Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is one step closer to hiring its next president.

The HCC search committee evaluating candidates to succeed President Christina Royal has whittled a field of 50 down to four. All four finalists have many years of experience in higher education and now hold top-level administration positions at community colleges in the Northeast, and all four are persons of color — two Latinas and two African-American men.

They include Noemí Custodia-Lora, vice president of the Lawrence campus and Community Relations at Northern Essex Community College in Massachusetts; Tony Hawkins, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, Continuing Education, and Workforce Development at Frederick Community College in Maryland; Arlene Rodríguez, provost and vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts; and George Timmons, provost and senior vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at Columbia-Greene Community College in New York.

The announcement was made in a message to the HCC community from Eleanor Williams, chair of the search committee and vice chair of the HCC board of trustees, and Robert Gilbert, chair of the HCC board of trustees.

“As conversations continue toward the selection of HCC’s fifth president, we have total confidence that the candidate selected from among our finalists will bring strong, inspiring leadership to the college,” they said in a joint statement.

In August, Royal, who has been with HCC since January 2017, announced that she would retire after the 2022-23 academic year. Her last day will be July 14, and she expects to assist with the transition to the next administration.

The 18-member search committee included five members of the HCC board of trustees — Williams, Gilbert, Vanessa Smith, Ted Hebert, and Ivonne Vidal — three HCC faculty members, seven HCC staff members, one member of the HCC Foundation board of directors, and one student, as well as Robert Awkward, assistant commissioner for Academic Effectiveness at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Four members of the search committee are also HCC alumni.

To aid in the search process, HCC retained the Pauly Group Inc., a national consulting firm that previously assisted the college in the hiring of Royal, HCC’s fourth president.

“This truly is an exciting time for the HCC community as we seek to find the next leader for the college,” Williams said in a separate statement.

Each of the four finalists has been invited to visit the HCC campus for a day and a half of tours, open forums, presentations, and interviews: Custodia-Lora on April 6-7, Timmons on April 10-11, Hawkins on April 11-12, and Rodríguez on April 13-14.

Custodia-Lora, a former Biology professor, holds a PhD in physiology and endocrinology from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the Universidad de Puerto Rico.

Timmons holds a PhD in higher education administration from Bowling Green State University, a master’s degree in higher education from Old Dominion University, and a bachelor’s degree in financial management from Norfolk State University.

Hawkins, a former professor of Speech, Communication, and Theater, holds a PhD in higher education, leadership, and technology from New York University, a certificate of advanced study in administration, planning, and social policy from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, a master’s degree in speech communication from the University of Georgia, and a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Towson State University.

Rodríguez, a former English professor, holds a PhD in English from UMass Amherst, a master’s degree in English from Lehigh University, and a bachelor’s degree in English from Fordham University.

The HCC board of trustees is expected to vote to approve a new president at its next meeting on Tuesday, April 25.

“The search attracted a strong and diverse pool of candidates,” Gilbert said. “While replacing the leadership of President Royal is a daunting task, our finalists exhibit qualities that will continue our journey as a college of excellence. I thank trustee and search committee chair Eleanor Williams for her leadership as well as members of the search committee for their dedication to the search process.”

Full résumés of the candidates can be viewed at hccpresidentialsearch.com/finalists.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — These are exciting, challenging, and ever-changing times for healthcare and the businesses and individuals providing it. To better inform and educate its readers about the many issues, trends, and developments in the healthcare sector, BusinessWest and businesswest.com will be introducing a new, monthly segment that will present content from its sister publication, the Healthcare News (HCN), and healthcarenews.com.

This new resource will be called “HCN Monthly Feature,” bringing news and information on the many health, wellness, and fitness issues and developments of today, from both regional and national sources. Each HCN Monthly Feature will have specific themes and points of emphasis — everything from health and fitness (this month’s feature; see businesswest.com) to behavioral health; from cancer care to a salute to the region’s nurses — and it will be made available online at both businesswest.com and healthcarenews.com, as well as via daily e-newsletters BusinessWest Daily News and HCN News & Notes, making it readily available to subscribers and consumers in the Western Mass. region and beyond.

For subscriptions, additional information, and to send us your news and story ideas, please visit BusinessWest at www.businesswest.com and HCN at www.healthcarenews.com.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College and Holyoke Community College (HCC) signed an articulation transfer agreement that will make it easier for HCC students to complete their bachelor’s degree at Elms College in either biology or biotechnology.

