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INSPIRE TO MOVE - Healthy Aging
NOURISHING YOU - Caprese Chicken
HEALTHY HARMONY - Shop at Your Local Farmers Market
GOOD DECISIONS - Donating Blood During COVID-19
EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Wellness Connection Interview with Karla Belzer

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

INSPIRE TO MOVE - Healthy Aging
Photo Credit: Arifur Rahman of Unsplash, Link to UIUC Walktober fitness competition 

By Lydia Schillinger
When I think of getting older, I picture myself retired, having worked a fantastic, rewarding career at the University of Illinois, living a healthy life filled with travel to exotic places, playing with my grandchildren and meeting up with my friends for McDonald’s coffee at 5 am. Whatever your retirement dream is, how can we make sure we are able to live it out? When I think of healthy aging, I know there is no better time than the present to start living a healthy lifestyle that will enable me to enjoy my golden years. Here are a few helpful tips for healthy aging that we can start at any age.

  • Move It or Lose It - I am sure you heard this term before. What this means is keep active! Increasing your daily movement can help improve balance and stamina, which may help to prevent injuries. Moving more improves our brain health and may help prevent chronic diseases. Keeping active is great for your cardiovascular health. Join an activity group for your age category to keep moving. Join a group fitness class through your campus rec department and be sure to register for Walktober, our 2020 UI Stride family fitness program for employees and household members ages 13 and above. The challenge starts September 14 and registration is now open. Young adults may choose rigorous activities like rock climbing and aerobics. For those adults age 65 or over or those of you who may be recovering from surgery or illness may choose a low-impact activity group such as Silver Sneakers and Silver & Fit .
  • Make Healthy Food Choices - This means eat your vegetables like your mother always told you to. She was right! Vegetables are low in calories and fat. They are rich in fiber and antioxidants and contain important sources of many nutrients, including potassium. Foods rich in potassium (spinach, carrots, broccoli, green beans) help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, brown rice) and low-fat dairy products (low-fat or skim milk, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat Greek yogurt) are also very beneficial. They contain vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants which can neutralize potentially harmful molecules called free radicals.
  • Drink your Water - I cannot stress this enough, there is nothing healthier for our bodies than water. Ask your doctor what the right amount of water is for you because there are certain health conditions that limit the amount of water you should consume. I am instructed to drink half of my body weight in ounces of water. Water intake may vary for each of us, so make sure you are drinking enough water for your needs. Water carries nutrients and oxygen to your cells, flushes away harmful bacteria, aids digestion and weight loss, normalizes blood pressure, maintains electrolyte balance, and much more.
  • Be Tobacco Free - Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free help or connect with the Employee Assistance Program for your campus. Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of your body. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), increases your risk of tuberculosis, certain eye diseases and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis. Secondhand smoke is just as bad because it is still smoke from chemicals. E-Cigarettes contain nicotine which is highly addictive and can harm brain development.

Interested in learning more? Join the University of Illinois Extension Discover Healthy Aging webinar on health, happiness, and confidence beginning September 3.

 Caprese Chicken, Photo Credit OurSaltyKitchen.com, link to recipe

Recipe by Leana Coffey
Low-carb, gluten-free Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 25 minutes

This is the time of year that fresh tomatoes are overflowing from gardens and are readily available at farmers markets. If you love the classic Caprese combination of fresh basil and mozzarella with vine-ripened tomatoes, this recipe won’t disappoint. Use fresh ingredients to bring out the flavors for the ultimate late summer recipe.


  • 4 5-7 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 even pieces
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced into ½” slices
  • Fresh basil, to taste
  • Aged balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze, to taste


  1. Prepare the chicken. Place one chicken breast onto a sheet of parchment paper. Fold the paper over the chicken. Using a rolling pin, pound the chicken breast to even thickness of a little less than 1”. Set aside and repeat with the remaining chicken breasts.
  2. Combine the Italian seasoning, sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper in a small bowl. Stir to combine.
  3. Brush the chicken with olive oil, then sprinkle with the seasoning blend. Flip the chicken over to oil and season the other side.
  4. Heat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Place the chicken breasts onto the grill and cook 5-6 minutes per side or until almost done.
  5. Top each chicken breast with 2 slices of fresh mozzarella. Continue grilling 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the internal temperature reads 165⁰
  6. Place the chicken breasts onto a platter or individual plates. Top each chicken breast with 2-3 slices of fresh tomatoes, then sprinkle with fresh basil and additional salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze.

Nutrition Information: Calories 391 | Carbs 8g | Fat 18g | Protein 49g

Photo Credit: Shelley Pauls of Unsplash, Link to BuyFreshBuyLocal.org 

By Jackie Billhymer
Do you know where the food you buy comes from or how it’s grown? Last month I encouraged you to reflect on your wellness goals and put a plan into action to improve your overall wellbeing. If you set a goal of eating more of the foods that are good for you, one of the best ways you can achieve that is to visit your local farmers market. A number of communities host farmers markets and you are also supporting your community by buying local. You can use the USDA National Farmers Market Directory or the Illinois Buy Fresh Buy Local guide to locate one nearest you.

Farmers markets have freshly picked, in season produce. Fresh fruit and vegetables in season taste better and provide better nutrition. They are grown and harvested at the right time, which means they spend less time getting from the farm to your table. If you are not sure what fruits and vegetables are in season, check out the USDA’s seasonal produce guide.

