Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Modifying Senior Fitness Programs for Assisted Living

Maintaining a well-run, popular senior fitness program in a CCRC can be tough. Often just managing the independent living fitness center is a full-time job for someone. Then, as residents move through the continuums in a community, they often start to miss out on the robust programming that was offered to them in independent living. So, what happens when a manager wants to extend programming into assisted living without adding a huge burden on themselves?


One answer could be to simply modify existing programs to better fit the assisted living population. This way, managers save some time with planning and can use many of the same program materials (which means saving money, too).

Here are a variety of tips for modifying senior fitness programs for assisted living: 

1. Make it a team effort.

One of the simplest ways to change an incentive program is to take it from an individual effort challenge to a team goal. For example, if the goal of the program in IL is to have a resident achieve 15 group fitness class visits over the course of a month, maybe the goal for AL would be to have the entire group achieve 35 group fitness classes over the month. Obviously, the goal numbers will depend on availability of classes and residents who want to participate, but you get the idea. Take it one step further and create a tracking poster to keep in the assisted living fitness area so residents can keep up on their progress.

2. Get volunteers involved.ThinkstockPhotos-533552808.jpg

Another way to make sure your assisted living program is successful is to involve some volunteers. Let’s say you’re doing a one-mile walking event for IL and you want to run the same event in assisted living. For IL, you can probably just market the event, promise some water and granola bars at the “finish line,” and residents will come out to participate. You could try the same thing in AL, but it certainly wouldn’t go over as well.

Instead, try recruiting volunteers (either staff or residents) and pair up with people while they walk. This way, your walk becomes not only about physical health, but also about social wellness and emotional wellness. Plus, most people would think of this event as an activity rather than just exercise, and so they are more likely to attend.

3. Recognize participants.

This isn’t actually a modification because it works equally well in both levels of care, but it’s still a great way to make the program a success. People love a recognition for their work. In assisted living, this can mean getting a little creative. Yes, you can stick with the typical throw-a-party-for-participants-at-the-end-of-the-program reward. Or you can try something a little different.

One of the simplest but most effective examples of this was during our Fitness Freeze last year. During this program, residents earn snowflakes for visits during the month of December. Instead of hanging them in the fitness center, one manager hung the snowflakes earned by assisted living residents on their doors. This resulted in two major positives:

  • When family and friends visited, residents could brag about their fitness center participation.
  • It brought more attention to the program and other residents started asking about how they could earn snowflakes.

***

What other ways can you think of to modify existing independent living programming for other areas of the community?

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Topics: senior fitness assisted living programming independent living

How to Revitalize your Fitness this Summer

Do you feel like every summer is the same: take the kids to summer camp, go to work, pick the kids up, go home, make dinner, and then start all over again the next day? What about you? What do you do for yourself and your health, wellness and fitness? Here are few tips for how to revitalize your fitness this summer.

  • ThinkstockPhotos-507114390.jpgPick up a new sport or try a new fitness class. Get social! Sign up for a group fitness class that you wouldn’t normally try and bring a friend. Ask your local fitness center what summer programs they have planned. Prefer a team aspect to your fitness? Check out a local sports league in your area and get involved.
  • Buy a new pair of shoes. If it’s been over 6 months since you bought new running shoes, now is the perfect time to invest in a new pair. Even regular walking can cause wear and tear on shoes and also your feet and legs. Visit your local running store and get fitted for the right pair of shoes for you. Then get outside and get moving!
  • Update your workout gear. What goes well with a new pair of shoes? New workout gear! We all love to show off new clothes, right? What better place than on your local running path or in your local gym? Also think about purchasing other equipment such as a good hat or visor to protect your face from the sun.
  • Change up your diet. Not only do you need to switch up your activity, you also need to modify your diet. The summer brings fresh fruit and veggies and a lot of color and nutrition available to add to your diet. Try new things, spice it up, and see what’s out there that you never knew you were missing! You might even try a healthy summer picnic.