HCC students who earn an associate degree in biology or biotechnology with a minimum GPA of 2.0 will be able to transfer at least 60 credits and enroll into Elms College’s bachelor-degree programs in either biology or biotechnology.

“We are delighted to partner once again with Holyoke Community College to offer students an opportunity to continue their education at Elms College,” said Harry Dumay, president of Elms College. “The increase in college graduates resulting from this agreement will serve our shared goal of improving access to higher education for all students.”

The agreement is effective immediately so that HCC biology and biotechnology students who graduate this spring and meet the requirements of the agreement can matriculate into Elms this fall as third-year students.

“Elms College has been a college of choice for many Holyoke Community College students,” HCC President Christina Royal said. “We are excited to expand our partnership for the benefit of our students who want a seamless transfer experience in STEM fields of study.”

For information about the program, contact [email protected] or [email protected].

Daily News

PALMER — Baystate Wing Hospital (BWH) received a $50,000 FY 2023 legislative earmark to focus on the prevention and treatment of opioid-related substance-use disorders in the Baystate Health Eastern Region. The earmark in the FY 2023 state budget was made by state Rep. Todd Smola to support public-health-related programs and initiatives that reduce health disparities, promote community wellness, and increase access to prevention, treatment, recovery, and referrals for people with opioid and substance-use disorders in the hospital’s service area.

Opioid and substance-use disorders were identified as significant health needs in BWH’s 2022 community health needs assessment.

The BWH Opioid Task Force is focused on addressing the many individual, environmental, and societal factors facing individuals with substance-use disorders. The task force, made up of hospital team members, aims to meet the needs of the local community who seek care in the Emergency Department and other outpatient departments throughout the hospital. The team will work to increase access to prevention, treatment, recovery, and referrals for people with opioid and substance-use disorders who live in the BWH service area, which includes Belchertown, Brimfield, Brookfield, East Brookfield, Hampden, Hardwick, Holland, Ludlow, Monson, New Braintree, North Brookfield, Palmer, Wales, Ware, Warren, West Brookfield, and Wilbraham.

“I am pleased to have advocated for state resources to be used in my district to continue combating the serious issues related to opioid and substance-use abuse,” Smola said. “It is critical we have well-trained healthcare professionals and community partners to serve our region and to work with families impacted by this deadly scourge. I look forward to seeing these good works continue.”

Lauren Mansfield, Behavioral Health practice manager of Baystate Griswold Center, added that, “as the patients facing opioid-related substance-use disorders needs have grown more complex, focusing on coordination and communication across all the patient’s healthcare providers has become increasingly crucial. Our hospital Opioid Task Force and our care teams will collaborate to continue to increase access to care and resources for people with substance-use disorders; reduce or eliminate the projection of stigma focusing on the care of the person, not his or her condition; and distribute harm-reduction kits to those in need. Patients and their families will benefit from increased access to care as we work to build trust in our healthcare environment.”


A Potential Game Changer

John Cook says that, while the cost of a community-college education (roughly $7,000 per year) isn’t high, at least when compared with that of a four-year institution, public or private, it can be, and often is, a barrier that some cannot overcome, even with financial aid.

And for others, it’s enough of an obstacle for them to think twice about college — or not at all.

“Like anything in our lives, we can’t just separate this cost or isolate it from all the other considerations for a human being; it’s one more thing, one more cost in the lives of so many … this is why we see students drop out, or say ‘now is not the time,’” said Cook, president of Springfield Technical Community College (STCC). “Any way to get a whole lot of people, frankly, to take this second look is a good thing.”

With that, Cook added his voice to many others who are praising Gov. Maura Healey’s inclusion in the budget of something she calls MassReconnect, which would fund free community-college certificates and degrees to the Commonwealth’s residents who are age 25 and older and have not yet earned a college degree.

“This is a group of adults, many of whom have college credits, that we really want to encourage to come and take another look at college.”

John Cook

John Cook

According to some statistics released by the state, roughly 2 million residents would be eligible for the program — individuals who have a high-school diploma but not a college degree — and perhaps 700,000 of these individuals already have some college credits.

MassReconnect, which is actually one of two ‘free’ community-college programs that have been proposed (Senate President Karen Spilka has proposed free community college for all students), would provide both incentive and the means for many people to return to college and get the degree or certificate that might open a door to not just a job, but a career, said Christina Royal, president of Holyoke Community College (HCC).

“This is a potential game changer,” she told BusinessWest, adding that MassReconnect targets what she called the “emerging space of adult learners,” individuals who want a college education, but are held back by competing demands on their life, including family and work.

