Turning Wellness into a Career at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska

Growing up, Elise McHatton was more likely to deliver speeches or engage in spirited debates than wear a sports uniform. “Ironically, I wasn’t an athlete or into fitness in high school,” McHatton said. “My friends and I skated a little bit at our local ice rink in the winter, but that was the extent of it.”

While skating on a particularly slippery rink with college friends one day, McHatton lost her balance and slammed her foot into the rink boards, shattering her right ankle. “I laid on the couch for weeks,” McHatton said. “Once I was healed, I knew I had to do something to get moving and be fit.” 

Once healed, McHatton walked into her local gym, looking for a group to help keep her motivated. She discovered a passion for group exercise classes, particularly the morning classes. Working out early in the day became McHatton’s version of a morning coffee. Despite lacking experience in teaching group exercise classes, McHatton approached the gym’s owner and asked to lead an early morning step aerobics class. 

“I fell so in love with teaching group exercise classes that I dropped out of my business administration degree and switched to exercise physiology,” McHatton said. “I was three and a half years into my business degree but knew I’d be happier doing what I love.”

After graduating with her exercise physiology degree, McHatton said she’s done just about everything one can do in the exercise physiology world. From teaching group exercise classes to being an exercise physiologist in a cardiac pulmonary rehab clinic and holding a position as a director at a corporate wellness company, she emphasized that wellness has “just been a part of [her] DNA.”

Now serving as the director of claims at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), McHatton gets her group exercise fix by teaching classes at Blue Cross Centre for her BCBSNE coworkers. McHatton’s in-office group exercise classes have been a success thanks to the unwavering support of BCBSNE. The Wellness team’s assistance in crafting a schedule and her coworkers’ dedication to showing up for 30 minutes of intense workouts have been instrumental in the program’s popularity.

Between the YMCA and McHatton, BCBSNE hosts group exercise classes each month for employees. McHatton said the classes provide employees with an opportunity to step away from their desks for a little while to lift weights, break a sweat and, as she humorously put it, “bemoan about having another 10 pushups.”

“I love giving back to the organization and just being able to take that little break out of the day and give people a mental pause, get the blood flowing and the oxygen moving,” McHatton said. 

While fitness is a big part of McHatton’s overall well-being, she recognizes exercise is just one aspect of wellness. She encourages her students to keep going on their own personal journeys, saying the road to well-being isn’t a straight path, but often a winding road with many highs and lows.

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