Winter Wellness

We had a great webinar yesterday focusing on mental health through the winter and holiday seasons. A big thanks to Dr. Ryan Niehus, from MSU Counseling and Psychological Services, for sharing some awesome knowledge and advice with us.

Dr. Niehus also shared some online resources at the end of the webinar, including unique resources for Montanans.  Here is that list again:

And if you missed our webinar, here it is! Give it a watch when you have a chance!

Be Well!


February is American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, and the American Heart Association (AHA) has some great new resources to help us check in and reconnect with that ever-so-important organ that gives us life every single second.

First, a reminder of the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7: Seven simple health & behavior factors that impact the health of your heart, and by correlation, your overall health.

  • Don’t Smoke, or Stop Smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Manage blood pressure
  • Take care of cholesterol
  • Keep blood sugar, or glucose, at healthy levels

Here at MUS Wellness, our message is certainly aligned with these goals, and our annual Wellchecks help you stay connected to many of these factors. In fact, our Spring Wellchecks are just getting started, and you can register for yours by clicking the big orange button right on Montana Moves & Meals homepage!

Want to do a quick heart health assessment?  The AHA has a nifty online quiz that only takes a couple of minutes, and will give you some helpful feedback and suggestions regarding your heart health. To take the quiz, click on the link below.

My Life Check

Finally, here’s a nice AHA infographic that gives some detail about the Life’s Simple 7 and the AHA 2020 Impact goal, a vision of improved American cardiovascular health by 2020. Yes, we can. 🙂

Happy Heart Month!


A Blizzard of Success

In keeping with our traditions, here at MUS Wellness we end the year by asking you to share your health and wellness success stories with us. And as usual, you did not disappoint! We’re still pouring over the hundreds of stories you sent us, big and small, and we’ll be sharing many of those with you over the next several weeks!

We’re going to start today with a blizzard of awesome success story snipits for this cold, snowy day! Enjoy!

  • When I first entered into the program I wanted to focus on losing weight, feeling healthy, and getting into better shape. Little did I know that by going through this experience I (with the help of many) would be crafting a better version of myself for the future. —A.S. Bozeman
  • My food choices have changed since my time in [the wellness program]…I eat more veggies, take smaller portions, and eat breakfast more often. I lost 20 lbs, felt my core become stronger, and have had less lower back pain since I have focused on my health…Hell, I even bought KALE last week!  —E.G. Billings
  • I am 15 to 20 pounds lighter than I was three years ago.  With the encouragement and determination of two co-workers I have become a person craving and enjoying regular, energetic walks.  We walk each workday afternoon for 40 minutes.  —Pam
  • I find that when I participate in a challenge and keep track of it every day, it soon becomes a habit that stays with me even when the challenge is over. —D.C. Bozeman
  • As I get older, living a healthy lifestyle is more and more important. I thought a lot this year about how I wanted to live my life and I choose to be healthy and happy! I decided to take 2 separate vacations this year. Both included hiking with friends in Jasper and Banff National Parks and in Glacier National Park. I trained for these trips and before I went was averaging 6 miles a day hiking and trail running. The trips were such a motivation to get me out and exercising in nature which is my favorite place to be. The longest hike on the the trip was a 18.5 mile loop and I crushed it!  —L.M. 
  • I’ve increased my steps. Most days are over 15000 as compared to 10000 last year.  I have increased my intake of vegetables.  Through the various workshops on nutrition I have found useful ways to prepare and enjoy vegetables.  During Halloween I wasn’t tempted by the candy that I had for the trick-or-treaters.  I have started trying to encourage my co-workers to try and be more healthy.  Some of them have been going with me during the day for a walk.   —J.G. Missoula

So awesome. Multiply by hundreds! We have much more to share! Until then, enjoy the weekend and stay warm!

Your Wellness Team

Happy Friday, here’s some awesome news!

2016 has not been the most uplifting year as far as the national/world news cycle goes.