“The governor’s MassReconnect proposal is a great starting point that increases access for adult learners who don’t already have a college credential,” she went on. “It’s designed to help them finish that stretch so they can get a college credential.”

Michelle Schutt, president of Greenfield Community College, concurred. She said GCC ran some numbers and determined that nearly 200 of the roughly 1,400 students currently enrolled would qualify for the program. “That’s not insignificant,” she said, adding that many more in the community who are not enrolled who might be inspired to connect, or ‘reconnect,’ as the case may be.

“I’m incredibly excited about this,” she added. “Reconnecting with those people who have some college but no degree and letting them know that there’s a new opportunity here has great potential for the community colleges and GCC specifically.”

Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council, agreed.

Using similar language, he said MassReconnect could have broad and powerful impact over time, providing benefits for the region, its employers, and both community colleges and the four-year institutions for which they are feeders.

“Reconnecting with those people who have some college but no degree and letting them know that there’s a new opportunity here has great potential for the community colleges and GCC specifically.”

michelle Schutt

Michelle Schutt

Based on initiatives in Michigan and Tennessee, the MassReconnect proposal actually goes further than those programs by covering more than just tuition; it also covers mandatory fees, books, and various support services. It is designed to remove barriers to getting the college degree that is needed to succeed in most jobs today, and it holds significant promise to just that, said those we spoke with.

Cook told BusinessWest that the average age of a student at STCC is 26, a statistic that might surprise some, but certainly helps explain the thinking behind MassReconnect and its potential impact.

“This idea is right in our wheelhouse,” he noted. “This is a group of adults, many of whom have college credits, that we really want to encourage to come and take another look at college.”

Indeed, he went on, for many individuals over age 25, there are now many competing forces when it comes to the weekly budget, and for a good number of them, higher education is something that doesn’t make the cut. MassReconnect, as he noted earlier, provides people an opportunity to rethink college education.

“There are many students who might just have the perception that they are priced out,” he said. “And when we give them a chance to look at this, they might realize, ‘OK, that business degree is not out or my reach,’ or ‘maybe a manufacturing program isn’t going to be too big a lift for me.’”


Ripple Effects

Royal concurred, and noted that MassReconnect will bring more attention to the state’s community colleges — and the careers that individuals can access with two years (or less) of college education.

“Massachusetts, as a state, needs to move beyond the notion that everything requires a bachelor’s degree,” she told BusinessWest. “There are many jobs where an associate degree would either elevate their wages or help them gain a footing toward a career change or a particular job.”

Cook agreed, and said he considers MassReconnect to be an investment in the state’s community colleges and a huge opportunity to introduce more individuals to the value of the education provided by these schools and their ability to help open doors.

“At this price point, and with our class sizes, you won’t find a better deal,” he told BusinessWest.

“Massachusetts, as a state, needs to move beyond the notion that everything requires a bachelor’s degree.”

Christina Royal

Christina Royal

Schutt noted that these arguments and others have been born out in other states where the notion of free community college has become reality, especially Michigan, which adopted a model on which MassReconnect is based and has had it in place for three years now. She said that state has measured its success in many ways.

“From the number of people who came to the college to the number earning better wages, and more, this model has proven successful,” she said. “Those schools recognize that these are students they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

As he assesses MassReconnect and the broad concept of free community college, Sullivan said there will be a broad trickle-down resulting from making these schools more accessible.

For starters, the community colleges themselves will benefit, he said, noting they have been hit hard by sharp declines in enrollment over the past decade, a trend only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Cook qualified this decline by pointing out that STCC’s enrollment — just over 3,600 — is down a full 50% from the school’s peak in 2012 of roughly 7,000, numbers that reflect everything from smaller high-school graduating classes to a still-robust economy featuring low unemployment — the conditions that don’t spur enrollment at community colleges.

But enrollent has become a challenge at most all public and private institutions, Sullivan noted, adding that, over time, this concept of free community college could provide a boost for the large and important ‘Eds’ component of the region’s economy.

“Western Mass. is really lucky … obviously, we have four community colleges [STCC, HCC, Greenfield Community College, and Berkshire Community College] that are well-respected and do a great job,” he said. “But they are also feeders into our four-year colleges and universities, and we’re fortunate that we’ve got such a high-end cohort of four-year and community colleges in this region, and it is an important part of our economy.

