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Type 2 Diabetes: The King of the Non-Communicable Diseases?

Posted By Colin Bullen, Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Type 2 Diabetes: The King of the Non-Communicable Diseases?

Wreaking Havoc with your Health

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body's cells doesn’t react to insulin. This means glucose stays in the blood rather than being used as fuel for energy. The body stores the excess in little bundles called glycogen in the liver and muscles, which partly explains why type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity. 

Diabetes is diagnosed when fasting glucose levels reach 126mg/dL, but risk increases once people reach 100 mg/dL, at which point they are classified as ‘prediabetic’. The way the body processes glucose is important to understand because high levels of glucose in the blood over extended periods can cause significant health problems, notably with eyes, the heart and nerves.   


The King of the Non-Communicable Diseases

Type 2 diabetes might justifiably be regarded the king of the non-communicable diseases – the class of diseases most affected by the behaviors we practice on a day-to-day basis. In 1990, the percentage of Americans diagnosed with diabetes (type 1 and type 2) was 2.5% of the population. By 2015, this had risen to 7.4%, a nearly threefold increase driven entirely by type 2. Given that undiagnosed diabetes is common, current estimates predict that around 9.4% of the population (30 million Americans) has diabetes, 90-95% of whom have type 2. 

This dramatic spike in prevalence has resulted in some rather alarming predictions of future prognosis, with publications in some reputable journals suggesting that the current prevalence figures could double, or even triple, by 2050 - 2060.  In contrast, more recent publications suggest that prevalence and new diagnoses of diabetes have started to stabilize, as seen in the illustration below. Whether prevalence of diabetes increases or stabilizes, diabetes has a negative impact on a large part of the population, including serious health consequences.

To improve diagnostic accuracy and provide more useful information to sufferers, classic diagnostic tests, like the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) and AIC tests (whic measures average blood sugar for the previous two to three months), are being replaced by continuous monitoring devices like the Freestyle Libre. This type of glucose monitoring is useful for patients wanting to monitor their glucose levels on an ongoing basis, to help preempt and avoid hypoglycemic shock episodes.


Making the Change:  Controlling Type 2 Diabetes Through Behavior Change

Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors – some cultures are more susceptible than others. Given that genetics are not changing rapidly, we can be confident that the increase in type 2 diabetes is almost entirely caused by our behaviors. Equivalently, it can also be controlled through behavior change. The Behavioral Research and Applied Technology Laboratory research suggests that a wide range of behavioral changes can reduce blood sugar levels and hence reduce the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes significantly. 

  • Exercise and reduced sedentary behavior (less sitting) both demonstrate 30% reductions in blood sugar levels, and diabetes prevalence. 
  • Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce blood sugar and diabetes by around 15%, while getting a good night sleep (around 7-8 hours) increases improvement in symptoms around 10%.
  • The research on healthy eating is patchy, which is partly due to the difficulty of setting up reliable experiments on eating habits and diets, as well as having to rely on people's ability to stick to prescribed dietary regimes. However, we have seen strong empirical evidence supporting the impact of the ketogenic diet, for instance, in controlling blood sugar levels in diabetic and prediabetic populations.

Compared to other lifestyle habits, exercise and movement have the largest impact on blood sugar levels and hence diabetes prevalence. At least one study notes that exercise benefits are best achieved through strength rather than cardio workouts, and most reveal a benefit from combinations of cardio and strength, so if you are increasing your exercise to reduce blood sugar, weights should be included in your workout. Two minutes of activity every 20 minutes reduces sedentary behavior, which in turn improves glycemic control. Although physicians recommend that exercise should still be combined with drug therapy, clinical trials confirm that exercise has the potential to be at least as effective at controlling blood sugar as medicines – and with pleasant rather than unpleasant side effects. 

Reducing the Cost and Suffering

Diabetes is a costly disease, both in terms of the medical cost and in terms of the human suffering. Organizations looking to change the health risk profile of their employee populations would do well to address this risk. Based on US population data, it’s likely that more than 60% of the diabetic population are not exercising. If the finding is that prevalence can be reduced by 30% through exercise, this would suggest that a reduction of at least 2% in diabetes prevalence is achievable in a typical US population just through changing exercise behavior. We believe that a comprehensive healthy behavior change program will have an even greater impact. 

Setting up a change-ready environment that allows employees to adopt healthier behaviors regarding exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness, and sleep hygiene will result in significant improvements in an organization’s health risk profile. The cost and productivity benefits will manifest over time and can be accurately predicted. Any organization looking to evaluate the impact of investing in these changes or wanting to understand more about how to create healthy and change-ready cultures should contact Change Craft on hello@changecraft.consulting.