As you think of new ways to revitalize your summer, make sure things like water, sunscreen, relaxation, and activity are all constants for safe summer workouts. Increased sunlight and heat provide more opportunity to develop sunburn and dehydration. Take the necessary precautions to avoid any mishaps that will prevent you from enjoying the outdoors.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 7 Ways to Add Exercise to the Workplace >

Topics: nutrition shoes hydration equipment summer wellness and fitness

Staying Active and Healthy on Vacation

Summer is a time for vacation getaways and family adventures.  Don’t let your plans get in the way of your health and fitness goals. Here are some suggestions for staying active and healthy on vacation this summer whether you are out of town or having a “staycation.”

  • ThinkstockPhotos-627280116.jpgWalk the airport instead of sitting and waiting for your flight. Get your vacation started off on the right foot and finish on a good note. There are endless opportunities to get in your daily dose of steps at the airport. Just be sure to keep correct posture as you move, especially if you are carrying or dragging a bag.
  • Do an entire workout from your hotel room. No need for a gym; you can do body-weight exercises, such as lunges, squats, push-ups, triceps dips, wall sits, planks, etc. The list goes on. Just be creative. Pack a resistance band in your suitcase for even more exercise options.
  • Take a bike tour. Sightseeing by bike can be a fun and exciting way to see the world around you. Some places require a reservation, so be sure to do your research to find a tour of the area in which you are staying. If you can’t find a tour, search for a local bike rental; then you can decide exactly where you want to go and what to see on your own schedule.
  • Try new things. Whether it’s a faraway destination vacation or a “staycation,” try things you’ve never tried before. Some examples include hiking a new trail, paddle boarding, kayaking, and golf. Another idea is to just take your workout outdoors and enjoy the beautiful summer weather. Try yoga on the beach or Pilates in the park.
  • Pack snacks and water. Don’t let bad nutrition habits ruin your healthy vacation; pack your own snacks. If you are driving, be sure to have plenty of healthy options so you’re not tempted to pull over at the closest drive-thru. If you are renting a condo, you can even do your own grocery shopping and cook your own meals. When you do eat out, try to plan where and when you are going, and what you will eat. It is vacation, however, so plan to splurge a little. Everything in moderation.
  • Plan ahead for an active vacation. Be sure to pack appropriate clothing, make any reservations for activities beforehand, and do some research to find out more about the area you will be visiting.
  • Make the most of your vacation time. Stay off your cell phone, close the computer, and turn off the TV. Spend your time doing activities that you enjoy. Spend time outdoors. Spend time with friends and family (or get some well-deserved alone time!). Be sure to get the most “bang for your buck” out of your vacation time.

Vacations don’t have to derail or throw off your healthy lifestyle. You just need a little planning and an adventurous spirit! What are your healthy vacation plans?

Check out NIFS picks for nutrition apps to keep you on track during vacation, click below for the free download!

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Why Wearable Fitness Trackers Aren't Your Wellness Program

ThinkstockPhotos-470428334.jpgConsidering how long it can take to make a global shift in corporate America, the rise of wearable fitness trackers in wellness has been meteoric. A recent study reports an anticipated 13M wearables will enter the corporate wellness market by 2018. Despite the rapid adoption of this technology by businesses for their employees, there remains healthy skepticism about what exactly is being measured and who is privy to that data.

It would be tempting, I think, for an employer to see wearable tech as the answer to their questions about how to have an employee wellness program. The devices are relatively inexpensive and generally easy to use. And many adults already use a device without it being connected to a corporate wellness program, so there is no introduction of something foreign to which the workforce must adapt.

But the easy answer isn't always the right answer. Here are three reasons why wearable fitness trackers aren't your wellness program.

1. It's not always about the numbers.

Despite the continued drumbeat for measurement, ROI, and quantifying value in wellness, providing opportunities for your employees to live well isn't always about the numbers. If you're offering a wellness program and your only goal is to save money on healthcare costs for the business, you're (dare I say) probably doing employee wellness for the wrong reasons.

Your employees are people—people with complicated and busy lives. If you want them to live well, you may want to rethink your desire to hook them up with a tracking device that's going to report on everything from steps to sleep. You might view it as a perk, while employees see it as more pressure.