In the event you bought too much or have your own plentiful garden this year, you can check with your local food pantries to find out if they accept donations. The University of Illinois at Springfield hosts a 24/7 food pantry on the west end of the Student Union. You can find a number of food pantries in Chicago and Champaign-Urbana communities as well. Do your research and make a commitment to buy local and support your local farmers and communities!

Photo Credit: Ýlona María Rybka, aging flower 

By Christina A. Worthington
Prior to COVID-19, the United States was in urgent need of blood donors. The COVID-19 pandemic has only caused more unprecedented challenges in maintaining an adequate blood supply here in the U.S. Donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives.

During this time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have revisited and updated blood donation policies to help ensure an adequate blood supply can be maintained.

You can donate blood by making an appointment. Most walk-up blood drives have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean that you can’t give blood! The American Red Cross Blood Services or your preferred blood donation center have developed portals for donors to schedule appointment times.

Blood centers are following CDC guidelines. Giving blood is considered an essential community service. As part of our nation's critical infrastructure, healthy individuals can still donate in areas that have executive order restrictions. In accordance with the CDC, extra sanitation and safety protocols are in place.  Both blood center employees and blood donors are required to wear face masks at blood drive and donation centers.

Survivors of COVID-19 can donate plasma. If you have fully recovered from COVID-19, you may be able to help patients currently fighting the infection by donating your plasma. Because you fought the infection, your plasma now contains COVID-19 antibodies. These antibodies provided one way for your immune system to fight the virus when you were sick, so your plasma may be able to be used to help others fight off the disease. You can learn more about donating plasma and find a location at thefightisinus.org.

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Wellness Connection Interview with Karla Belzer
Karla Belzer 

By Seth Yoder
Seth Yoder from the Wellness Connection recently sat down with Karla Belzer to discuss healthy habits we can incorporate in our lives as we age. Karla is a Family Life Educator on the Family and Consumer Sciences team serving the Carroll, Lee, and Whiteside counties in northwest Illinois. Karla has been with the University of Illinois Extension Office for five years.

Q. What types of activities do you recommend as we age, and is there a recommended amount of time to work out each week?

A. Exercise is something we all should incorporate in our daily lives whether we are young or old. No matter how old you are the key to success when it comes to exercise is choosing an activity you enjoy. This will help you maintain your motivation even on those mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed. Everyone should aim for approximately 150 minutes of activities a week and should include aerobic exercise and sensible weight training. It is also recommended to include at least two days of balancing and stretching exercises. If you don’t find activities like jogging, biking, or swimming enjoyable, keep in mind that simply going for a walk at your regular pace has been found to be more beneficial than not doing anything.

Q. What types of foods would you recommend and discourage as we age?

A. I would encourage anyone to consider a heart healthy diet as it contributes to your overall brain health. A heart healthy diet includes lean meats, low-fat dairy, healthy fats (vegetable oils, nuts, fish), omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, shrimp, walnuts) and antioxidant rich foods (berries, citrus, dark leafy greens, carrots, dried beans, etc.). As we age it’s also important to avoid added sodium and sugar to prevent inflammation, drink alcohol in moderation, and stay hydrated.

Q. What types of activities will help strengthen cognitive functions as we age?

A. Current research indicates that challenging the brain is also something you can do to contribute to your own brain health. Similar to exercise, when choosing intellectually challenging activities, it is important to consider your level of interest before diving in. For example, if you’ve never had an interest in reading “War and Peace,” chances are this is not the type of activity you should choose to challenge your brain.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a difference between a mental activity and a mental challenge, just as there is a difference between physical activity and physical challenge. Washing the dishes is a physical activity, while biking three times a week may be a physical challenge.  Watching the birds fly is more of a mental activity but researching birds that are native to your area may be more of a mental challenge.  

If you've become very good at a chosen activity, take it up a notch to make it more challenging.  For instance, if you are a wonderful knitter and can make a blanket in no time at all, try learning a new stitch or pattern, or making something more difficult, like a sweater. 

Q. What types of preventative health care would you recommend as we age?

A. It is important to keep up with your yearly physical, dental, and eye exams. It is also recommended to stay up to date with immunizations. The following screenings are also recommended:

  • Blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Diabetes screening

It is important to consult your physician before requesting any of these screenings. For further information please refer to the following articles for men and women between the ages of 40-64. 

Q. Out of everything you have recommended is there one thing that is most important to pay attention to as we age or is it more a combination of everything that will help us age gracefully?

A. It’s best to not focus solely on any one lifestyle factor.  Everything we’ve discussed should be done in combination for optimum benefits.

Some important characteristics of aging well are:

  • Maintain a positive or optimistic attitude
    • Be around those that are supportive
    • Laugh
    • Manage stress
    • Practice positive self-talk
    • Practice gratitude
  • Remain socially active
    • Do something meaningful
    • Pursue a passion
    • Do at least one thing you enjoy each day
    • Engage in a community of support (church, faith community, community group)
  • Live with purpose
    • Use your gifts, passions and values
    • Give of your time, talent, and treasure
  • Eat well
    • Eat a heart healthy diet
  • Remain physically active
  • Engage in intellectual challenges