Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

4 Things I've Learned from the Silent Generation

The Silent Generation are older adults who were born between 1928 and 1945. Their generational name “Silent” originally came from a 1951 TIME magazine article, in which they were described as a generation that “does not issue manifestos, make speeches or carry posters.” They were raised in a time when children were generally favored as seen, not heard. In 2018, we know them as those 73 to 93 years old. My perspective comes from working closely with these individuals for about two years. Here are four things that I have learned about this generation.

NIFS | Grandmother reading to grandchild

Aging is Not “One Size Fits All”

Aging is a mysterious natural process which manifests differently from person to person. You may hear of someone who has “aged well,” or another who is really “slowing down.” The fact is, those two people may well be the exact same age, but are experiencing aging very differently. Levels of mobility, independence, stamina, strength, and balance are all factors I’ve seen vary widely in individuals that are about the same age. Fortunately, these traits are not distributed by luck of the draw. Although genetics and family history play an important role, there are several lifestyle choices that can level the playing field. (More on those choices later.)

Caregivers Make a Difference

There are many older adults who maintain an active, independent lifestyle well into their nineties. These people are inspiring, but are often the outliers, not the norm. In my experience in the community setting, hiring an independent or agency assigned caregiver is a popular practice. These people act as employees of the individual needing assistance, helping out with anything from washing dishes to making sure all medications are taken without error. I believe that there are exceptional caregivers that invest in the lives of their employer, who can make a real difference in the aging process. I think specifically of those who regularly take the time to bring the resident they work for to the fitness center to exercise. This is not limited to hired caregivers, and can extend to family members as well. Here are some tips on hiring a caregiver.

Communities Provide an Unrivaled Social Experience

Books could be written about the pro’s and con’s of making the transition from home life to senior living life. That may be a project someday, but I’ll try to keep this one short. I think that living in a community with others who share not only your age, but interests, schedules, and perspectives has value. I cannot speak for all communities, but those that I have interacted with take great care to provide ample opportunity for social events. In fact, a complaint I often hear is having to choose which event to go to, because there is so much to do. Club meetings, exercise classes, lectures, movie showings, and meals are all popular ways to get older adults together. This makes everyone feel good. Here are some things to consider when choosing a senior living community.

Personal Trainers Have Lasting Influence

Now, about those lifestyle choices that so powerfully affect aging, namely diet, exercise, and sleep. These three tools can be used in a way that increases the likelihood of old age with a high quality of life. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, by age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity. This fact, coupled with irregular sleep habits, poor diets, and other risk factors leave many older adults at high risk for cardiovascular disease and its deadly consequences. There is hope, however, for the Silent Generation. Some risk factors for cardiovascular disease are modifiable, meaning they can be improved by lifestyle change. One of the most effective tools for lifestyle change is a personal trainer who specializes in active aging. These are educated and certified individuals who help people reach their goals and decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, falls, and other problems associated with aging. Even more good news: personal trainers can teach long lasting habits that will serve their clients for decades to come. I’ve seen it in action! Here’s a great article on how effective personal trainers can be for older adults.

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There's a lot of life to be lived long past retirement; ask members of the Silent Generation and they'll tell you as much. Providing support for healthy aging can make all the difference. If you're caring for an aging loved one, subscribe to our blog to read more about ways to help them continue living well.

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Here's What to Watch When the Farmers' Markets Come to Town

Farmers’ markets can be a great substitute for going to get fast food because you know exactly where the food is coming from. Another bonus is you get to see the producer face to face. It is also a great activity to do during the summer months because often there is live music and you’re helping your local farmers when purchasing your fresh fruits and vegetables. For those who don’t go to the farmers market often, here are some tips to ensure you make the most of your time and leave with all the right foods!NIFS | Farmers Market

Bring cash – Typically, there will be some vendors who do accept credit cards or check, but cash is always the one currency that will ensure you can get foods from any of the booths. Have a set limit of cash so you don’t get carried away, but don’t be afraid to bring a few extra bucks for those impulse buys.

Go at beginning or end of day – Knowing when to go to farmers market can make a big difference in the quality of foods you find as well as the price for those foods. Going in the morning when it first opens can help guarantee you get the freshest foods available. Alternatively, consider going during the last hour of the day so you can get discounts on any of the remaining products. Vendors want to go home empty handed, so this bodes well for a bargain when the market winds down for the day.