But this month, we read some news that, for health professionals in the state of Montana, made our hearts leap for joy. Am I exaggerating here? No…seriously, my heart leapt for joy in my chest. I’m still beaming about this a couple of weeks later.

So what’s this big news?

The adult obesity rate in four states, including Montana, went down this year!

(If this were a text message, I would string together a bunch of exuberant emoji’s at this point, including the explosion and the birthday party one. Are you feeling my enthusiasm?)

This is big time, amazing news. For the past three decades, the adult obesity rate has done nothing but skyrocket at an alarming rate across our country. This is really the first report that we are beginning to slow, or in the case of Montana, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio, even reverse the trend.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Obesity remains arguably the biggest threat to our national health and a primary driver of our ever-increasing health care costs. But news like this shows that our national bad health crisis isn’t a foregone conclusion. It’s a matter of how we live and the choices we make day-in and day-out. Doom and gloom it seems, are reversible.

So Montana, way to go! We are an anomaly. We are bucking the trend! We’ve also moved from the 11th least obese state, to number 4, in the last five years. Only Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington D.C. have lower obesity rates. This is awesome.

For more details, and to read full reports about the #stateofobesity in the U.S. and Montana, check out these links.

Neal 🙂


Shared Success

As we’ve mentioned before, we were overwhelmed with your Wellness Stories last month—every one of them amazing! While we’d like to share more of them in their entirety, there’s just so many! So in addition to continuing to share some of the full stories, we thought it would be fun to highlight some comments that stood out to us within your stories, and that you will hopefully find both enlightening and encouraging. Enjoy these snippets!

  • With the support of my husband, I have been able to carve out an hour or two an evening to go to the gym…I feel better, as in, I have more energy, I am more flexible, and I have started teaching a class as well.  I encourage everyone who is thinking of making a change to do so…You have to make yourself make time for you.  J.F. –Billings
  • I wanted to lose the weight in a sustainable fashion – I kept a journal on what triggered my eating, I read a lot on nutrition and health, and it took a long time – a really long time – to modify my diet to where I didn’t feel like I was dieting. It took about a year to actually start losing weight, but I’ve comfortably lost 20 pounds and I know I’m doing it slowly, steadily, and in a way that I can maintain it. I know I’ve learned a lot about stress management and nutrition in the process. Doing smaller things on a continuous basis has helped me get back to a better life balance, rather than forcing myself into some kind of a fad diet for short-term results. It was very frustrating, because it took so long to get started, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I’m in a place where I know I can maintain this balance and keep comfortably losing weight. S.G. –Missoula
  • Because of the physical demands of being in the outdoors, I am trying to get in a regular routine of exercises using a kettle bell and body weight exercises.  Couple this with the feedback provided from my Take Control coach I believe that 2015 will be a good year! R.B. –Bozeman
  • I will continue to build on my success by staying focused on the value and benefit of self-discipline. In taking care of self, I add value and benefit to my own life and living and that of others.  R.D. —Dillon
  • Decided this was the year to turn around too many years of poor eating and exercise habits. I’ve lost 62 pounds. W.M.  –Bozeman
  • Since I started making time to increase my activity and do video workouts at home I have noticed an increase in energy and alertness…This motivates me to keep going and eat better with home cooked meals…I look forward to keeping up the momentum and see the results of my work. N.R.  –Dillon
  • In the end, I realized that exercise is not easy, and rewards (although very sweet) sometimes don’t come quick.  I also learned that you have to push yourself when you plateau.  But more importantly, I learned that – even with major life events taking place – my fitness and health have to continue to be my priority.  M.B. –Missoula

State Champs!


BIG BIG Congratulations to our “Montana Bikes” Wellness Team who participated in the National Bike Challenge from May through September.  Our 37 riders from across the state logged over 17,000 miles!  To put that in perspective, if there were an east/west road that circumnavigated the world from Montana, our team collectively would’ve ridden that road all the way around and back to the treasure state!  That effort was good enough to be the top team in the state.  WooHoo!  We plan on doing the NBC again next year, so think about riding along.  It’s that chance you always wanted to be part of a championship team!