Colin BullenColin Bullen is the founder and director of Change Craft, a global business established to help organisations execute effective and successful wellbeing change. In business, he’s the technician, evaluator, and strategist. A true road-less-traveled devotee, he qualified as an actuary in 1992 in the UK before spending 13 years in South Africa where he met Chicago-based business partner Hanlie van Wyk. During this time, he has steadily broadened his métier into health, well-being, leadership, strategy, assessment, and data.

Colin has a deep passion for helping companies find their human touch, whilst accelerating their performance and focusing their vision. Colin is also one of the creators of the behavioral research database that is BRATLAB and has been a driving force behind early successes in Change Craft. 

Tags:  Change Craft  Diabetes  Disease  Health  type 2 diabetes 

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Wellness Without Borders: A roundtable discussion at the Tourism Naturally Conference 2019

Posted By Louise Buxton and Dr. Charles Spring, Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Louise Buxton (VP NWI UK) and Dr Charles Spring (Secretary NWI UK)
Senior Lecturers in Spa and Wellness Management, University of Derby, United Kingdom

Wellness Without BordersThe third annual Tourism Naturally Conference took place in Buxton, United Kingdom (UK) on the 4th to 6th of June 2019, bringing together over one hundred delegates from thirty countries.  Surrounded by the Peak District National Park, Buxton a leading spa town, provided an ideal backdrop for conversations regarding the conference’s key themes of tourism, health, wellbeing and sustainability.  

Within the conference, a roundtable discussion was facilitated by Dr Charles Spring and Louise Buxton, both Senior Lecturers in Spa and Wellness Management at the University of Derby, that brought together people with an interest in wellness from around the globe.  The discussion was attended by National Wellness Institute members Chris Andrews (UK Representative NWI International Standing Committee, President NWI UK) and John Brazier (Treasurer NWI UK), as well as delegates from countries including: Austria, Finland, France, Greece, Lithuania, Spain, UK and the United States of America.  The session aimed to share cross-cultural experiences with the concept of wellness and allow participants to explore wellness challenges and opportunities from a range of contexts.  Furthermore, the session provided opportunities for participants to make connections and develop understandings relevant to the wellness industry. 

Following introductions from the delegates, the first question posed was “What is difference between wellness and wellbeing?”.  This led to an interesting debate about the origin of both terms, their use of academic and marketing literature and how they can mean different things in different contexts.   Delegates were then asked what opportunities they foresaw in relation to wellness and many people talked about the fantastic opportunities practitioners and businesses are given has increased recognition of wellness globally.  Challenges in relation to wellness were also discussed and these ranged from: the red tape faced in many countries for simple wellness activities, such as taking children to forest schools, to the dichotomy of the use of technology and its potential positive and negative impacts on wellbeing.  The session concluded by asking delegates what they would like from a formal wellness network and the word cloud below shows the responses received, with collaboration being the overarching theme. 

The next Tourism Naturally Conference is planned for May 2020 and will take place in Bavaria, Germany. To find out more please visit the Tourism Naturally Conference website. or contact Louise Buxton l.c.buxton@derby.ac.uk or Dr Charles Spring c.spring@derby.ac.uk

Louise BuxtonLouise Buxton: Senior Lecturer in Spa and Wellness Management, University of Derby UK; Vice- President NWI UK
Starting her career as a beauty therapist, Louise went on to study management, education and coaching, and mentoring at university.  Louise is currently studying for a PhD exploring the factors which contribute to memorable guest experiences in destination spas. Louise led the team who validated the first degree in Wellness Management in the UK.  In all aspects of her work, Louise has a passion for lifelong learning and helping people to reach their full potential.  
Dr. Charles SpringDr Charles Spring: Senior Lecturer in spa and Wellness Management, University of Derby, UK; Secretary NWI UK
Charles’ research has recently been focussed in the area of wellness around the area of physical activity and especially using interventions with people with varying degrees of ability. Current lecturing duties in spa and wellness management include specialisms in management areas around business development and entrepreneurship and contemporary issues within the discipline area. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Tags:  Health  International Wellness  Sustainability  Tourism  Wellbeing 

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Can anyone run a marathon?

Posted By NWI, Thursday, January 18, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

From physicians to running experts alike, you’ll hear different answers to this question. Even a simple Google search will yield article results titled “26 reasons not to run a marathon”. If you determined completing a marathon would be one of your New Year’s resolutions, it can be discouraging to see articles that tell you to reconsider your decision.