If you insist on wearables in your wellness program, consider them as an option among many other tools your workforce can choose from to live well in ways that are meaningful to them.

[Related Content: Why Employee Purpose might be the Heart of Corporate Wellness]

 

2. Like most programs under the corporate wellness banner, one size does not fit all.

If you're a fan of using a tracker personally, it may come as a surprise that they're not a good choice for everyone. Some people are quickly defeated by the constant barrage of information, so instead of serving as a device to motivate individuals, they have the opposite effect. Other people quickly turn to obsession with the data, constantly feeling like they need to do more, move more, sleep better, etc., to the exclusion of other more important activities (like work). As eloquently stated in this personal account, "...there is a fine line between health consciousness and a health obsession...."

While this study on wearables points to a 53% adoption rate for the under-40 employee crowd (note that the adoption rate for the over-50 employee group was at 36%) as a good thing, I'm left to wonder...what about the other 50+% of your workforce? If you insist on wearables in your wellness program, understand the potential reach as well as the potential concerns among your employees. Diversity in your offerings acknowledges the varied interests and passions of your employees.

3. High-tech has a place, but so does high-touch.

I've written about high-tech vs. high-touch in corporate wellness before. Wellness isn't an either/or proposition when you consider high-tech and high-touch options. You need sophisticated tech solutions to understand what is and isn't working in your wellness program. Still, there are limits to what technology can do for your business when it comes to helping employees live well.

For the employee who is caring for his parents who are aging in place with dementia, the wellness tracker does not get him more engaged at work or taking more steps; it only leaves him feeling more alone in his caregiving situation. It doesn't provide support for him while he struggles to figure out how he's going to get dinner to his parents and still make it to his son's baseball game. But if he has a relationship with the wellness manager (high-touch), he might open up about this personal situation. Then the wellness manager can help him find resources through the EAP or the local-area agency on aging.

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Your amazing employees are complex and they need a variety of tools at their disposal to live well. Wearables aren't the answer; they're just a piece of the puzzle. Need to think outside the wearable option? Grab these seven ideas for how to make movement easy at work.

Looking to add exercise options to your corporate wellness offerings?  Check our out free download to help get you started!

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Topics: corporate wellness ROI technology wearables fitness trackers

Start Your Day Off Right with a High-Nutrition Breakfast

ThinkstockPhotos-dv2014027.jpgIf it’s the most important meal of the day, why do about 31 million people or 10% of the population still skip breakfast? Here are the top three reasons people give for skipping breakfast and how you can overcome those excuses to make eating a high nutrition breakfast be a part of your daily routine.

  • I’m just not hungry in the morning. You should wake up in the morning and be hungry. Your body has gone at least 8 hours without food, so it should be ready for some fuel. If not, take a look at your before-bedtime habits and check to see whether you are constantly having snacks like chips and ice cream late into the evening. If so, this can affect your hunger levels in the morning. Don’t go to bed hungry, but instead choose a reasonable snack around 100–150 calories like Greek yogurt or an apple with 1 Tbsp of peanut butter.
  • I don’t have time for breakfast. If you would rather hit the snooze button a few more times than prepare breakfast for yourself, you might find yourself without enough time to eat in the morning. The key is to aim for three food groups at a meal, so even if you grab a turkey sandwich and a banana as you run out the door, you are still starting your day right. The key is to combine some protein and whole grains to help give you energy and keep you full. Breakfast is also a great time to get in a dairy or fruit serving too! If time is an issue, use this recipe for Breakfast Egg Muffins to prepare breakfast for the whole week. Add an egg to an English muffin and grab a glass of milk or piece of fruit to go with it and you are set!
  • I want to save my calories for later in the day. Some people think if they skip breakfast it will help with their weight-loss efforts or it gives them more calories to consume at lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A recent study compared two groups: one ate more for breakfast and the other ate more at dinner, with both consuming the same amount of calories. The breakfast group lost more weight and inches than the dinner group. Typically people who skip breakfast overcompensate the rest of the day by eating more calories than if they had started their day with a balanced meal.