Take a lap – When you first arrive at the market, take a lap around before making any purchases. That way, you know all the foods available and can strategize the best way to spend your money.

Keep an open mind – When visiting the different booths, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample if there’s something you’ve never had before. This allows you to try new food, before making a purchase.

 Ask questions – The vendors should know everything about the food including; how the food was grown, if any pesticides were used, or how to prepare dishes with the food.

Buy in season – While the variety at the farmers market may not be as extensive as the grocery store, the food that is in season will be plentiful and most often will be better tasting.

Make a day of it – Going to the farmers market can be something you really look forward to each week. There’s plenty to do and lots of new foods to try, so have some fun with it! Depending on the size of the market, you can spend a couple hours browsing for the freshest foods and often enjoying some live music.

The farmers market can be a great place to discover new foods as well as find the freshest foods you already love! Start a new tradition with friends and family. It can be a great place to find those clean eating foods, sweet treats, local treasures and make a boring day not such a snore. So, go check out your local farmer’s market, support the community and have a great time!

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Topics: Farmers' Markets

5 Reasons Spring is the Season to Walk

Need some inspiration to get moving this spring? Here are five reasons walking may help you kick start your spring fitness routine and your commitment to moving again after a long winter. No matter if you’re a beginner or a lifelong lover of walks, sometimes you need new reasons to lace-up and move.   

NIFS | Neighborhood Walk with Dog

Nice Weather

Typically springtime means it’s warming up, but it's also just cool enough to enjoy the sounds of nature before the sweltering heat sets in for the summer. Springtime weather also means the walker can experience the flowers and trees blossoming into those bright beautiful colors that make us fall in love with this special time of year! Use the opportunity to get out and soak up some Vitamin D (just don't forget your sunscreen) and increase your serotonin levels, which is known to put some pep in your step and a smile on your face.

Social Connections

Starting a springtime walk is a great opportunity to interact with other people, and research shows that social connections can positively influence your health. In addition, fitness trends predict that most people are more likely to start a new habit right after the New Year and just before summer, making spring the peak time to invite a friend for a walk. The support gained through social connections can also make getting outside on a regular basis more fun and consistent.

Fight Depression

Winter is the season correlated most highly with depression. Many believe there are three major factors behind this. First, there is the holiday season with all the stresses of shopping, travel, and overspending. The second reason may be the dearth of sunlight and the scarcity of vitamin D that people are accustomed to absorbing from the sun. Lastly, people are just less active in the wintertime due the frigid weather. Therefore, springtime is a great time to shake off your dibble downer dumps by walking outside and smelling the fresh spring air! Try three 30-minute walks a week and you may be surprised how effective it is; in many ways, it can be considered the cheapest antidepressant!

[Read More: Tips for easing seasonal depression]

Burn Off Winter Weight

Yep, winter’s over and just maybe you had your share of dessert and the occasional extra helping of your favorite dish. No finger pointing needed; springtime is here, and daylight savings time has arrived, so it’s time to put this in the past where it belongs. This means that you will have all the sunlight needed for a late afternoon fat burning session. Like any form of exercise, walking burns calories and, therefore, fat. Try the walking routine below to maximize your fat burning efforts.

  • Warm up at a comfortable pace for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Walk quickly for 1 minute.
  • Return to a comfortable pace for 1 minute.
  • Repeat this pattern for a total of 30 minutes.
  • Cool down the last 2 minutes at a slow pace and then stretch.  

Spring Back, Move Forward

Spring back is only an expression but ask yourself this question. Have you fallen off the wagon of activity and making healthy choices? Well, don’t fret! Take time this season to spring back! The answer for any good knock down is a greater comeback. Spring in definition means, to leap, to jump, or to arise from. Take the term to heart and commit to spring walking. 