“Most all of these schools are looking to bring in more students to be able to grow,” he went on. “So it shouldn’t be lost on people that, in many cases, the community colleges are the start of the training and retraining of that workforce.”

Elaborating, he said that while the higher-ed sector will benefit from free community college, the broader impact will be on the region’s employers, which have been struggling with workforce issues, to one degree or another, for the past several years.

“Workforce is the issue that every single employer is facing right now, and it’s probably the biggest barrier to growth; it doesn’t matter what sector you’re in,” Sullivan said. “This opportunity to bring it back — or, to use the governor’s phrase, ‘reconnect’ — is a good one for our region.”

Cook agreed, and noted that while sectors — and college programs — may not be greatly impacted by MassReconnect (many healthcare programs, such as nursing, already boast strong enrollment), there are others that will, because the assistance from the state might act to remove a barrier to exploring certain fields.

He mentioned manufacturing as one of them, noting that, while this sector features well-paying jobs and attractive opportunities, it still manages to elude the attention of many job seekers.

“I would love for us to continue to demystify manufacturing, to see people realize it’s very much a high-tech, high-end, laboratory type of setting for so many of the professionals working in this field,” he said, adding that MassReconnect, if it becomes reality (and it has the support of many in the State House), could help achieve that.


Bottom Line

Overall, and combining MassReconnect with the elimination of COVID vaccine requirements and proposed fee-stabilization initiatives, Cook can envision a lift in enrollment for this fall’s semester — perhaps a 2%, 3%, or 4% gain, this on top of a 4% improvement registered this spring.

Just how big a lift remains to be seen, obviously, but any improvement would be a step in the right direction, he said, and hopefully the first of many such steps.

Healthcare News

All Hands on Deck


In the six months since the Biden-Harris administration hosted the second-ever White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern has recognized the significance of the moment — only, he hopes it’s more than a moment.

“The first and only other conference was held more than 50 years ago — in 1969, the year we put somebody on the moon,” McGovern said at a recent virtual gathering with officials from food-justice organizations, farm advocates, public-health leaders, healthcare providers, and other legislators, to discuss the White House event, legislative action that has emerged in its wake, and what is being done in Massachusetts — and what more can be done — to end hunger.

Liz Wills-O’Gilvie

Liz Wills-O’Gilvie

“The only way that we’re going to eradicate hunger and improve health is by centering our work with a racial-equity lens.”

“Out of this conference came an ambitious but achievable roadmap to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease by the year 2030,” McGovern said, adding that the conference has the potential to impact even more change than the 1969 event, which is saying a lot, since innovations like WIC, the modern-day SNAP program, and better food labeling came out of that session.

“There were so many important things,” he went on. “But I think this conference, if we do the follow-through, has the potential to have even a greater impact on this country.”

The March 17 briefing, attended by about 300 people, was co-hosted and organized by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Growing Places, Stone Soup Cafe, CISA, the Springfield Food Policy Council, the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative, Project Bread, and the Western Mass. state legislative delegation, including state Sen. Jo Comerford and state Rep. Mindy Domb.

Liz Wills-O’Gilvie, who chairs the Springfield Food Policy Council, saw the historic nature of the White House event, which she attended, from a unique perspective: her own personal history as “a little Black girl from Springfield who was dependent upon commodities food before food stamps as we know it now existed.

“Our family’s life improved when food stamps emerged out of the last conference,” she recalled, “so I was struck by the significance of the moment I got to be there in that room and hear both President Biden and Secretary [of Agriculture Tom] Vilsack make the comments that they did … that the only way that we’re going to eradicate hunger and improve health is by centering our work with a racial-equity lens.”

To that end, Wills-O’Gilvie called Massachusetts’ Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) — which reimburses EBT card users when they used SNAP benefits for healthy produce from local farm vendors — a tool for racial equity as well as a way to improve the health of families.”

She also called for making universal free school meals permanent in the Bay State, a priority shared by Domb, who also praised HIP, talked up the benefits of food-literacy education, and called for a conversation about hunger on college campuses.

“We need to make universal free school meals in Massachusetts permanent,” Domb said. “It’s terrific that we extended it this year. It’s wonderful that the Legislature in the supplemental budget has included additional money to make sure it continues through the end of this academic year.”

“There’s obviously much, much more that needs to be done in these areas. But we’re off to a good start. And there is finally momentum at a national level behind efforts to end hunger.”

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern

But she said expansion of such benefits during COVID demonstrated how important they are to families, even beyond the pandemic. “So we need to make sure that that continues.”


