Insurance Update
September 2015
Issue No. 60     
In this issue

Steps-to-Distance Conversion Chart  



About Us 

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 A not-for-profit ministry of
Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.

Church of the Brethren Insurance Services provides dental, vision, basic life and accidental death & dismemberment, supplemental life and ad&d, dependent life and ad&d, retiree life, long-term disability, short-term disability, and Medicare supplement coverage for eligible ministers and other employees of congregations, districts, and camps. Dental, vision, retiree life, and Medicare supplement coverage is also available for eligible retirees of congregations, districts, and camps.


Medical and ancillary plans are available to Brethren-affiliated employer groups.


Long-Term Care Insurance is available for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities.  
Contact Us 
1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120

When we heard that STEPtember was right around the corner, it made us realize that we have a lot of stepping going on right here in our office. Many of the staff at BBT have decided that desk jobs don't have to keep them tethered, and there's been a movement afoot to make sure they don't spend too many hours in their chairs. Find out who's on the move and how they're staying motivated and measured in our article on fitness tracking devices this month.
You'll also be surprised to learn how important it is just to get out of your chair, and STEPtember seemed like the perfect time to mention a new widespread health threat -- sitting. No wonder some fitness trackers come equipped to beep every so often to remind you to get up and move. And though it may seem contradictory, sleep is important to health and fitness as well. Though a person's need for sleep is sometimes frowned upon, it's important to remember that while unhealthy habits hurt your overall wellbeing, good health habits -- like plenty of sleep, eating right, and having a balanced amount of activity during the day -- improve your energy, focus, outlook, and your performance at work.
Change in habit is a matter of choice, and our newsletter topics are meant to inspire you to make those small choices every day that lead to big changes. We hope our staff's enthusiasm for fitness is an inspiration to you, and if it is, you can let us know -- we love to hear from you!
Happy end of summer!

PS: Don't forget Open Enrollment is coming in November! 
Taking fitness to a new level

Have you noticed how often physical fitness comes up in conversation? Just when it seems nothing more can be said, fitness comes back in a new way. It was President Kennedy who started the ball rolling with public statements about keeping fit, and the reorganization of the President's Council on Youth Fitness. In March 1962 he said, "I hope all of you will join in a great national effort to build a strong and better America through physical effort and through the contributions we can make by the drive and force we bring to our daily lives."
By the 1970s, Americans were increasingly working out, with aerobics, dancing, isometrics, stretching, jogging, walking, bicycling, swimming, and yoga. By 1977, a record 87.5 million adults over the age of 18 claimed to participate in athletic activities.* In 1981, Time magazine's cover read, "Fitness Craze: America Shapes Up." In the 1990s, fitness-related businesses sprang up and people began going to the gym and buying fitness equipment.
Today, fitness is a multi-billion-dollar industry that runs the gamut, from home barbell sets to sophisticated home-gym apparatuses, from park district programs to personal trainers, and expansive and expensive workout destinations with acres of exercise and weight-lifting machines for every conceivable muscle group. Articles on heart disease, cholesterol, or diabetes always begin with the importance of physical fitness. Every diet extols its value.
Yet, we are told that obesity has become a serious health problem. So, are we fit or aren't we? And what is the next big thing in this fitness fervor?
It's already here. It goes by various improbable brand names: FitBit, Jawbone Up, FuelBand, Shine, Vivofit. These are digital tracking devices that raise fitness to a new level. Now you can track your steps, your calories, your sleep, your heart rate, and more. You can set goals for yourself. The devices reward you with a satisfying buzz or ring or digital readout that tells you you're making progress.
Is there something very gratifying about being measured and rewarded? Some users report that these small and seemingly innocuous gadgets trigger a large and constant effort to do better. A few users even become obsessed.
With many brands and models on the market, millions are being sold. "Business Insider" reported that "about 3.3 million fitness bands and activity trackers were sold between April 2013 and March 2014 in the U.S." Some accounts say that 70 million were sold globally. Expectations are that sales will continue to grow exponentially. Some say there will be a shift to smartwatches, which means that the tracking function will be folded into an even more sophisticated instrument. Estimates show that 33 million wearable devices (trackers and smartwatches) will be shipped in the U.S. this year. Further, some smartphones have apps that turn them into tracking devices. All evidence indicates that the digital fitness tracking revolution is here to stay. (Google Business Insider: Tech, various webpages.)
But are these devices helping? Preliminary studies on their accuracy indicate that they are very good at counting steps and not as good at judging distance. There are a number of variables that make them less accurate at measuring calories and energy expended. There is also the matter of whether people with good intentions actually stick with and use their devices over time. There are many online testimonials, but research has not yet been done to answer this question. Finally, studies on whether this technology can really motivate people to keep up good fitness habits were inconclusive, but suggest some features work better than others. (See
So, should you try a wearable digital fitness device or not? Be prepared -- they are pricey. The best ones sell for more than $100, though you can get something basic for about $50. If you are ready to reach into your pocket book, how can you find out which one is best? Where can you find people with first-hand experience? BBT has answers to both these questions. Read on.
BBT staff is stepping up to fitness awareness

