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INSPIRE TO MOVE - Keep Moving this Holiday Season!
NOURISHING YOU - Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and Bananas
HEALTHY HARMONY - The Hearts that We Touch, and the Care that We Show
GOOD DECISIONS - Seasonal Flu Shot
EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Interview with UI Stride Walktober Individual & Team Winners

Feedback - SOWellness@uillinois.edu
The System Office Wellness Committee strives to cite relevant information from reputable sources. Employees should always consult with their physician before making any kind of health decision or change.

INSPIRE TO MOVE - Keep Moving this Holiday Season!
Photo Credit: Freestocks Unsplash - gift boxes 

By Colleen Crawford
In the season of giving, it is easy to leave one important person off your list – yourself! Give yourself the gift of good health this month with a consistent movement routine! Keeping your wellness as a priority this time of year will be a gift to your loved ones as you will all reap the benefits of a healthy body, relaxed mind, and cheerful mood. 

As the end of the year closes in and the weather turns cold, how do you make time for movement? It may be helpful to block time off on your calendar as you would for any other important appointment. Putting this tip into practice not only ensures that you have the time to exercise (whether it’s five minutes or 60) built into your day, but also spotlights the importance of your wellbeing. Some people have success with setting an alarm throughout the day signaling that it’s time to get up and move for a few minutes. This can be especially helpful for those who work at a desk and tend to work for hours without leaving their chair. There are a lot of resources that can help remind you to get up and move. Check out this list of 17 smartphone apps that may encourage you to move more. You might benefit from finding one that best works for you.

For those who thrive on a little competition, consider challenging friends or family members to keep up with you this holiday season. A simple spreadsheet can track the progress of each challenge member and can be easily customized to suit the goals of your group. You could also use a free app, such as Stridekick, to track activity via your phone, wearable device, or even manual entry, and invite family and friends to compete in a challenge of your choosing. The accountability of sharing your daily activity with a group is a great way to push yourself and offers the added bonus of keeping in touch with people you care about. Your encouragement could be the perfect gift!

If you’re someone who has yet to discover joy in movement – keep trying new activities! And remember that your mindset can be a powerful tool in developing a movement routine you will enjoy. Switching your perspective from “I HAVE to exercise” to “I feel GOOD when I exercise” can be a pivotal step in your wellness journey. You can also get creative with holiday-themed goals to keep things interesting.  For example, you can challenge yourself to get up and dance every time your favorite holiday song comes on or do 10 squats each time you receive a holiday card in the mail. The possibilities are endless, and most importantly, they can be FUN! 

In staying active this month, your greatest gift to yourself will be moving into the New Year with the momentum to continue on the path of wellness into 2021.

 Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and Bananas with link to recipe - image by unsplash

Recipe by Leana Coffey
Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Serves 6

Are you looking for something different for breakfast? I love oatmeal, so this heart-healthy baked oatmeal recipe was the perfect choice to get me out of my rut of having the same thing every morning. The sweet bananas and tangy blueberries combined with the cinnamon and walnuts is pure heaven. Substitute your favorite nuts and fruit such as almonds, strawberries or pears. You could also use frozen fruit; just be sure to defrost it first. This recipe is a great left-over option; simply pop it into the microwave for 15-30 seconds. You can easily make this recipe dairy-free by using another type of milk, such as almond milk or you can reduce the honey to decrease a few carbs. Enjoy!


  • 2 medium ripe bananas sliced into half-inch pieces
  • 1½ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup honey or agave
  • 1 cup uncooked quick oats (check labels for gluten-free)
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup fat-free milk, or any milk you desire
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray an 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Arrange the banana slices in a single layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle half of the blueberries over the bananas, ¼ tsp of the cinnamon, 1 tbsp of the honey and cover with foil.
  3. Bake 15 minutes until the bananas are soft.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the oats, half the walnuts, baking powder, remaining cinnamon, and salt; stir together.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining honey, milk, egg, and vanilla extract.
  6. Remove the bananas from the oven, then pour the oat mixture over the bananas and blueberries.
  7. Pour the milk mixture over the oats, making sure to distribute the mixture as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries and walnuts over the top.
  8. Bake the oatmeal for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the oatmeal has set. Serve warm from the oven.

Nutrition Information: (serving size 1/6th) Calories 211 | Carbs 38g | Fat 6g | Protein 6g

HEALTHY HARMONY - The Hearts that We Touch, and the Care that We Show
Photo Credit: Ameen Fahmy of Unsplash - Flower 

By Jackie Billhymer
I watched a holiday movie with my son recently that involved a duck and his three nephews, and I heard a line in the movie that dinged like a bell as soon as I heard it. The holidays are not “about candy canes, or lights all aglow. It’s the hearts that we touch, and the care that we show.” 1 Over the last nine months, we have had to be more creative with how we engage with the ones we love. Gift giving may be different this year. You may not be rushing out to find that perfect gift in a crowd of other shoppers. Maybe you are ordering more items online this year or making a commitment to buy local or from small business owners as much as possible.

If you are like me, you have started to make a list of all of the gifts you want to purchase for the people in your life. Do you ever check to see if what you are buying is safe and age-appropriate for the recipient and has no recalls? December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month and it is important to bring awareness to this during the time of year we give the most gifts. There are safety guides and educational resources available to help you purchase many consumer products, including toys, crafts, home and outdoor fun. There is also a cute, informational flyer specifically about toy safety with tips for what you should keep in mind or look out for when buying toys.