Whatever your reason for skipping breakfast is, try to break that habit and start eating something every day for better nutrition all day. Start small with a glass of 100% juice or a piece of fruit and then work up to a balanced meal between 400 and 500 calories and at including least three food groups.

Benefits of meeting with a nutrition coach >

Topics: nutrition weight loss breakfast snacks

Meditation for Beginner's

ThinkstockPhotos-79214896.jpgDaily stress can make you unhappy and irritated, which in turn affects your overall health. Meditation is a simple addition to your daily activities that can help improve your quality of life and put you in a more positive mindset.

How Meditating Helps You Emotionally

Although you may feel like there is no time to meditate because of everything on your plate, it actually helps you become more focused and productive to get those things done and feel more calm while doing it. You can correct your thoughts from a more negative mindset to a positive one and understand why you feel the way you do.

Your mood will fluctuate and meditation can keep things on a more even keel to prevent anxiety. You can then handle outside situations that arise without feeling out of control. Just a few minutes a day will help reduce overall anxiety, stress, and even depression.

How to Get Started

Here is a step-by-step guide to start a simple meditation practice.

  1. Take a comfortable seat with your legs crossed and ensure your posture is proper.
  2. Place your hands in your lap with both palms facing up.
  3. Let go of tension in your back and soften your jaw.
  4. Keep your eyes slightly open.
  5. Focus all your thoughts on your breath. As you breathe in, imagine it is all positive blessings that surround your life. As you exhale, blow out all negative thoughts and distractions.
  6. Continue until you feel relaxed and peaceful.

Meditation doesn’t need to take a large chunk of time. Even 10–15 minutes daily can make a big difference in your health and wellness. Try it first thing in the morning to start your day off right, at the end of the day to de-stress, or in those moments when you feel the most overwhelmed—whatever works best for you!

When a corporate fitness center isn't possible, how do you get your employees to move more?  Check out our free download for tips for adding exercise, click below!

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Topics: stress health and wellness meditation depression anxiety

3 Video Game Systems for Senior Living Communities

WP_20130424_016.jpgTwenty years ago, if someone had suggested purchasing video games for a retirement community, they would have been laughed at. “Those are for kids,” would have been the response. “No one over 60 is ever going to be interested in that.” I’m here to tell you times have changed! Now, everywhere you look people of all ages are getting in on the action and testing their skills in the virtual world.

Here are just three of the systems popping up in communities all over the country.

Nintendo Wii

This is probably the most popular one for communities because it’s been around for quite a while now and it’s fairly easy to use. The Nintendo Wii is a low-cost, commercially available interactive gaming system that gives immediate visual feedback in balance training. For most Wii games, players hold a remote and use it as the golf putter, baseball bat, bowling arm, etc. to play.

An optional add-on is the balance board for the Wii Fit game, which enables a user to test his or her center of balance with a visual display onscreen that shows what percentage of their body weight they carry over each foot. Those with an uneven center of balance will unnaturally compensate for their imbalance, which can cause their posture to become misaligned, increasing the level of stress on their bodies. The game allows users to learn about their balance and provides them with tips for improving an uneven center of balance with several different training modes, including yoga, strength training, balance games, and aerobics.

Xbox Kinect

The Kinect has been around for a few years as well, but it’s certainly newer technology than the Wii. There is no remote to hold or board to stand on. There is simply a camera that points at the general space where you’re playing and then your body is the “remote.” The Kinect generally requires a bigger space than the Wii and it’s more expensive, but the games are also more advanced. If you are working with a more active community, this may be the way to go. There is a lot more foot movement required for most of the Kinect games, so be sure to educate residents on safety before really getting into the action.

PlayStation Move

The idea of the PlayStation Move is very similar to the Wii. Each person has a remote and their motion is captured by a camera that’s plugged into the gaming system. I don’t have personal experience with this system, but from the reviews it looks like the movements and reaction time of the sensors/camera are much better on the Move than on the other two systems. Of course, that’s coming with a higher price tag, so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons yourself. The Move offers a wide array of game options, from the mostly sedentary to the action-packed.