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Topics: walking tips spring back beginners walking program walking for health starting a walking program

Half Marathon Training and Nutrition Tips from a Beginner

NIFS | Half Marathon | Race TipsI was looking for fitness challenge. I had already been running 5k races and had either won or placed in every race (6) within my age group, so I felt like I was ready for more. My mother suggested I race a half-marathon. Truly, running 13.1 miles sounded awful and I had no desire to run that far for pure enjoyment. Suddenly, I found myself logging longer runs on the weekends just to test my endurance. When early registration came for the Indy Mini Marathon, I went out on a limb and signed up. I had no experience with longer distances, but I learned a lot along the way.  Below are some tips that helped me through the half-marathon training as well as some keys for a strong race.

Training suggestions

Give yourself enough time to prep for the event; remember, it’s a “marathon, not a sprint.” I recommend giving yourself 16-20 weeks of preparation for a half marathon, especially if it’s your first time running one. If you’re a seasoned runner you could likely get away with a 12 week plan.

Research or have a professional design a training program that increases mileage each week. Throughout your training, you want to slowly progress and build upon the miles to increase endurance. Every fourth or fifth week, mileage should be reduced for recovery purposes and increased the following week to continue your journey. During the week (Monday-Friday) I did some speed work and concentrated on shorter distances (5-8 miles), and then I used one day on the weekend for a slower-paced long run (8-15 miles) in length.

With two weeks remaining before your race, you want to slowly decrease the amount of weekly miles you're completing. The taper will give you the proper amount of time to recover so you're ready on race day.

Nutrition tips

You can’t put cheap gas in a high-performance vehicle and expect it to perform well; neither can you expect that with the human body. Not only does your training have to be focused, so does your nutrition. Well-planned nutrition and meal-timing is key with half-marathon training.

Pre- and post-run nutrition is important during training and on race day. Some foods may sit well with some people, but not so well with others, so you'll have to do some experimenting to find what works best for you. I would eat the same pre-training meal every day because I knew it settled well on my stomach, and I didn’t feel bloated or sluggish while running later in the day. My meals gave me great energy and gave me enough fuel to finish training sessions. Post-training hydration was a key in recovering as well. 

My Race Day Food Plan

(It's worth noting that the comments below are simply my experience; they probably wouldn't be highly endorsed by a registered dietitian, but these are foods that work for me.)

A couple days leading up to the race I would increase my carbohydrate intake. I did this to provide my body proper glycogen (energy) stores. I would continue to eat the same food sources, but only increase the amount of food and calories I was eating.

The day before the race I continued with the same nutrition protocol, but I switched from a complex carb source to a simpler carb source to eliminate the fiber found in most complex carbohydrates. I also increased my hydration as well. I would consume food sources such as pasta and white bread with jam or honey.

On race day, I would have a huge plate of pancakes from a “just add water” pancake mix and add a scoop of peanut butter 3-4 hours before. I wouldn’t count any of the calories in this meal. A lot of people think pancakes would not settle well but they actually do for me. They aren’t too heavy and I stick with a limited amount of sugar-free syrup.  I would eat till I was satisfied, but not too full.

About an hour before the race I would have a large Rice Krispie treat, and follow that up with 10-12 pieces of some sort of candy (Sour Patch Kids or Trolli Worms) 30 minutes before the gun was fired. Hydration was limited to 16 ounces of water from when I woke up to about 30 minutes before the race (I didn’t want to have to use the restroom during the race). I would just take small sips of water when I felt like I needed it. I would also keep about 10-12 pieces of candy in my pocket during the race for simple and fast fuel as the race went on, and hydrating only once or twice during the whole race at water stations.

Running 13.1 miles is a great accomplishment if you ever get the motivation or desire to run that far. I found it to be a great challenge for myself. Since the 2017 Mini, I've completed another half marathon and I plan on running many more. Each race I have found is a learning experience. Find what you enjoy. Commit. Be consistent. Eat. Train. And Run!

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Topics: nutrition running half marathon training running nutrition

Is Exercise Getting Left Behind in the Evolution of Corporate Wellness?

NIFS | Exercise ReminderThere is more and more discussion in corporate wellness today about doing wellness for (with?) employees, creating thriving workplace environments, shifting toward programmatic choices that allow for volunteerism and financial literacy, engaging employees with more purposeful work, and using job crafting to create more meaningful work.

It's an interesting time to engage in discussion about what these paradigm shifts really mean when it comes to practical, on-the-ground-application for employees. I agree with much of the dialog; I think it's past time to consider a shift and to take action on it. And yet, I'm concerned that we may be packing away some key elements for "old school" corporate wellness that should not be left out of the mix. One of those program options that is on the fringe is physical activity.