Once you have checked all the names off your list, consider giving the gift of time by volunteering in your community. Some examples of volunteering opportunities include helping a family, fixing and serving meals, or starting a pen pal program with the local senior community (following CDC guidelines). The benefits of volunteering help raise our self-esteem and can be a powerful ally in supporting our individual wellness and the wellness of those around us. 

 1Walt Disney Educational Media. (1983). Mickey's Christmas Carol.

Photo Credit: flu-campaign-badge_sleeveup - link to cdc.gov for more information 

By Christina A. Worthington
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Getting a flu vaccine during the 2020-21 influenza season will be more important than ever. Vaccinations have been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death.

Flu shots are offered for free at each University of Illinois System university, and your insurance should cover the flu shot at your in-network medical clinic. You can check with your campus’ flu shot clinic to see what dates and times are available. It isn’t too late to consider getting a flu vaccine to protect yourselves and others! As always, check with a trusted medical professional before making any health decisions.

For more information, visit your campus’ webpage for flu clinic dates and resources.




EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Interview with UI Stride Walktober Individual & Team Winners

By Seth Yoder
This month Seth Yoder sat down with both the 2020 UI Stride Walktober individual (Jody Groff) and team (UIC UPB) winners to find out about the secrets to their success and how they plan to stay active through the winter months. Congratulations Jody and UIC UPB!

UI Stride “Walktober” Individual Award Interview with Jody Groff

Q. You were obviously very successful in this campaign. What do attribute your success to?

A. When I was young my family had some battles with health issues. Consequently, when I was in my 20s, I made a decision to live a healthy lifestyle in hopes it would prevent future health complications. Some examples of healthy habits that I have incorporated into my life include riding my bike to work every day (except on icy days), eating well-balanced meals as often as possible, and taking long walks with my family and dog. What helps me maintain an awareness of the importance of these healthy habits is that I use these times to connect with myself and family. Whether it is going for a long bike ride or preparing a healthy meal with my children, I make sure the time is for me and those around me.

Q. What are some of the physical and non-physical activities you love the most and why?

A. I love to cook, explore new recipes, and share healthy eating habits with my children. I get a real joy out of passing these healthy habits on to my children. I also enjoy biking and the freedom I get out on the road. The wind on my face makes me feel like a little kid again. Maybe what’s most important in this experience is that I get a chance to enjoy the journey rather than focusing on getting to and from my destination like I would in a car.

Q. What advice would you give to other system office employees looking to improve their results in the next UI Stride campaign?

A. Try to make the activities fun and relatable to who you are. Finding the simple pleasure in the activities is often what makes the experience most rewarding. For example, listening to a new podcast when you go for a walk or standing back and admiring the work you’ve done in the garden can be just as rewarding as running a marathon. You also need a willingness to try something new, maybe even outside of your comfort zone, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t succeed at first or even if you have to quit and try something different. And if you’re struggling to find something new to do, use your network and community to find out about fun activities going on that you may not have been aware of. 

Q. Now that UI Stride is finished, do you plan to keep your regimen the same or do you think you might cut back a little bit?

I will definitely keep the same regimen. However, when we go back to the office after the pandemic, it may change slightly. I have learned a lot about work-life balance since transitioning to work from home full-time, and my big takeaway is that regardless if we are working from home or in the office, we can be just as productive even if we are not next to our computers the entire workday. I hope that others have recognized this and will carry these lessons with them as we transition back to the office next year.

UI Stride “Walktober” Team Winner Interview with UIC UPB*

Q. How were you able to keep the entire team motivated the entire campaign?

A. For UIC UPB, collective effort amongst the team is how we kept the entire team motivated. Team members would reach out using the Walktober app chat function and motivate one another with messages and pictures. Our team was made up of competitive individuals and that spirit was contagious. Campaign features like receiving badges for various milestones throughout the challenge really revved up the competitive juices. Additionally, family and others provided encouragement and support throughout this challenge.

Q. Did the team ever do any socially distanced or virtual activities together?

A. Prior to the start of the challenge, UIC UPB held a kickoff meeting to discuss the goal and set expectations. Some team members walked together from time to time if it were geographically feasible, but we largely completed our daily goals on our own.

Q. What advice would you give to other System Offices teams looking to improve their results in the next UI Stride campaign?

A. The support provided by all team members and family was very effective in motivating one another. Also, it was helpful to understand the effect of each individual participant’s points had on the overall team average. Once team members understood this, they were motivated to step up their game, excuse the pun. 😊 Oh, and bonuses from the System Offices for the participants and winners never hurt, ha-ha!!!

Q. Now that the campaign is over will you stay as active and if so, will you also try to motivate your teammates to stay active as well?

A. Overall, the team desires to stay active. Although some may not be as active as they found they were during the challenge, the program has provided a great kick-off to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Team members feel better and have experienced weight loss. Some have even been motivated to continue with additional workout routines and activities. Walktober has raised awareness about how sedentary life has been during this pandemic.

Several team members have looked at setting a new goal within Walktober, however there is no way to continue tracking steps using the Walktober app now that the campaign has ended. We are curious if the System Offices will offer other healthy challenges. If not, our team will investigate ways to continue to motivate and encourage one another to be active. In the same vein, UPB may seek to identify ways to motivate and encourage all UPB staff to be more active and healthier. We have seen through this campaign being more active can lead to healthy outcomes.

*Seth Yoder sat down and conducted this interview with Andrea Lasticly, a representative from the UIC UPB Team. During the interview she shared the team’s responses to each of the questions.

11.08.20 UI Stride Walktober - Total steps 191,293,116 - Average steps 458,736 - Min 227,465 - Participants 418