One Bite at a Time

McGovern said President Biden has made it clear that the federal government wants to implement an aggressive national strategy to end hunger in the next decade.

“In the months following the conference, Congress has gotten to work on some of the priorities that were laid out in the strategy,” he noted. “We created a permanent summer EBT program to give families with kids $40 per child per month over the summer, when we know that hunger is often worse. It’s a small step in the right direction, but it’s an important step in the right direction. And especially during these times of high inflation and especially in the aftermath of the SNAP pandemic boost being cut, this is really, really crucial.”

He also said lawmakers responded to a recent EBT-skimming problem by requiring benefit replacement for those who had SNAP benefits stolen through no fault of their own, mandated that the Department of Defense screen military families for food insecurity, and passed the Food Donation Improvement Act to make it easier for retailers, manufacturers, farmers, and schools to donate food directly to hungry people.

“And we passed a massive omnibus spending bill that includes the highest level of non-defense spending in history. That translates into robust funding for WIC, farm-to-school grants, school meal equipment grants, among other things,” McGovern went on. “There’s obviously much, much more that needs to be done in these areas. But we’re off to a good start. And there is finally momentum at a national level behind efforts to end hunger. We have people in the administration saying that we want to end hunger.”

He also recently introduced legislation to permanently increase the reimbursement rates paid by the federal government to schools for every breakfast and lunch served.

“We talk a lot about the quality of food that we provide our kids in school, but we also talk about the importance of supporting our local farmers,” he explained. “With a little more money for breakfast and lunch, it gives school districts and people who oversee school meals some flexibility to do some things that, right now, they don’t do because it’s too complicated or it might cost a little bit more.”

Kirsten Levitt, executive chef and co-director of Stone Soup Café, a volunteer-driven, pay-what-you-want meal spot in Greenfield, also attended the White House conference and came away with the belief it will take all sectors of the nation to eradicate hunger, and Western Mass. has the ability to be a national model for its emphasis on farms, food, and nutrition. She added that children will be the best ambassadors for health and nutrition, especially if school meals are funded properly.

Erin McAleer, president of Project Bread, an anti-hunger nonprofit based in Boston, identified five pillars to a statewide strategy on hunger, nutrition, and health: increasing access and improving quality of child-nutrition programs, increasing access and affordability of food for all, integrating food access into healthcare, strengthening and integrating the local food system, and ensuring economic stability and promoting economic opportunities to address the root causes of hunger.

“I never imagined I would be sitting in a room with the president of the United States, and certainly never imagined I would be sitting in the room when he expressed that what I went through my childhood was unacceptable — that food insecurity is unacceptable,” McAleer said.

“When 21% of families in Massachusetts are food-insecure and 33% of the Black and Latino families in Massachusetts are food-insecure, that is a systemic issue. And that requires systemic solutions. Too often, we focus on individualized solutions when it comes to this issue.”

Erin McAleer

Erin McAleer

“What I really appreciated about the plan that was put together by the White House is the focus on systemic solutions,” she went on. “When 21% of families in Massachusetts are food-insecure and 33% of the Black and Latino families in Massachusetts are food-insecure, that is a systemic issue. And that requires systemic solutions. Too often, we focus on individualized solutions when it comes to this issue.”

McGovern agreed that fighting hunger and improving nutrition is a battle that can, and should, be waged on all levels — federal, state, and local.

“There are things that can be done at the local level — things like expanding access to culturally appropriate cooking classes, bringing gardens and hydroponics to every school, and more robust food-recovery partnerships. All of this is going to require close collaboration.”


Menu of Activity

On the state level, myriad bills have been filed recently relating to nutrition, hunger, and agriculture: “An Act Relative to Universal School Meals,” “An Act to Promote Food Literacy,” “An Act Protecting Our Soil and Farms from PFAS Contamination,” “An Act Strengthening Local Food Systems,” “An Act Promoting Equity in Agriculture,” “An Act Relative to an Agricultural Healthy Incentives Program,” “An Act Supporting the Commonwealth’s Food System,” “An Act Encouraging the Donation of Food to Persons in Need,” “An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-free Campus Initiative” … the list goes on.

Comerford said those who organized the March 17 briefing with McGovern wanted participants to be inspired by the White House’s 2030 hunger goals, tackle diet-related diseases like hypertension and obesity in the Commonwealth, and strengthen the region’s food system and farms in the process.

“We also want to help participants take away concrete and timely action steps around critical budget priorities and policy proposals that are going to move the Commonwealth boldly toward ending hunger in just a handful of years.”