If the basis of your corporate wellness initiative is to help employees live well so that they can bring their best to work each day, then you cannot leave exercise behind. While you consider things like living wage, job crafting and other areas that impact individual well-being, you also need to keep the idea of making the healthy choice the easy choice at the top of mind. Here's how exercise maintains relevance in corporate wellness even as the concept of such offerings continue to evolve. 

The workplace is a prime place for making exercise easy

The research about the benefits of regular activity are clear. What remains elusive are effective strategies to nudge employees toward a more active lifestyle. But, that doesn't mean we should stop creating easy ways for the workers to move their bodies. Time and money (access) remain the two biggest barriers for adults when asked why they don't engage in regular exercise. Like it or not, the workplace becomes a prime location for employees to fit in some activity.  

Exercise doesn't require as much guess work as other initiatives

I know a lot of organizations have taken on wearables as the hallmark of their wellness program's physical activity component. It may be tempting to go that route - it seems relatively easy, and if the cost to implementation isn't a barrier for the organization, you can simply give everyone a Fitbit and get on with it. There are however, many reasons to exercise caution with the use of wearables in your wellness program, not the least of which is privacy.

[Read more: Why Wearable Fitness Trackers Aren't Your Wellness Program]

Outside of the wearable marketplace, there a host of ways you can make physical activity an easy choice in your work environments. We're partial to a corporate fitness center, but that's not the right fit in every business. While you need variety, you don't have to spend a ton of money to execute this well. Group fitness classes can be run with modest cost (or no cost - employees can fund this if you simply make the opportunity available). Painting out safe walking zones in your parking lot, providing resources for stretch breaks, and offering solid education on opportunities for exercise in the community are examples of low-cost initiatives that can easily be developed.  

Leading the way is required

Sometimes, the best way to communicate that movement is important for your workforce has less to do with programmatic offerings, but instead is focused on shifting your culture so that walking breaks are repeatedly encouraged and modeled.

[Read more: 5 Tips To Help Your Employees Move More]

Leaders in the organization have to adopt a mindset where taking a break for physical activity during the day is not just accepted, it's encouraged. One of the best ways to do that is by modeling (yes, that means you need to take your own breaks!). You also have to be mindful of workplace policies (clock in/out policies, productivity quotas, etc.) that may send a different message than the supportive communications you've issued. If words and actions don't match up, employees aren't likely to adopt new practices. 

At the end of the day, you can't really legislate that employees exercise. The motivation to move has to be an inner drive in order for it to be a sustained choice. But, you can make it easier for your workforce to have access to physical activity by creating both spaces and support for regular exercise. 

Tips for adding exercise

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness corporate wellness success corporate wellness programs corporate fitness programming wellness programming

What's Missing From Your Resident Fitness Program and How To Fix It

NIFS | Senior Group Fitness

I hear from a lot of leadership in senior living communities who know that there's more that could be done with their resident exercise program, but they aren't sure how to get their staff to ramp things up. If you find yourself in this situation, check out the list below for common challenges and opportunities to do better for your residents.

Our participation is lower than it should be.

There are a few reasons that participation in your fitness program might run lower than it should.  The first thing to determine is whether you have reliable data about who is participating. When we  start working with a community, we often learn that they may have total (or estimated) counts for group fitness class participation and that's the end of their program data.  

  • Start by tracking participation per resident. You'll have more reliable information about who is participating, how frequently they attend, and what they participate in. You'll also gain knowledge about who isn't coming to the fitness center and/or classes.
  • If your staff can deliver on individual services for residents, add fitness and balance testing along with exercise prescriptions to provide residents who aren't participating with the support they need to feel safe and inspired to begin an exercise program.

[Read More: 4 Strategies to Engage More Residents in Your Exercise Program]

Our group fitness class calendar needs a do-over.

It's common for the group fitness class calendar to get set on autopilot without critical evaluation of what needs to be updated.