Fourteen enthusiastic staff members at BBT are wearing tracking devices and exchanging experiences and results with one another. Seven are using Jawbone devices; three have FitBit bands; one is using a Vivofit unit from Garmin; two are using MapMyFitness, which is designed to track statistics for runners, walkers, bike riders, etc.; and one has an Omron device.
German Gongora, Programmer Analyst and Technology Support Specialist, is using MapMyGuide to monitor his calories and to elevate his cycling speed to 19 mph. The device motivates him and helps with his ultimate goal to stay fit. Donna March, Director of Human Resources and Administrative Services, is tracking her steps with the Omron Pocket Pedometer, which gives her a daily goal and keeps her "mindful of moving," since she has a desk job. Ovi Catanescu, Accounting Manager, received his Jawbone device as a gift. He logs 10,000 steps a day and has lost 20 lbs. since April. Lori Domich, wearing a Jawbone Up MoveŽ clip-on, is tracking steps and sleep, with goals of 10,000 steps and 8 hours of sleep per day.
Tammy Chudy, Assistant Director of Employee Benefits, also has a JawboneŽ UP Move clip-on and some high goals. She is tracking steps (10,000 per day); calories (1,200 per day); sleep (7 hours per day). Her unit also allows her to track moods and workouts. It sends her reminders to get up when she has been inactive too long, to eat and thus log calories, and to prepare for bed. It gives her updates throughout the day so she knows how many steps she's taken and how many more she needs. She can take a picture of the bar code on the packaging of a food item, and the Jawbone Up Move will automatically log the calories. The device has a built-in "coach," provides custom messages based on her step/calorie/sleep patterns, and gives suggestions for improvement. It also sends celebration messages when she has accomplished a goal or had a 3-day streak of meeting a goal. The only thing she does not like about this device is when she does not meet her goals.
These are only five of the fourteen BBT staff who are making fitness a priority, and these stories give a sample of the creativity and activity generated by the various tracking devices and the shared experience of using them. Another BBT staff person is addressing fitness in a way that many office workers overlook. Perhaps you've heard the mantra, "sitting is the new smoking." This is credited to Dr. James Levine, who goes on to explain that, "Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death."
Scott Douglas, Director of Client Relations at BBT, knew that the long hours of sitting at his desk working on a computer and talking on the phone were not good for him. In addition to wearing a Garmin Vivofit, he invested in a Varidesk as well, to give him the option of getting out of his chair once in a while. A Varidesk is an adjustable spring-assisted desktop that allows you to raise and lower your entire computer set-up (laptop or monitor and keyboard plus other accessories) in order to alternate sitting and standing with very little effort or disruption.
Scott reports that the new desk has not only kept him from spending a large portion of the day sitting, but gets him moving around too, which is a natural result of standing, and he is aware of how much more active he is with the new setup. Scott recommends using the rubber floor mat accessory for added comfort. Research shows that people can't combat the long-term effects of sitting with exercise or other good habits -- standing up more throughout the day is the answer.
Investing in your own fitness
If you are interested in having your own fitness tracking device, they are easy to research online. Don't be dismayed if you come away still not sure which is right for you. Each device has its own special features, and comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges. Still you can find some patterns. All of them track the same basic things. If you search "fitness trackers" on the internet, two names rise to the surface: FitBit and Jawbone UP. Several reviewers settle on the FitBit Charge HR as the best all-around combination of price and features. If you're shopping for a device, you'll find these links helpful:
Compare 18 fitness trackers
PC Magazine compares "Best Fitness Trackers for 2015"
Tom's Guide "Best Fitness Trackers for 2015"
Wareable: Tech for your connected self
"Best fitness trackers 2015: Jawbone, Misfit, Fitbit, Garmin and more"
If you're interested in knowing more about the VariDesk or the positive effect of getting out of your chair, check out the following links:
Sitting Is the New Smoking: Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle Is Killing You
 LTCILong-Term Care Insurance

One of the obvious reasons for using fitness tracking devices and making efforts to stay fit is to live a long and healthy life. But despite your best efforts, there is always the chance you could suffer a debilitating illness or a disabling accident. And, of course, if you live long enough, the time will come when you will need some extra care. Long-Term Care Insurance makes sure that you will get the care you need. It assures that your medical bills will not eat up your savings, and it protects your children and other relatives from having to use their resources to care for you.
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance for all members and employees of the Church of the Brethren and their family and friends; and also for employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities and their families and friends.
If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal or click here to request more information.