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INSPIRE TO MOVE - Gardening is Exercise!
NOURISHING YOU - Slow Cooked Pulled Barbecue Chicken
HEALTHY HARMONY - Celebrate Earth Day All Year Long
GOOD DECISIONS - Retirement: It’s Never Too Early to Start Planning
EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Misty Lockhart, Assistant Director Investment Operations, Treasury Operations

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 - Gardening is Exercise!

Gardener in garden 

By Colleen Crawford
Spring is here, offering many opportunities to step outside and move in ways that were not accessible through the cold winter months. One of the joys that comes with warmer weather is the emergence of spring flowers, tree buds, green grasses, and more. Gardening is a wonderful way to combine the beautification of your outdoor environment with moving your body in the fresh air.

Whether you tend a large vegetable garden or adorn your space with flowers in containers and hanging pots, caring for your plants will have you moving your muscles in ways that are likely different from your typical daily routine. These novel movements can help wake your body up from its winter hibernation and prepare you for the often more active spring and summer. Although you might not think of your gardening tasks as a workout, remember to be mindful of your posture as you bend, stretch, and lift your way to beautiful blooms and bountiful veggies.

Gardening uses the large muscle groups in your body, meaning you will feel the burn in your legs, back, abs, and arms during a gardening session. Some exercises that can prepare your body for a vigorous gardening season include deadlifts/hip-hinge movement pattern, weighted carries, lunges, rows, push-ups or planks, chops, and squats. You can perform these exercises with equipment, household items, or without equipment and household items. All of these movements are mimicked while gardening as you lift plants and bags of soil and then set them down, rake to prepare your plot, and dig holes for planting. After gardening, you might consider stretching with this 30-minute yoga practice for gardeners.

If you are not sure where to start with gardening, or want to deepen your knowledge in various gardening topics, the University of Illinois Extension has an extensive library of resources to support your learning. The Gardener’s Corner features an archive of articles grouped by season. The Four Seasons Gardening webinar series offers live webinars (registration required) that are also available as recordings on the Illinois Extension Horticulture YouTube channel. Additional helpful information can be found on the Gardening Resources page.


NOURISHING YOU - Slow Cooked Pulled Barbecue Chicken

 Pulled chicken sandwich - photo credit MyRecipes.com

Recipe by Leana Coffey
Serves 8

In celebration of National Financial Wellness Month, here is an inexpensive, healthy meal that is also easy, and most importantly, delicious! I found this recipe on the website of one of my favorite podcasts, ChooseFI. This podcast and website are great resources for helping you take control of your finances and reach financial independence (FI). It also has a section on creating delicious meals that cost less than $2 per person per meal. Check it out at $2 Meals

Take five minutes out of your busy day to throw this recipe together. Your family will thank you for it, and so will your wallet! 


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 4 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 4 TBS brown sugar
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 3 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1½ Tsp chili powder
  • ½ Tsp salt
  • 8 whole wheat hamburger buns
  • Prepared coleslaw, if desired for topping


  1. Sprinkle the onion and garlic over the bottom of the slow cooker and arrange the chicken thighs on top.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the ketchup, cider vinegar, brown sugar, oil, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, and salt; pour over the thighs. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours until the chicken is fork-tender and pulls apart easily.
  3. With two forks, pull apart the meat into shredded chunks and stir to combine. Cover and leave on the warm setting until ready to eat.
  4. Serve spooned on warmed hamburger buns and top with coleslaw, if desired.

Nutrition Information: Calories 319 | Carbs 15g | Fat 11g | Protein 37g


HEALTHY HARMONY - Celebrate Earth Day All Year Long

Photo Credit: Pexels - Pixabay, World globe 

By Jackie Billhymer
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
—Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE

Spring has sprung! Warmer weather, birds chirping, greener grass, and flowers poking out of the ground are all signs that spring has arrived. This month, particularly on Earth Day (April 22), we have the opportunity to pause and reflect on the changing seasons and the beauty of our Earth.