  • Start by using the participation data to figure out which classes really deserve a spot on your calendar.
  • The balance classes our staff teach in our client communities are by far the most popular format. If you don't have dedicated balance training classes on the calendar, add them now. It's not enough to have balance training mixed in with a strength class or another blended format.
  • Carefully consider class descriptions; how you word group fitness opportunities for residents can make a big difference in what resonates with a previously inactive audience.

We need to be offering more fun programs.

Creating fun and inspiring programs to invite more participation in the fitness center is one of the best parts of the job! It's really central to how our staff are supporting residents in the client fitness centers we manage. Consider that engaging programs should be more than just fun; they should be built strategically to meet a specific goal. For example, NIFS Fitness Freeze program was a solid solution to combat the traditional fitness center visit decline we see in December each year. Or, think more holistically about Active Aging Week and use National Senior Health and Fitness Day to offer non-traditional options for physical activity.

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If you're committed to keeping your fitness staff in house, then they need some support to start improving what they're offering your residents. Our eBook on how to turn your fitness center from vacant to vibrant is a great next step.

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Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness group fitness for seniors fitness for seniors

Five Reasons to Set a Fitness Goal for Racing

Finish line GettyImages-534921733.jpgIt’s true, signing up for a 5K or a triathlon can be fairly intimidating for a first-timer. The fear of going too slow, finishing last or even not finishing at all can hold someone back from completing their first race. The fact is, very few competitors are attempting to come in first place. Most are just trying to finish! The benefits of racing are countless and most have absolutely nothing to do with how fast you go. Here are my top 5 reasons why you should complete a race:

 

[Read more: 5 Ways to Avoid Injuries While Running]

  1. MOTIVATION: As a fitness professional, I’ve encountered several clients who admit that motivation is the number one reason why they cannot commit to a regular exercise routine. Having a date circled on your calendar marked as “race day” can be one of your biggest motivators. Put some skin in the game by signing up and paying for the race well in advance, and register for a training program to hold you accountable in the weeks leading up to the race. By doing both of these, the likelihood of you sticking with it are much greater.
  2. CAMARADERIE: Spending 10-12 weeks with the same training group is bound to lead you to new running or walking buddies. Whether it’s during a training program or at the start or finish line, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people with at least one common interest.
  3. SUPPORT A GOOD CAUSE: Most races donate the registration proceeds to foundations ranging from curing chronic diseases, to disaster relief. You’ll get to conquer your goals with friends while donating to a good cause.
  4. FREE RACE SWAG: Races are getting extremely creative these days. Most races will reward you with a free shirt and medal, but other freebies like hats and water bottles are becoming even more common. Who doesn’t like free stuff right? In additional to free swag, there are yummy treats and beverages at the finish line!
  5. FEELING OF ACCOMPLISHMENT: Completing a race can be one of the most exhilarating feelings you’ll experience; crossing that finish line for the first time is something you’ll remember for a very long time. Even if it’s your 100th time crossing the finish line, the rush never gets old.

I don’t believe that anyone can ever grow inside their comfort zone. If you’ve never completed a race, now’s your time to step outside your bubble and make a change. If you’ve completed several 5K’s but a half marathon seems like a daunting task, commit to proving yourself wrong and take the challenge to go 13.1. If you’ve completed a half-marathon or full marathon, step outside that comfort zone and try your hand at triathlon. There’s a world of creative races out there so find your niche, start your training, and reap the benefits.

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Topics: running motivation wellness and fitness reasons to race race tips

Corporate Wellness or Employee Well-being? Or Does it Matter?

NIFS | Corporate Wellness vs Well-beingI wrote a post a while ago about changing the name vs changing the notion of "activities" in senior livingAt the time, the industry was working through a naming brainstorm (“name-storming”) to determine if continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) should be renamed. For the record, the industry has moved toward life plan community as an alternative to CCRC. The whole “name-storming” thing got me thinking about the value of words. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that words matter. Words are indeed powerful, and we must choose them carefully to thoughtfully convey what we mean. Otherwise, we have this situation, or this oneAnd yet, getting the words right doesn’t mean we can slack on our actions behind the words. Which brings me to a debate going on in corporate wellness…or is it corporate well-being? This article says well-being is the future of wellnessThe Global Wellness Institute’s Chairman also thinks well-being is where the industry needs to move because wellness isn’t as holistic. (Interestingly, she also notes that wellness apparently isn’t associated with happiness.)