A 17,000 mile ride along the 44th parallel.  Sounds fun, right?
A 17,000 mile ride along the 44th parallel. Sounds fun, right?

As long as we’re talking about winners, here are our Montana Moves and Montana Meals COTM winners for September:

Darcy Tickner from Bozeman won a salad dressing shaker and garlic press from Montana Meals.

Lisa Stevenson from Bozeman won our Montana Moves drawing for playing Back-to-School Bingo.  Thanks to everyone who participated, and be sure to check out our October challenge for your chance to win!

This month’s goodie bag from Montana Moves!
Neal with our September winner, Lisa. Congrats!

Cristin’s Six Nutritional Tenets Webinar

Montana Meals

When MUS Wellness launched our Montana Moves and Meals program last fall, Cristin and I decided to begin by writing out our respective exercise and nutrition philosophies.  When I read her “Six Tenets” for the first time, I thought, “these are really good, and really simple.”  I believe that if everyone tried to follow these eating strategies (Cristin says they’re not rules), we would have a much better baseline of health in our country.  For those of you confused by either too little or too much nutrition advice, I think these guidelines are a great place to start.  You’ll find many opportunities to practice healthy and happy eating within the Six Tenets.  If you missed the webinar, click on the link below to check it out!


Click Here to Register!

Top 10 Reasons to Commute by Bike!

May is National Bicycle Month, and this week has been National Bike to Work Week.  Blessed with super-nice Montana May weather, Cristin and I are a perfect 4 for 4 in commuting to work via bicycle this week.  Going to go for five in a row tomorrow!  I was inspired this morning during my commute to come up with a “Top 10” list.  So here it is:

The Top 10 Reasons to Commute to Work via Bicycle.

10.  For one week a year, I get free coffee.

Many local businesses participate in National Bike Month and National Bike to Work week. Here I am enjoying a free ‘Cup of Joe’ at the Sola Cafe.

9.  Time

  • In some cases, depending on how far you live from work, traffic patterns, and your parking situation, it’s often quicker to ride.  I love it when I get to bypass traffic, not  have to search for a parking spot, and roll right up to my building.

8.  Money

  • The U.S. could save 462 million gallons of gasoline per year by increasing cycling from 1% to 1.5% of all trips (Source:  Trek Bicycles).  Multiply that by $3.40 per gallon.  That’s a lot of coin!  What will you do with all that money you’re not spending on gas?

7.  You get to be outside, in Montana

  • I don’t feel like I need to elaborate much on this one.  (At least from May-September!)

6.  Emissions

  • 60% of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively, and 40% of all automobile trips are within two miles of the home. (Source:  Trek Bicycles).  The only thing that bicycling burns is fat.  26,000 people across the country taking part in the National Bike Challenge have already saved 631,000 pounds of CO2 emissions in just two weeks of riding.  Our MUS Wellness Team is responsible for saving 455 pounds of auto emissions so far!  Way to go Team!

5.  It gives you a great excuse to roll your pant legs up to reveal your super cool socks

Rockin' my Space Invader socks for the morning commute.
Rockin’ my Space Invader socks for the morning commute.

4.  It’s good for your brain

  • More and more research links exercise to improved cognitive function.  If you want to think better, move more.  Case-in-point:  I thought of this blog post on my ride in.

3.  Weight Loss

  • The average person loses 13 pounds their first year of commuting by bike. Wow! (Source:  Trek Bicycles)  That’s because riding at a moderate pace burns around 500 calories per hour.


2.  Better Overall Health/Reduced Health Risks

  • Just three hours of bicycling per week can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%.  (Source:  Trek Bicycles).  Reminder:  Heart Disease is the Number 1 killer in the U.S.

And the Number 1 reason to commute by Bicycle:  It’s Fun!

  • Remember when you learned to ride as a kid?  Remember the thrill of movement and the freedom to go anywhere?  It’s still there!  Biking is Fun!

Montana Moves wishes you Happy Bike Month and safe travels!  Ride aware, wear your helmet, and have fun!

Happy riding,