Healthcare News

An Active Office

Standing desks are standard at many local companies.

Since COVID-19 swept across the globe, many industries have shifted to fully remote or hybrid working. During the pandemic, 70% of the workforce was working from home, and since then, 62% of companies have planned to incorporate remote work, be it fully remote or hybrid.

With more and more people working from the comfort of their own home, concerns have arisen that this model may be associated with more sedentary lifestyles and, in turn, increased risk of obesity. Most of our calories throughout the day are burned through non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which includes walking and other basic activities. When working from home, sometimes those activities can be even more limited.

Here are a few ideas from online fitness resource Total Shape to stay fit even while working from home.

Standing Desk ($150-$600)

Standing desks have gained popularity over the last few years and have been proven to provide many positive health benefits. Simply put, standing burns more calories than sitting, even if you simply stand still. Research has also shown that 66% of workers felt more productive, and 87% felt more energized, using standing desks. Standing activates the muscles in your legs and core while stimulating circulation, which can help you to burn extra calories (typically 60 to 90 per hour) and build your strength. Standing desks come in a range of styles and cater to many different budgets, meaning this is an accessible option for all.

Desk Treadmill ($200-$800)

Although it is a more expensive option, this is one of the most effective ways to stay fit while working at home. It essentially takes the standing desk a step further by adding the walking element. Studies have shown that walking between 1 and 2.5 mph can lead to an extra 170 to 240 calories burned per hour. Not only have people encountered the physical benefits of getting more exercise, but walking helps oxygenate the brain by stimulating blood circulation. In other words, we think better and more efficiently when we walk. With most people having busy schedules outside of work, it can be difficult to get the recommended amount of physical exercise, which makes this a great way to stay fit while working from home.

Under-desk Bike ($50-$200)

A very similar concept to the desk treadmill, an under-desk bike features a small set of pedals that can slide under your desk so that you can pedal while sitting. The small machines can be altered to have more resistance, which makes it harder or easier to pedal. This type of aerobic exercise is good for staying fit and can help strengthen your legs and joints. Studies estimate that pedaling while seated can burn up to 10 calories per minute, depending on the intensity, which means you could burn up to 600 calories per hour. However, the average gentle pedaling will most likely burn 100 to 300 calories per hour.

Resistance Bands ($15-$40)

Resistance bands are an affordable option to help train your body and get fitter, by helping you build muscle and burn calories (180 to 250 per hour) while seated at your desk. You can perform plenty of passive resistance-band workouts even when you’re doing something at your desk, and in between typing and during brainstorming sessions, your body can keep active alongside your mind. Exercises could include bicep curls, overhead tricep extensions, and shoulder raises. However, there are many variations and other exercises that can be done with resistance bands. A study published in 2022 showed that resistance-band training lowers body fat in people who are overweight better than other forms of training, including free weights and body-weight exercises.

Seven-minute Workout

Searching ‘seven-minute workout’ on an app store will reveal an app that will guide you through various workouts you can do in your own home, which take just seven minutes at a time. The best thing about the seven-minute workout app is that its programs are designed especially for people who are doing the workouts at home, and who have no special equipment. The brief nature of these workouts allows people with busy schedules to fit in exercise and can help break up your workday, which can increase productivity while burning 20 to 50 calories per session. While there are some in-app purchases available, you can use the app completely free, so there’s nothing stopping you from getting started.


Exercise and living an active lifestyle are obviously important in staying fit and healthy; however, diet is a key contributor to overall health and fitness. People with few distractions at home may find they are more aware of hunger than they would be at the workplace, which can lead to more snacking and possibly an unhealthier diet. By focusing on eating healthy foods and healthy snacks, people who work from home can ensure they are staying fit and keeping their bodies healthy. Studies show that both the overall composition of the human diet and specific dietary components have been shown to have an impact on brain function, which means diet isn’t only going to keep you fit, but it’s going to improve cognitive function, and thus the quality of work produced.

Why It’s Important

A spokesperson from Total Shape noted that “roughly two in three people in the U.S. are overweight, and with many aspects of life becoming more sedentary, it’s important that people try to find new ways to keep fit and healthy. Life has become busy and more expensive, meaning that it’s harder to find the time and money to attend gyms or activities that help us to remain fit. This guide provides a plethora of choices for people on various budgets and with specific preferences to ensure we are keeping ourselves healthy.”