If you point your web browser to a search of well-being versus wellness, you’ll get a host of articles that are part of the current conversation. And it seems that there is a movement in favor of the more holistic “well-being” as the appropriate, inclusive, aspirational name for the corporate programming we have traditionally called employee wellness.

So let’s make that switch. Let’s all link arms and agree to change our vocabulary and put wellness where it belongs…in 2017. Wellness vendors become well-being vendors, and wellness programs become well-being programs. Employees earn well-being points instead of wellness points and wellness directors sign new job descriptions that dub them well-being directors.

Except here’s the thing. We will still have corporate wellness programs that focus primarily on physical health without taking a hard look at how the workplace environment nurtures or neglects employees. Businesses will still have program directors who come from fully clinical backgrounds and who myopically build sterile programs that lack a more human element. Practitioners will still be talking about how important stress resilience is to helping human beings thrive with very little concrete employer-provided action to truly help the workforce get a handle on the pressures of work and life.

[Read More: Why wearable fitness trackers aren’t your wellness program]

Of course, the above descriptions don’t fit every situation. There are some fabulously compassionate, effective, and well-loved wellness programs out there in corporate settings. But for those programs, it doesn’t really matter if we call it wellness or well-being. Because the focus is on helping employees be their best selves in work and life.

I do realize this is pretty rich commentary coming from an organization whose primary focus in on fitness. To be fair, we have a lot to gain by the industry holding still on the current model where “wellness” equals physical health. But I’ve been around long enough to see that having your physical self in good shape isn’t the only way to be well; we’re only part of the picture. And, the more our staff are tasked with work beyond managing the corporate fitness center, the more value I see in using our relationships with employees to help them discover how they want to live well (which may or may not include a regular workout).

That’s the change we’re making, one connection at a time. What do you want to change: the scope of your program or what you call it?

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Topics: employee wellness wellness programs employee wellbeing well-being

Why I've worked for NIFS for 16 years and counting

NIFS | NIFS Health and Fitness ProfessionalsMaybe you've seen some of the chatter online about employers shifting their focus to providing a workplace where employees enjoy what they do and where they have an opportunity to feel like they're contributing to a bigger picture. As I've done more reading in this area, it dawned on me just how much this rings true for my work.  At The National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS), we hold this perspective to a high standard and it  really is the core of who we are. For years, we’ve supported staff in their work/life balance and creating positive environments where employees can show up and not just contribute, but thrive in their career.

One of the ways this positive culture shows up is in our employee tenure figures. The service sector has notoriously high turnover, but when we took a closer look at our numbers, we calculated that the average tenure in our department was almost four and a half years, more than 50% higher than the industry average. Honestly, I wasn’t super surprised at this because our standards at NIFS are unapologetically high. We have always been dedicated to providing service excellence to all of our clients; we’re similarly committed to doing our very best work for each other. 

In my 16 year career with NIFS managing corporate fitness facilities (and 11 as a supervisor), I can tell you that I’ve seen evidence of our thriving environment in the regular positive feedback from staff about how enjoyable it is to work for our organization. I’ve also experienced this enjoyment myself and I truly appreciate working for a company that is both an expert in corporate and senior living fitness, and in treating their employees with the same kindness and professionalism that we do our clients and members.

Our management team and mentors are highly experienced and extremely willing to lead the way. There's never been a moment where I felt like I didn't have the  support that I needed from my supervisor or from our organization. In fact, the support that I have received is one of the reasons I have been on board for as long as I have. Because we're a nimble organization, it's easy to find answers and guidance quickly around every corner at NIFS, which means you have what you need so this in turn builds confidence in your quest to being the best you can be in your role. If respected leadership lands at the top of your career wish list, look no further.

We don’t cut cookies at NIFS, we build sandcastles. Our programs, services, and forward thinking approach towards the future of corporate fitness management and active aging services are unique and individualized. Our ability to customize increases with each new client, and every new staff member we welcome. Because of that philosophy, our Corporate Fitness and Active Aging teams are regularly growing and we’re always looking for the right fit to join our team. If you’re inspired by what you just read, we invite you to consider our organization and stay connected with us so you can open the door to a new, exciting, fulfilling career path. 