Prior to signing up for a race, the biggest thing to remember is that most people who complete marathons have been running for several years and have gradually prepared themselves to complete the hefty distance of 26.2 miles. For many of us, we like to challenge ourselves to do something great, and completing a marathon may be just what we are looking for.  

So, what do many runner’s ability to finish come down to?  Genetics.  A recent study found that athletes who have a certain genetic makeup can complete marathons with lower levels of muscle deterioration than others. What this article found was that runners who had a higher genetic rating had lower levels of creatine kinase and myoglobin in their blood, which resulted in less damage to their muscle fibers. 

If you’ve been running longer distances for a few months now, you may be able to assume which genetic makeup you hold. The only sure way to tell, however, is to have further testing completed. Regardless of your genetics, if you still desire to run a marathon, with the proper training, chances are, you will be able to do it.

If you are looking to get started on your training and have already received the green light from your doctor, it’s time to start researching different plans. Listed below are some of the most commonly used plans, in no specific order. 

Remember, the first step to getting started comes from having the desire to complete a marathon. Once you have weighed your options and gotten the proper clearance from your doctor, choose what type of training will be right for you.

Tags:  Health  marathon  running 

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Alcohol is Officially a Cancer Risk

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, January 3, 2018

For the first time, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is recognizing that alcohol consumption is linked to an increase in cancer risk.  According to the ASCO, “even modest use of alcohol may increase cancer risk, but the greatest risks are observed with heavy, long-term use”.

Authors of the study agree that defining the amount of liquor that would constitute “risky” drinking is difficult based off the varying amounts of ethanol in each type of alcohol in addition to the amount consumed by individuals. The daily recommended allowance of alcohol from The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and US Department of Health and Human Services is still set at one to two standard drinks per day for men and one standard drink per day for women.

There is likely to be some confusion surrounding these findings due to conflicting research which indicates that in moderation, alcohol can have some health benefits. Despite efforts from both sides, this will likely be a big barrier when trying to offer education on this topic. In areas where alcohol consumption is quite high, offering education may fall on deaf ears.

Ultimately, the ASCO isn’t encouraging people not to drink, they are informing everyone that if they want to decrease their risk of cancer, they should limit their alcohol consumption.  Specifically, the cancers that alcohol is causally linked to are oropharyngeal and laryngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer. 

The bottom line is, if you want to reduce your risk for developing some types of cancer, limit your alcohol intake. As with most health-related items, use your discretion to consume alcohol in moderation. 

Tags:  alcohol  cancer  health 

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Wellness in 10 - Ten Tips for Remaining Healthy This Winter

Posted By NWI, Monday, December 18, 2017

December is upon us which means we have hit one of the busiest times of the year. Although this month is filled with exciting events, most of us can’t deny that sometimes our wellness falls to the bottom of our priority list. To help you combat some of the urges to stay inside or indulge in savory foods, use the tips below to help you remain healthy during this time of year.  


  1. Don’t skip meals: We’ve all been here before. Skipping meals seems like a good way to save on calories, however when you do this, you are more likely to eat faster and in larger amounts. If you do want to save yourself some calories, stick to eating small, healthy snacks throughout the day.   
  2. Eat mindfully: Instead of diving into your meals, focus on how delicious the food tastes and take conscious bites. This will ensure you don’t overeat and as a bonus, you really get to enjoy your food! 
  3. Eat until you are full: If you want to save space for a dessert or just avoid the uncomfortable feeling that comes with eating too much, pay attention to how much you are eating and don’t go back for second helpings.  
  4. Eat food from a smaller plate: This old trick is a great way to ensure you don’t overeat while feeling like you’re getting your plate (and stomach!) full.  
  5. Know general portion sizes: Believe it or not, you can eyeball most portions and know whether you’re meeting the recommendations- no food scale required, we promise! Below are some common portion size comparisons you can use. 
  1. Meat: A 4 oz. portion of meat, fish, or poultry is about the size of the average smartphone
  2. Cheese: Your thumb can serve as a measurement for about a 1 oz. portion of cheese
  3. Chocolate: Chocolate portions should be about 1 oz., which is about the size of a dental floss container 
  4. Nuts: Picture an egg to estimate about a ¼ cup of nuts.  