Total Shape is a fitness resource site providing information about workouts, supplements, and fitness to help people reach your goals. Total Shape does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Healthcare News

Set Up to Fail



“How to lose weight fast” has an average 284,000 monthly search volume in the U.S., demonstrating that Americans are desperate for a quick fix to help shed those unwanted pounds in time for summer.

How to lose weight is one of the most pressing health questions for many people. As many as 95% of dieters fail to reach their body target or quickly backslide and regain the weight they lost once their diet is finished. Because of this, a massive number of people are serial dieters who skip from one eating plan to the next, trying to find best way to lose weight and keep it off.

While there are thousands of diets to choose from, the overall rule is, if you want to lose weight, get toned, build muscle, or even just improve your energy levels, you’ll probably need to change what you eat.

“Provided that your diet of choice meets your caloric needs, it will have the desired effect,” an exercise and nutrition expert at online resource Fitness Volt said. “For example, consume fewer calories than you need, and you will burn fat and lose weight, but consume more than you need, and you will gain weight.

“However, most people fail to stick with their diet long enough for it to work sustainably. They’re strong out of the gate, but soon fall off the wagon and return to their previously sub-optimal eating plan,” the expert continued. “That’s why so many of us lose weight only to regain it shortly afterward, and it seems long-term, sustainable weight loss is rare nowadays.”

According to Fitness Volt, here are six reasons why most diets fail.


Foods Are Too Restrictive

Most diets ban certain food or food groups. For example, the paleo diet excludes all processed foods, while keto severely limits your carb intake. Other diets will cut out sugar or alcohol. The problem is, while cutting out certain foods can help contribute to your daily calorie deficit, this technique is also guaranteed to trigger cravings.

Essentially, any diet that bans a particular food or food group will invariably result in cravings, driving you to cheat on your diet. So allow yourself the smallest amount of this particular food or drink to allow your body to feel like it isn’t being deprived of something. In other words, everything in moderation.


Ingredients Cost Too Much

It is good to follow a diet of healthy, fresh ingredients, but with food being one of life’s unavoidable expenses, it will be harder for you to sustain this diet plan long-term if you aren’t always financially stable.

For example, some diets specify that you must eat expensive foods and that somehow these products are better for weight loss than those that are more reasonably priced. Organic vegetables and grass-fed beef from free-roaming cattle cost a lot more than the basics you get at Costco, but nutritionally are not all that different. They certainly won’t help you lose weight faster.

For a diet to be sustainable, you need to be comfortable with how much your food costs. For example, if your grocery bill doubles overnight, you’ve got a ready-made excuse for quitting your new eating plan.


It’s Too Complicated

To make diets unique, they are often unnecessarily complicated. This complexity can often cause people to make mistakes or just give up after a while.

Food-combing diets are a perfect example of this. Some may say things like “you can’t eat fat and carbs in the same meal,” which looks OK on paper, but makes meal prep far more complicated than it needs to be. Ultimately, for any diet to work, it needs to be simple enough to follow every day.


Perfection or Failure

Diets can often be very prescriptive and allow no variation. However, in everyday life, any diet can be difficult to stick to. Perhaps you have a friend’s birthday or an off day, and you decide to indulge in something sweet.

The reality is that your diet doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to pretty good most of the time, which is more than enough to reach weight-loss goals.


Ignoring the Long Term

Putting a timeframe on any diet sets you up for failure. Some of the most common ways diets are advertised are through their quick-fix timestamp, like “lose 30 pounds in 90 days” or “30-day get-ripped plan.”

Excess body fat accumulates over many years, and no one goes to bed lean and then wakes up fat. Likewise, achieving your body goal could take many months, or even years. To achieve a significant result in just a few weeks, any diet must be very restrictive, and, therefore, it may be unsustainable, as your body will soon put the weight back on that it dramatically lost. Before considering any diet, ask yourself, “can I follow it for the next six to 12 months?”


What’s the Science?

Some diets are based on very flawed science or may not be based on any science at all. One example of this is calorie-burning or negative-calorie foods, such as celery. No food burns more calories than it contains, and these claims are very misleading.

Effective diets work by manipulating your calorie balance. Consume fewer calories, and your body will make up the shortfall by using stored body fat for energy. No deficit means no fat burning. There are no shortcuts around this law of thermodynamics.


Bottom Line

As a rule, if a diet promises something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so don’t fall for it.

“Fortunately, healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated or unpleasant, and weight management doesn’t have to take over your life,” Fitness Volt’s expert said. “You don’t even have to give up your favorite foods. However, you will need to quit looking for short-term fixes and adopt healthier, long-term habits.”