Our wellbeing is directly linked to the sustainability of our planet. Clean air, land, and water, as well as utilizing the ‘big three’ – reduce, reuse, and recycle – are just a few of the things our planet needs to keep us healthy. We celebrate Earth Day annually, but you can engage in activities all year long to benefit the earth and support your overall wellbeing.

Here are a few resources to help you celebrate Earth Day this month and throughout the year:

  • Check out this Earth Day Menu for simple ways you can advocate for sustainability in your community, repurpose materials around the house, eat a more plant-based diet, plant a pollinator garden, and so much more.
  • Have you ever heard of plogging? Plogging is a combination of the Swedish term “plocka upp,” meaning to pick up and the word “jogging.” Interchange it with walking (plalking) or hiking (pliking) and these eco-friendly fitness terms capture the benefits of picking up trash while you are enjoying physical fitness outdoors.
  • Spend more time in nature. Many studies have shown a valuable connection between nature and the positive effects it has on our wellbeing. Visit Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) State Parks and Outdoor Recreation to find a park or recreational activities and programs near you.
  • Help track changes in the environment and support science research. The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Observer app helps monitor the conditions of clouds, water, plants, trees, and changes over time.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a Greener Living website with ideas for living sustainably, being green on the road, throwing away less and choosing greener products.

It is up to all of us to sustain the very life our planet gives us. Just as our individual wellbeing affects the wellbeing of those around us, each of our efforts towards greater sustainability affects the world in which we all live.


GOOD DECISIONS - Retirement: It’s Never Too Early to Start Planning

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden of Unsplash - picture of two chairs on the beach 

By Christina A. Worthington
Happy National Financial Wellness Month! This is your sign to start building healthy financial habits and implement them into your everyday financial decisions. Building financially responsible habits can be tough due to the lack of instant gratification. Planning for retirement is a perfect example of this. For many people, retirement seems like a lifetime away, but the truth is you cannot start retirement planning too early.

Only 40 percent of Americans have calculated how much they need to save for retirement. Making a plan like this can feel overwhelming, which is why America Saves suggests you ask yourself a few questions when thinking about retirement:

  • What type of lifestyle do I want to live when I retire?
  • Is what I am contributing toward my retirement enough to support how I plan to live in retirement?
  • Am I saving enough for myself and my partner? Other dependent family members?
  • How can I save for retirement when there are many other things to save for?

After thinking about those questions, maybe you feel ready to dive into planning for the days you are no longer on the clock! Here are a few ways to begin preparing for retirement no matter what stage of your career you are in:

Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals. If you are not already saving, now is the time to start! Anything you can contribute (big or small) to a retirement plan is helpful. Saving money now will give it time to grow before you need it for retirement. If you are already investing, that is wonderful! You may consider increasing your retirement contributions. Whether you are just starting on your savings journey or somewhere in the middle—keep your eye on the prize and stick to your savings goal!

Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan. You are likely already doing this if you are a University of Illinois System Office employee. The State Universities Retirement System (SURS) is a state-wide system for Illinois public universities that provides retirement, disability, and related benefits to eligible participants and annuitants. Contributions to SURS are mandatory if you are eligible. You can visit the System Human Resource Services or the SURS website for further information on what retirement benefits you are eligible for.

Put money into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). This is a great option for investing outside of your employer retirement savings plan. You can put up to $6,000 a year into an IRA and up to $7,000 if you are 50 or older. You can also start with much less. Remember, saving the smallest amount is better than saving nothing at all! When you open an IRA, you have two options: a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. The tax treatment of your contributions and withdrawals will depend on which option you select.

One of the great things about being a System Office employee is that we have access to so many resources and experts in their respective fields! Much of the information provided here was from resources provided by the University of Illinois Extension. Check out Illinois Extension’s tools, strategies, insights, and best practices to effectively manage your money!


EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Misty Lockhart, Assistant Director Investment Operations, Treasury Operations

Misty Lockhart 

By Seth Yoder

Q. Can you tell us a little about what you do at the U of I?

A. I work with the Office of Treasury in the Investment Department. I am in charge of investment operations, which includes calculating, tracking, and reporting our investment performance to the board. I am also responsible for the selection of our investment managers and performing due diligence on them to ensure they are keeping up to the standards that we have set for them. I then report this information back to my department. These are just a couple examples of the operations I oversee in my department.

Q. Why is health and wellness an important topic to you?

A. My husband and I have five children. I feel it is very important to set a good example of what a healthy lifestyle looks like and what can be gained through a life focused on a healthy mind and body. Additionally, it helps me so that I can keep up with the day-to-day rigors of parenting five children. While my children may not follow my approach to health and wellness, I believe that if they see the commitment I make towards my goals, in some small way it will rub off on them and help them as they pursue their aspirations in life.

Q. What are some of the physical and mental benefits you get from your exercise routine?

A. When I exercise it provides me with the energy I need throughout my day. To some, that may sound strange because you would think that exercise would wear you out and drain your energy. That definitely was the case when I first started exercising, but through commitment and consistency, I was able to turn my workouts into fuel for my day. In fact, when I get out of my exercise routine, I can feel my energy levels drop as the day progresses, which motivates me even more to stick to my routine.

In regard to the mental benefits, I would say that my exercise routine has helped me manage my stress and anxiety. Trying to manage work, family, personal schedules, and everything that comes with it can be overwhelming. Taking 20-60 minutes for self-care goes a long way to temper some of the stress and anxiety that will invariably creep up during the day. I am not saying that my exercise routine has eliminated all of my stress or anxiety, but it has certainly helped me control it a little better.

Q. Why do you approach your diet with a no-diet mindset?

A. I have found that a restrictive diet is not good for me or my lifestyle. I generally follow a routine and eat a lot of the same things on a day-to-day basis, but if there are cookies or ice cream in the house, I am going to eat them. What I see as the secret to my success is not over doing it. By balancing sweets with healthy food options, I am able to enjoy myself and feel good while doing it.

One thing I do recognize is that when I get out of balance, it has a direct impact on my exercise routine. I don’t feel as good when I go to do my workouts, and this is a helpful reminder to get back on track. It took some time for me to acclimate to my current diet, so now I just listen to my body and it does a good job of telling me when I am on track and when I need to make a modification. I understand that diet is personal, and everyone has to find the balance that best fits them and their health and lifestyle. That has definitely been the case for me. I have tried a number of different types of diets and now find the no-diet mindset has produced the best results for me. What I love about this approach is that I don’t have to think or stress about food as much as I used to and having one less thing to stress about has been such a relief.

Q. How are you able to find balance between work, family, and your exercise and diet goals?

A. The biggest reason why I am able to find balance between these areas of my life is that I have a very supportive family who understands how important my morning exercise routine is to me and they allow me to have that time. It’s also helpful to keep things in perspective. Acknowledging the fact that I am a better wife, mother, sister, and daughter as a result of finding this balance in my life is a big motivator to stick to my goals in all of these areas. I also recognize that it is important that I make time for myself. With so many different hats to wear it is easy to put your own personal needs aside and, in doing so, lose sight of your own needs. I make it a priority to take care of myself first so that I am fulfilled. As a result, I am a lot happier when it comes time to wear all those different hats. It’s also important to be realistic and realize that you may not be able to find the time for yourself every day, but you make up for it in other ways like walking the dog with your family or going for a bike ride. The key is that you are taking the time whether it is by yourself or with your family.

UI Stride Well traveled has begun!

Monday, April 5: Began logging physical activity, 2-minute timeout, and dollar stretching activities
Monday, April 12: Last day to register and form a team of up to 10 people
Sunday, June 27: Last day of UI Stride Well Traveled
Wednesday, June 30: Last day to log all activity