Physical Activity

  1. Stay active by scheduling time in advance: By scheduling workouts in your planner, you are more likely to stick to your workout routine.  
  2. Incorporate ways to be active in your daily routine: Plan times to walk outside, or make chores more physically active around the house.  
  3. Use web-based exercise videos: For the times that you don’t want to leave home, turn to the internet to help you find workouts you can do from the convenience of your living room.  As a bonus, you usually can find workout videos that will perfectly match the amount of time you have to spend and the type of workout you want to achieve. 
  4. Make it a family event: Find a 5k run/walk in your neighborhood that you can do with family or friends. Events such as these are fun ways to incorporate physical activity in your day while having fun with the people you love! 
  5. Walk laps in a shopping center: Pair any holiday shopping with physical activity by taking a few laps around the shopping center.  

Tags:  Health  Holidays  Nutrition  Physical Activity 

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Biometric Screening – Venipuncture versus Finger Prick (for Worksite Wellness professionals)

Posted By NWI, Friday, December 1, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, November 22, 2017

In a survey conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, it was found that 53% of large firms and 20% of small firms offering health benefits provided employees the opportunity to complete biometric screening. Many employers understand the valuable snapshot that biometric numbers can provide into an individual’s health. 

Although there’s a solid understanding of the health value, there has been some debate over what method of sampling works best. There are two options, venipuncture and finger prick. Both have benefits and drawbacks depending on what you feel is best for your program. 

biometric screening

Tags:  biometric  Health  Worksite Wellness 

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Mindfulness Improves Weight Loss

Posted By NWI, Monday, October 3, 2016

Surprising few in the wellness community, new research has found that a weight loss program that focuses on personal goals and mindful decision making is more effective than other diets that do not include mindfulness.


People in the study who used the mindful approach to weight loss averaged a loss of 13% of their initial weight, in comparison to the control group who lost an average of 5 – 8% of their initial weight. The researchers attribute this significant difference in outcome to bolstering the dieters’ abilities to resist temptation by making food choices consciously, compared to impulsively.


Find the full findings of this study in the online journal Obesity.



Tags:  health  Mindfulness  Obesity  Weight Loss  Wellness 

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Belief in Exercise Turns Into Real Benefit

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Researchers from Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg (Germany) published some astonishing findings about the effects of a positive mindset toward exercise in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine this month.  The researchers found that exercise had a stronger and more positive effect for those who believed that it would have a positive effect.


The researchers invited 76 men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 to come to their facilities to ride on stationary bicycles. A subset of this group was shown a video promoting the health benefits of stationary bike riding before taking part in the experiment. All participants were also asked whether they believed int eh positive effects of exercise. The researchers found that subjects who had either seen the video, believed in exercise, or both, displayed a better mood, enjoyed the exercise more, and reduced their anxiety more than those who did not.


Electroencephalogram (EEG) read-outs of the subjects also showed that the exercise-positive subjects were more relaxed on a neuronal level than those who were not.


The researchers did not find significant changes to the positive physical effects of exercise, but on the mental level, the power of positivity seems to have a significant impact.


To read the full study, click here.

Tags:  Belief  Exercise  Health  Mind-Body  Physical  Positivity 

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Wellness in 10: 10 Ways to Get More Summer Out of Your Summer

Posted By NWI, Monday, July 11, 2016

It almost feels like cheating, writing about how to stay active in July. The weather is warm, the days are long, and people practically vibrate with the urge to get outside.  So that’s why this month we’re going to go a step further and make some suggestions on how to maximize your time outside, so you can squeeze every bit of summer out of your summer.




1.     Pack a laptop


This one may seem obvious, but if you have the ability to take your computer outside, take it outside! Screen glare aside, it’s been shown that spending time around trees and green space makes people more calm and relaxed. Retreating to a picnic table or bench outside, even for a few minutes, can have a significant impact on your day.



2.     Camp


Want to make a commitment to being outside? Do it for a whole weekend (or more)! Many of us feel like camping can be more work than its worth, but with national forest, national parks, and campsites all over the country, there’s sure to be one near home where you can escape for a bit, and run back for supplies if you need to – or if an errant thunderstorm pops up! Here’s a nation-wide directory of campsites so you can plan where you want to go next.



3.     Walking meetings


Meetings can be super boring – nobody is going to argue that. Liven them up and get your fresh air at the same time by taking it on the road. A 30 minute meeting/walk will let you bond with your teammates while engaging your minds and getting you out from behind another Powerpoint presentation.  If it’s a phone meeting, grab your Bluetooth headset and hike while you talk. We won’t tell.