All three systems are great options for your senior living community. They do range in price, but you can often find a refurbished/used version of the system online or at your local GameStop store. Each system has a range of exercise options, from the traditional fitness games, to dance games, to more of the recreational pastimes. No matter which console you choose, they all encourage more physical activity in the community, and isn’t that the goal at the end of the day?

Also, there’s an added perk of having these systems available at your community. When grandkids come to visit, these consoles provide a great activity that spans generations. Think of how impressed that 10-year-old will be when grandpa shows them how to score big at the Home Run Derby on Wii!

How have you used gaming systems to improve your senior fitness program’s physical activity?

Download: Why is exercise important for seniors? >

Topics: balance senior fitness senior living community technology video games

My Favorite Workout: Trying New Exercises or Activities

ThinkstockPhotos-165103697.jpgSomeone recently asked me, “What is your favorite workout?” I thought about my answer for a little bit. I do like to run, and I usually run about three days a week, but is that my favorite workout? No, my favorite workout is always when I’m trying new exercises or activities!

Try a New Exercise or Activity

The workouts that I enjoy the most are the workouts that I haven’t tried before, or don’t get to do very often. Whether it’s a new obstacle course race, running a newfound path, hiking a new trail, indoor rock climbing, stand-up paddle boarding, a taking a new Barre class, or just changing up a high-intensity interval workout, new workouts and exercises can be challenging and fun.

I’m like most people, I think, and doing the same workout day-in and day-out can get old. Like I said, I still run about three days a week, but I also try to mix it up with new workouts on a regular basis. I recently went to an indoor trampoline park with my kids. I had so much fun! I also had no idea how sore I would be the next day, simply because I was having too much fun to realize how much of a workout I was really getting.

The Benefits of Trying Something New

Besides being fun, switching up your workouts and trying something new can have lots of other benefits. Changing your workouts regularly can help break through the dreaded weight-loss plateau. It can also help prevent overuse injuries and build new muscles that you don’t use during your typical workouts.

Continuously trying new workouts can help build your confidence and keep your brain healthy. When you learn something new, it can help you feel empowered, more confident and ready to learn other new skills. And, learning new skills helps keep your neurons firing and your brain sharp, and helps to prevent memory loss.

New Workouts to Try

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Group fitness classes—Vinyasa Yoga, Zumba, PiYo, Boot Camp, Barre, etc.
  • Sign up for a 5K or a 10K, or challenge yourself to a half or full marathon.
  • Ballroom dancing classes
  • Indoor rock climbing
  • Martial arts
  • Water sports—skiing, paddleboarding, kayaking, whitewater rafting, etc.
  • Ziplining
  • Outdoor obstacle courses

What are some activities that you have recently tried or would like to try?

Get your employees moving more!  Grab this free download for 7 ways you can add exercise to the workplace.  

FREE DOWNLOAD: 7 Ways to Add Exercise to the Workplace >

 

Topics: activities exercises workout

Nutrition Tips for Brain Health

ThinkstockPhotos-635683954-1.jpgWe already know that the foods you eat can affect your weight, heart, blood pressure, and certain cancers, but we also know that food and nutrition can affect your brain health. Whether it’s just improving your memory or helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the foods you choose can help to make your brain healthier. Check out these six nutrition tips for brain health:

  • Mediterranean diet: Long known to be the best diet for heart health, researchers now know that this diet is also best for your brain, too. Compared to those on a low-fat diet, the individuals who ate more olive oil and nuts had better memory and thinking skills. Researchers believe the benefit comes from the high amount of antioxidants consumed in the diet, along with foods that help prevent inflammation.
  • Less red meat: You have heard that too much red meat (and other foods high in saturated fat like butter) isn’t good for your heart, but are those foods bad for your brain, too? Just as the fat in your diet can cause your arteries to clog, they can cause an increase in plaque formation in the brain, too. This buildup has been found to be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Try to decrease your consumption of red meat to 1–2 times per week.
  • Fish: If you have been watching the news at all in the last 10 years, you know how much great press omega-3 fatty acids have gotten. This is mainly due to the heart-protective effects of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna and other sources like walnuts and flax. However, omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to be excellent for brains. From babies still in the womb all the way until death, omega-3 fatty acids are vital. They build brain cell membranes, reduce brain inflammation, promote new brain cell formation, and have been found to improve memory and mood.
  • Produce power: Antioxidants aren’t just for cancer fighting. They are also useful for brain health and can be found in any of the bright-colored fruits and veggies. Swap broccoli and dark leafy greens for typical dinner-meal sides. Reach for berries and other bright-colored fruits all day long to get the benefit of a memory boost.
  • Spices: New research is constantly being done about spices and their benefit. These have had some positive results when it comes to the brain: turmeric, saffron, garlic, cinnamon, and thyme. All of them are probably sitting in your spice cabinet now, so start adding them to your meals and reap the brain benefits.
  • Coffee and tea: One item that can be controversial is coffee due to the effect of caffeine. However, caffeine is actually good for your brain health. It can help increase alertness and attention; however, long-term studies are still inconclusive. So in the meantime, stick to the recommendation of 400 mg or less of caffeine per day, which is the equivalent of 3 cups of drip coffee. Tea can give you caffeine along with the beneficial antioxidants, so consider switching your afternoon cup of joe to a cup of tea. (See this blog for the amount of caffeine in common foods.)

Most of these suggestions are also important for heart health, weight management, and an overall balanced diet. So if you haven’t been choosing these items on a regular basis, improving brain health is another positive reason to start!

Benefits of meeting with a nutrition coach >

Topics: nutrition Omega 3 antioxidants brain health memory Alzheimer's Disease caffeine

Benefits of Collaborative Programming with Senior Living Communities

“Come on!”

“No pressure!”

“You can do it!”

Those are just a few of the phrases you’ll hear thrown out in the last round of the Semi-Annual Corn-Toss tournament held between several CCRCs in Indiana every spring and fall. This is one of many multicommunity events that NIFS fitness center managers put on every year. Sometimes events are competitive (such as corn-toss, water volleyball, or pickleball), and sometimes they are more educational (wellness seminars). A lot of coordination is involved (scheduling, transportation, food, and so on), but it’s always worth it!

ThinkstockPhotos-510313194.jpgHere are some of the ways the residents reap the benefits of collaborative programming with senior living communities outside of their own.

1. It’s an opportunity to make new friends.

It seems like making new friends only gets tougher as we get older. With social media, email, and easy modes of transportation, it’s so easy to keep up with the friends and family we already have in our lives, so why would you bother meeting anyone new? Study after study has shown that a healthy social life has amazing, positive effects on lifespan/longevity and quality of life.

Collaborative programming between communities creates a situation that facilitates new friendships because residents already know they have something in common. If everyone in a room is playing in a Euchre tournament, a resident can guess that the person sitting next to them at the table enjoys playing cards. Voila! Easy icebreaker! It’s also fun to see residents who consistently participate really getting to know each other. They start to make friends with residents at new communities, but also with neighbors who perhaps they hadn’t really known.

2. Staff can share ideas while residents experience a new way of learning.

As fitness staff, we spend a lot of our time trying to teach people about how to be healthy. We give advice about fitness and nutrition and staying active, but after a while, it can start to sound a little like a broken record. For residents, hearing about the same health/fitness topics from the same people means sometimes it’s in one ear and out the other. These collaborative events provide a great opportunity for residents to learn from someone else who has a different teaching style. Sometimes, hearing the same good information presented in a new way can be all it takes to make the advice “click” for a person.

3. Competition drives participation.

This doesn’t hold true for everyone, but at many communities, competition drives participation. If residents know they are practicing for a tournament against a “rival” community (however they may define that), they might be more interested. This not only means more participation on the day of the competition, but also leading up to the competition. And who knows, maybe during one of those practice sessions residents will see a bulletin board for your next fitness incentive and decide to sign up for that, too.

***

Multicommunity programs are fun and educational, and build camaraderie among residents. Whether informative or competitive, they are a great opportunity to learn from each other and about each other, and they always lead to a fun time.

Does your community regularly participate in collaborative programming with other communities?

Whitepaper+Wellness Culture

Topics: participation senior living communities CCRC Programs and Services programming competition