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Topics: job opportunities in corporate fitness corporate fitness careers fitness careers

3 Techniques to Relieving Stress that Don't Involve Going Overboard 

When it comes to stress, my belief is that you need a full tool kit of remedies for the different levels and types of stress that life tends to throw your way. Daily stresses or, “good stress” is defined as eustress. For me, this form of stress is fairly manageable with a routine that keeps my body grounded and focused, and allows me to burn off that extra energy with exercise. Eustress is short-term, it can cause your body to feel excited or energized, can serve as a motivational force to get tasks accomplished and is deemed as they type of stress people can “cope” with. 

NIFS | Tips for Stress Relief

However, when life decides to start pulling back the bow, stress can get more difficult to manage. When the arrows start flying, that’s when you need an arsenal of serious stress coping tools. This is the stress we all dread and is more challenging to cope with and manage. It’s called distress; it causes anxiety, can lead to physical illnesses or pain, and it can cause a decrease in performance.

[Read More: How Stress Affects the Body and Your Health]

It can make you feel pretty crummy if it sticks around a while. Tension can build from stress so watch for signs of this in your neck, upper and lower back, temples, and head. For me, these pains are red flags that stress is starting to cross over into the distress area. Without immediate attention you can become more susceptible to developing a cold, suffering headaches, or sleeping poorly. This is an area you want to stay away from so don’t ignore these symptoms! 

You want to be armed with different tactics depending on the stress, so let’s discuss some options to help you build your own stress reliving tool box. Just as perception of what leads to positive and negative stress varies from person to person, stress management techniques are also individual. I need physical activity to help my mind decompress at the end of the day as compared to some who need to take a hot bath before bed. The key to winning the battle against stress is to find what works for you. Below are some of my tools for keeping different levels of stress at bay and how they can help your mind, body and soul get through stressful situations.

Exercise 

This can happen in many forms. My daily go to is something that increases the heart-rate and challenges the body. It offers my mind a chance to wander, to think about non-work related items, and to day dream. When I really need to pound it out, I use workouts to push my physical limits. At other times, if I have a lot of head and neck tension from stress, I don’t always choose heart-thumping cardio exercise; sometimes a Yoga class is the right choice to ground my thoughts and body.

Research has proven that exercise packs a punch when trying to reduce stress. This natural medicine can put stress in its place by increasing endorphins which help improve your mood. Exercise can also take your mind off of the daily pressures just by allowing you to divert your focus elsewhere. Other benefits of exercising can include lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety and depression and improved sleep.  

Mind, Body, Connection

There are times when your mind will just take over and it causes a disconnect from your body. Call it what you will, up in your head, the ego, losing your mind, etc. Whatever you refer to it as, the risk is that you’ve become separated from what your body is telling you. We’ve all seen examples of this. Think of the guy on his cell phone that starts to cross the street without realizing there are cars coming right at him. Or maybe you’ve had the experience of driving home from work and suddenly finding yourself at your driveway without realizing how you got there. You show up to work with two different shoes or mismatched socks, or you drop the kids off at swimming when they should be at violin practice. These are signs that your mind is probably in overdrive dealing with the stressful factors of life. Your coping abilities are being pushed to the limits.

To avoid these scenarios, meditation is a great way to clear your mind. Studies have shown that even short bouts of meditation and shutting your brain off (or even trying) can have significant impacts on stress. The benefits of meditation surpass just stress relief and tip-toe into physical and mental benefits. If you’re not in to meditation or Yoga, check out these alternatives for mental relaxation and stress relief.

Take Comfort

A little self-love goes a long way.  Consider a long bath with a splash of lavender oil and a good book!  Old-fashioned rest can be just ask effective for relieving stress for many people; put your phone down and your feet up with a bowl of popcorn and your favorite TV series or a movie. Or, maybe taking your time in the kitchen and cooking your favorite dinner brings you comfort. Sometimes a complete wind down (as opposed to a workout) is the best choice to manage your stress. Think about what will take your mind off of the daily pressures and bring joy back into your life. Literally, slowing down to smell the roses can put stress into perspective and signal to your body that everything really is going to be okay. We have other tips for stress relief so we hope you'll click below to learn more. 

12 Unconventional Tips for Managing Stress

Topics: stress stress relief distress stress management eustress