4.     Bike Commute


Commuting by bike is intimidating to a lot of people. It seems dangerous. It takes longer. What do you do when you show up to work all sweaty? The truth is that bike commuting does take more planning, like packing extra clothes and watching the weather forecast, but it’s also a fantastic way to sneak in a workout or two into a day, and – if you plan your route to avoid car traffic – can be incredibly relaxing and fun! You don’t need a ton of gear, either. A bike, a helmet, and a backpack are usually all you need to get started.  Here are some pro-tips from long-time bike commuters to help set you on the right track.



5.     Stand-Up Paddleboard


Many of us have heard of Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP for short) by now, but for those who haven’t, it’s an activity where you stand on a floating board, like a surfboard, but on still water, and you use a long-handled paddle to propel yourself forward. In addition to being fun, it also takes balance and muscle control to stay upright. It’s tough at first, but not so tough that you can’t get the hang of it. If you want a different way to explore your local lakes and streams, consider finding a SUP rental near you and giving it a shot.



6.     Row-row-row your boat


For those of you who think Paddleboarding is a bit too much to jump into, but still want to spend time on the water, consider eschewing the motorboat for a more traditional method. Rowing a boat is great exercise for your shoulders, back and core, and can be a great cardio workout. The best part about rowing, however, is that you can bring a friend along and work on your social wellness and level-up your workout at the same time!



7.     Join (or start) a kickball league


More traditional sports like volleyball have had rec leagues for ages, but some other sports like kickball are starting to come into their own. Many of us have fond memories of playing kickball at recess during elementary school. Well, it turns out the game is still just as fun as we remember. If running bases isn’t your thing, some other games that are gaining in popularity are Lightning (the basketball game – also called Elimination or Knockout), Ultimate Frisbee, and disc golf. All these games come with the fun and camaraderie of rec league sports, with only a fraction of the over-the-top competitiveness that some leagues tend to foster.



8.     Walk the (neighbor’s) dog


Want to get outside and feel good about yourself at the same time? Try volunteering for dog walking. You’ll sneak in a walk while exercising a pooch (or pooches), and someone else won’t have to do it.  Local animal shelters are always looking for volunteers for dog walking, or an elderly or infirm neighbor might appreciate having someone pitch in.



9.     Coach


Speaking of organizations who always need help – youth sports organizations often are short-handed when it comes to coaching sports of all kinds. Depending on the level of play, you probably don’t even have to be an expert in the sport to be a good coach. Have you ever seen a kindergarten soccer game? It’s often a blob of 5-year-olds chasing a ball in a circle. Even if you’re not a sports expert, you can still be a solid adult role model, a teacher of good sportsmanship, and a facilitator of love of exercise.



10.  Outdoor Enthusiasts Affinity Group


That’s just a fancy way of saying “hang out with your friends.” If your group of friends usually hangs out indoors, suggest a change of venue.  Try having your book club at the beach, game night at the park, or study group in the back yard. Just remember to bring some sunscreen and bug repellant, and your average gathering can be a breath of fresh air (literally).




Happy July to you all! If you’ve got more suggestions on how to get more summer out of your summer, leave us a comment, or reach out to us on our facebook, twitter, or LinkedIn pages.


Tags:  Biking  Coaching  health  Summer  Walking  Wellness  Worksite Wellness 

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Runners Have Different Brains. Literally

Posted By NWI, Monday, July 11, 2016

It’s been known for quite a while that the brain chemistry of people who exercise is different from the brain chemistry of people who don’t, but new findings published by the scientific journal eLife have started to explain how and why.


Scientists studied two sets of mice. One group was allowed to run. The other was not. As expected, their brain chemistries were different, but in this study, the scientists were able to identify a chemical called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF),” which promotes brain activity and growth. BDNF was found to be higher in the running mice than the non-running mice.


To better understand why, though, the scientists found the gene that is responsible for creating BDNF. BDNF was being created in both sets of mice’s brains, but in the non-running mice’s brains, a molecule was binding to the gene, preventing as much BDNF from being released.


In the running mice’s brains, ketones – a byproduct of the body burning fat for fuel – seemed to be counteracting the molecule’s ability to bind to the BDNF gene, allowing it to release more of the chemical into the brain.


The research team stated that the release of ketones in the human body only really begins after an hour of exercise, which is not feasible for many people, but not to worry – similar brain-enhancing chemistry is occurring even at lower rates of exercise. The important thing is just to keep moving.


To read the full study at eLife, click here.

Tags:  Brain Health  Brain science  Exercise  Health  Neuroscience  Running 

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