At a retreat for Merrill Lynch financial advisors in a luxury Orlando hotel last month, a group of several dozen men and women in business attire swung their arms back and forth over their heads to Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" to get their circulation going.

The mild aerobics were part of a three-day event orchestrated by Chris Johnson, a wellness guru who has gained influence under John Thiel's leadership of Bank of America's Merrill Lynch wealth management business.

At Thiel's instruction, Johnson has for the last year been traveling the country teaching Merrill Lynch advisors how to lead healthier lives. He urges brokers -- and, in some cases, their family members and clients -- to include liver oil, wheatgrass, flax, chia and a type of algae called spirulina in their diets, and to take relaxing baths with Epsom salt to unwind.

"They're starting to go down the medication path. They have acid reflux. They don't sleep. They feel crummy. They're drinking too much. They gain too much weight," Johnson said of the Merrill employees who most need his advice. With that lifestyle, he said, "they're not going to be a good advisor. If I'm coming to my advisor, I want them to be healthy."

Thiel did not respond to requests for comment. David Walker, a spokesman for Bank of America's wealth management business, said that it was important for Merrill to focus on the health and wellness of its employees.

"We care that our advisors are taking care of themselves so they have the energy and capacity to best serve their clients and be present for their families," he said. "Any company that is not focused on wellness is behind. All of the most admired, most progressive companies with the most highly engaged employees are focused in this area."

He declined to comment on Johnson's description of health problems suffered by some members of Merrill's workforce.

Nap Time

Known as the "thundering herd" because of their bull logo and their large numbers, Merrill's army of 14,000 brokers are not the only money-management employees being urged to take better care of themselves. Firms across Wall Street have been encouraging employees to eat right, sleep well and exercise. While Merrill is Johnson's biggest client, he has also done events with advisors at Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo & Co and Raymond James Financial Inc.

Still, some Merrill employees have told Reuters in recent weeks that Thiel is so enthusiastic about healthy living that it has caused some hard-charging, long-time advisors to bristle.

These employees have been annoyed to receive advice about health and wellness from Thiel when they would prefer to discuss business concerns with him, several sources said.

One Bank of America executive said brokers have complained about tofu burgers served at a retreat for top producers. Another cited a message recently sent to some advisors encouraging them to take an afternoon nap to increase productivity.