Fitness Volt is a comprehensive online resource dedicated to strength sports. Its mission is to empower readers with tried and tested knowledge and practices surrounding the latest fitness and nutritional information.


Layers of Protection

By Mark Morris


As the world increases its dependence on the internet for all kinds of transactions, keeping everything secure becomes a constant challenge.

Cybersecurity experts compare their work to an ‘arms race’ in which every new, secure tool they put in place motivates cybercriminals to find a new way to defeat it.

“When you think about it, we need to be right all the time; they only need to be right once,” said Charlie Christianson, president of CMD Technology Group, which installs computer networks for all kinds of companies and keeps them safe.

Paul Whalley, president of Growth for Your Company (G4YC), said cybersecurity is like physical security in that, the more difficult it is for criminals to defeat, the better the odds of not being a victim.

“For example, if criminals want to rob a house, they are more likely to hit the house with an open door over one with bolted locks on every door, tightly shut windows, and a sign out front that says they have a security system.”

“Two-thirds of people use the same passwords on multiple online accounts. Imagine if a cybercriminal knows that one password and can log into your financial, work, or cloud accounts. It happens every day to millions of people.”

In his current venture with G4YC, Whalley helps companies like CMD Technology Group grow their business. In addition, Growth for Your Company is organizing a cybersecurity conference on Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow. The idea is to educate local business leaders and IT professionals on evolving cyberthreats and the latest tools to combat them.

Businesses that purchased antivirus software years ago may think they are protected, but Christianson noted that, even if the old software blocks a cyberattack, it can take months to determine the source of the attack and how it gained entry.

“The new software tools can make a huge difference because they will immediately point you in the right direction to find the problem,” he said. “Some will block the threat and move it to a safe server to determine if it needs to be quarantined.”

Two-factor authentication (2FA) — that access code a bank sends by text after the customer inputs a password — has emerged as a strong deterrent against outside attacks. Encouraging safe practices such as a written policy to guide employees on how to act when they are using the company’s system is another key to fighting cyberattacks.

The software tools are only as good, however, as the people using them. Scott Augenbaum is a retired FBI agent and cybercrime-prevention trainer who is scheduled to present at the fall cybersecurity conference. Augenbaum contends that online safety begins with basic practices everyone can follow, starting with passwords.

“Two-thirds of people use the same passwords on multiple online accounts,” he said. “Imagine if a cybercriminal knows that one password and can log into your financial, work, or cloud accounts. It happens every day to millions of people.”

When he retired from the FBI in 2018, Augenbaum said, cybercrime was a $4 trillion problem. Since then, the cost to society has doubled. “The pandemic ruined everyone’s lives except the cybercriminals. So many people were shopping online, working from home, and logging in remotely to our most critical sites.”

In addition to using 2FA, Augenbaum recommends that businesses and individuals identify what he calls “mission-critical accounts,” such as banks, credit cards, and cell-phone accounts, and make sure each password is unique and at least 12 to 15 characters long.

All three cybersecurity experts told BusinessWest no one is too small to be a target for cybercriminals.

“Every one of the victims I’ve worked with felt they didn’t fit the victim profile,” Augenbaum said. “Anyone who thinks they are immune because they are a small business increases their chances of joining the list of small businesses that have been victimized.”

Christianson agreed, and gave an example of someone who owns a pizza shop. “That person might think they are only in the pizza business, so what could happen? Well, they most likely process credit-card transactions, and that’s a gold mine to a cybercriminal.”

He added that it’s important for a business owner to consider what is unique in their environment that makes them vulnerable to a cyberattack. There was a time when insurance for cyberattacks could quickly help a company get back to business but after years of increasing claims, that has changed.

“There is a new landscape for cybersecurity insurance companies,” Whalley said. “Companies are now more stringent on eligibility to get cyberinsurance.”

Before selling a cybersecurity policy, Christianson added, insurers want to know that a business has built several layers of protection into its systems.

“Just like an onion has layers, an effective security system also has layers to make it harder to penetrate a company’s data,” he explained. “If one layer gets defeated, there’s another one right behind it to stop a potential breach.”

The Sept. 19 conference will focus, in large part, on how to create those layers of protection with technology and a more educated human element.

“Along with the technology, we will be encouraging training so everyone understands how to mitigate the risks,” Christianson said. “We all have a role to play in preventing cyberattacks.”