Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge - Handmade in the Heartland

Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge

This post is sponsored by The Aetna Foundation via The Motherhood. As always all opinions are mine. 
Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge
How healthy is your county? Would you say that the health of your community affects your personal health? Last week I sat in on a conference call to learn all about the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge being put on by the Aetna Foundation and other partners.  I thought I was just signing on to a call to learn about the competition but I came away with so many great tips for my personal health and motivation to get up and do something about it! I'm super excited to share them with you!

Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge

What is the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge

  • A Partnership between the Aetna Foundation, American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties.
  • Support communities in their collaborative efforts to become healthier places to live, work, learn, play and pray;
  • Recognize cities, counties and tribes that achieve a measurable impact in efforts to make communities a healthier place to live; 
  • Identify models of effective collaboration that can be sustained and replicated throughout the U.S.
  • Rewarding over 1.5 million dollars to cities and counties that show results with their programs!
  • Applications are being accepted until May 31st!

Why do we need a challenge like this? 


Recent research has shown that where you live makes a difference in your overall health. In fact, your zip code is a stronger predictor of your overall health than other factors, including race and genetics. That's crazy! The bad news is that some communities are much healthier than others however the good news is that  nearly one-third of Americans believe their area will become a healthier place to live in the next five years and 94 percent of Americans are willing to do something in order to have a healthier environment.

Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge
During our phone call Lynn Ostrowski the Executive Director of the Aetna Foundation shared these 5 Tips to Help You & Your Family Increase Daily Wellness and I made some notes of things I needed to change, what of these 5 things could you change in your family?


5 Tips to Increase Daily Wellness

1. Incorporate 30 minutes of daily exercise.
If one 30 minute walk or run sounds like too much think about it in terms of 3 10 minute sessions during your day.  Go outside with your kids, park at the back of the parking lot or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Think of small ways that you can fit in extra physical activity into your day. 

2.  Drink more water and plan your meals.  
I can't say enough about drinking lots of water and planning out your meals and snacks. I keep a water bottle with me at all times. Its a life-changing water bottle, by the way, the Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle By Hydracentials which keeps my water cold forevvveer and holds 25 ounces. I only have to refill it 3-4 times a day depending on how much I'm wanting to drink. I also have a rule if I haven't finished my second bottle by 3pm I down it then.

You know I love food around here and one of my goals in 2016 is to loose the baby weight, establish healthy eating habits and develop an exercise routine that brings results. I turn 30 in August and I want to be the healthiest I can be for that milestone. :) A few things I have been doing to help with healthy eating is all about preparation. If I have healthy snacks/lunches/breakfasts ready I will not reach for the random crap or just go without eating. This week I made mason jar salads to be ready for lunch, cheese, fruit & nut cups and homemade lara bars for snacking, get my recipe for LaraBars HERE. I also made some overnight oatmeal with chia seeds for breakfast which was delicious and filling.  My body, especially when breastfeeding needs snacks and if I don't have something on hand I'll totally be digging in the candy stash. 
Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge
3.  Step away for small breaks, or “micro-breaks.” 
Life can get busy and overwhelming, but simple acts like taking a few deep breathes, standing and stretching or taking a walk can help calm the mind and relieve stress. I find that children are built in micro-breaks ;) I rarely get a task finished at one time.
4.  Put your smart phone and yourself in sleep mode.
Lynn suggested to try to create a relaxing bedtime routine or develop a sleep schedule to help you get the best night’s rest possible, including unplugging from electronics an hour or more before bed time. I am SO guilty of not doing this, I get in to bed every night after being on my computer only to pull out my phone and scroll through facebook or instagram before I nod off.  Last night I read instead and it was like a magnet was pulling my hand to my phone, I did resist the urge but I can tell this is going to be a hard habit to break!
Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge
5.  Get involved.  
Staying connected to your friends and families is shown to improve health outcomes. With a strong support system, you can also help each other make healthier choices and organize ways to stay on course. I've learned that having a buddy with you in any type of health goal is a win-win situation.  I ran a half marathon several years ago and there is no way I would have been able to make it through the training for it without my running partner.  Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge

What can you do with the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge? 

Are you a part of an organization that is interested in improving the health of your community such as a health coalition, school department, mayor’s office, or local health department? The challenge is looking to have 50 cities in the final round, and all finalist cities will receive a $10,000 seed award to help them implement their project. Just head over to http://www.healthiestcities.org/ and find out about how to apply. The application is due by May 31st!

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