive social atmosphere for the program. Utilize these people to help plan and promote the program to increase employee interest in the wellness program.
  • Get Senior Level Management on board. Organization leaders need to model the behaviors they want to see from employees. Research shows that leaders who are on board with the health and wellness program are the most important factor in motivating employees. Without management on board, it will be difficult to build the trust in the program and will enforce any negative beliefs from resistant employees. Management drives the culture of the organization and without management on board, even the best programs will have a small chance of success.

While many of the challenges we face within an organization may be similar as it pertains to building a healthy workforces, there is no one size fits all approach to a worksite wellness program. The roadmap to achieving a healthy workforce doesn’t happen overnight, it requires time, planning, evaluation and support from everyone within the organization.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Wellness

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

November 07, 2014 | Leave a Comment

Diabetes affects 26 million Americans, with 19 million people diagnosed and 7 million undiagnosed. An estimated 79 million American adults aged 20 years or older have prediabetes, which puts them at high risk for developing the disease.

Three types of diabetes

Type 1:
Is commonly diagnosed in children and young adults. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body not producing insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. Only five to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1.

Type 2:
Is the most common form of the disease. Those with type 2 diabetes can’t produce enough insulin or the body’s cells ignore the insulin.

Gestational diabetes:
Can develop around the 28th week of pregnancy in some women. Gestational diabetes starts when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy. Glucose builds up in the blood to high levels. It doesn’t necessarily mean the woman has, or will develop diabetes, but does require attention during pregnancy.

This November, during National Diabetes Month, ask yourself if you’re at risk for diabetes and take steps to prevent it.

Source: Coventry LivingWell Magazine: Type Casting

Posted in Benefits, Wellness

Wellness Webinar Highlights

October 08, 2014 | Leave a Comment

In a study by Kaiser Family Foundation, about 94% of employers with over 200 employees are offering some type of a wellness program.  Wellness  is an ongoing trend among companies of all sizes.  The pursuit for innovative ways to keep employees engaged in wellness programs is more important than ever before. Ten years ago, wellness was trying to throw mud up against a wall by doing one program and calling it a wellness program hoping it worked.  Today we have a better-rounded plan to measure ROI, participation and outcomes.   A few highlights from our recent webinar, discussed some of the trends shaping the wellness industry today:

Health Care Reform and Employer Evolution

  • Employers are taking advantage of the ACA provisions by encouraging preventive services and increasing their incentives.  The maximum reward value for a health contingent wellness plan is 30% and an additional 20% for tobacco cessation (a totality of 50%).  Any amount up to those maximums is permissible.
  • More employers are moving to a health contingent outcomes-based program, where the reward is contingent on attaining or maintaining a specific health outcome.

Lifestyle Management

  • Mental Health – Job stress is estimated to cost the US industry more than $300 billion per year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity and medical, legal and insurance costs.  It is important for companies and their managers to treat workplace stress like any other work-related hazard by taking an active stance to prevent and manage it.
  • Mindfulness – essentially means moment-to-moment awareness.  The Huffington post describes mindfulness as ‘not a trend, but a movement’ as more companies are seeing the benefits  of teaching  employees how to become aware of their thoughts and feelings and not living on ‘autopilot’  Google now incorporates mindfulness into their “Search Inside Yourself” training.
  • Financial Wellness – just like physical health, financial wellbeing affects all aspects of one’s life.  When an employee doesn’t have control over their financial wellbeing, it can cause issues not only in their family life, but spill over into work life and overall physical health.  There are a variety of resources out there, but a good starting place is leveraging your EAP to see what services they may offer.
  • Redesigning workspaces – On average we sit 9.3 hours per day and more research is coming out about the negative health effects of sitting.  Companies are rethinking office  design by integrating physical fitness into daily work activities through standing or treadmill work stations, walking meetings and more ergonomically designed workstations

Technology Innovations

  • It is estimated that in about five years everything will be measured.  More employers are offering health technologies such wearable fitness trackers, mobile fitness apps, blood pressure devices, heart rate monitors and more.  It appears there will be a bright future for devices that can monitor chronic diseases and spur people to help make healthy choices.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Health Care Reform Info, Human Resources, Wellness

How to Launch a Wellness Program

January 21, 2014 | 1 Comment

How to Launch a Wellness Program

Approximately, 80% of the US population is in the workforce or linked through family relationships/retirement putting employers in a key role for health and wellness issues. People spend the majority of their week at the workplace, making the worksite and excellent place to conduct a wellness program. Launching a worksite wellness program doesn’t always mean spending large amounts of money by installing fitness facilities and hiring an on-site wellness coach. However, in order to launch a successful wellness program there are some key steps and planning required. Read More »

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Wellness