Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Employees Experience Added Value of Corporate Fitness Centers

members_speak-1.jpgThe benefits of providing an onsite corporate fitness center at the workplace are far-reaching and they may or may not have anything to do with reducing health care costs. For leadership, it’s easy to focus on this tangible measurement and lose sight of other reasons  to support employees in their health and fitness goals.

Learn how one member at a NIFS client location has found value in using her corporate fitness center as she strives to maintain a newly established healthy lifestyle.

Was there an “a-ha” moment or life event that led you to make a positive change for your health?

I’ve known for a number of years that I needed to improve my health, but always had excuses for not doing so. When my granddaughter was born in 2016, I knew I wanted to be around to see her grow up. I also wanted to be able to keep up with her energy so I could be active in her life as she got older. She, and the future grandchildren, have been my inspiration.

What has been a key factor in helping you stick to your new routine? What is your motivation?

Staying motivated is a challenge, so I set a number of small, fun SMART goals that I was determined to achieve. For example, when work sponsored a team to run the Indianapolis Mini Marathon, I decided to run the 5K race. Our NIFS fitness center staff provided a training program to follow. I finished in the top 10% of my age group. I have signed up for five more races, with the next goal being to win my age group.

[Related Content: Why You Might Be Wrong About Outsourcing Fitness Center Management]

How has the fitness center provided a supportive environment for you to work on your health?

There are a number of benefits of having the fitness center onsite. First, it is convenient. Employees can go before work, at lunchtime, or after work; that flexibility is a huge help. I also like the personal attention that is available to help build a structured exercise program that will achieve specific goals. In our corporate fitness center there's a huge variety of activities available, especially the group fitness classes. You can try something new each week.

I really enjoy the supportive atmosphere of the coaches and my coworkers in the center. They make exercise fun. I also feel that we're lucky to have the center as one of our corporate health benefits. The fact that our leadership supports the existence of the center signals that employee health and fitness is important to our organization.

What would you tell your coworkers who still haven't tapped into the benefits of the corporate fitness center?

I spent a long time feeling like I was too tired to put exercise into my schedule. I also told myself that I just did not have the time. But, now that I am exercising regularly and feeling better, I have more energy. I also am more agile and can do things around the house that I have not been able to do in years. It’s funny that one of my excuses in the past for not exercising was thinking I did not have the time or was too busy. Now that I am exercising and have more energy, I get things done faster. So by exercising, I have more time.


To read other NIFS "members speak" stories, click here. If your'e looking for a corporate fitness vendor to start improving your employees lives, click here to find out how we support our clients across the US.

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Topics: motivation NIFS ROI employee health and fitness goals Mini-Marathon corporate fitness center onsite fitness center

Should I Invest in a Fitness Tracker?

Fitness trackers are all the buzz these days, but do you know what to look for when choosing one? With so many sizes, colors, capabilities and prices, which one should you choose? Or should you even invest in one? Let me offer some considerations when or if you do choose to purchase one.

If you’re like me, you contemplated making this purchase and for good reason! Wearable fitness tracking devices can vary in prices, from $50.00 all the way up to $1,095.00! With that hefty price tag, comes many things to consider. Do you think you’ll use it, what exactly are you trying to track or monitor, and do you need water resistant or waterproof? Let’s break down the capabilities of these devices and what you should ask yourself as you research the different options.  

[Related Post: Why Wearable Fitness Trackers Aren't Your Wellness Program]

You must first ask yourself if you think you’ll find activity-tracking beneficial. You certainly don’t want to buy it only for it to sit on the dresser collecting dust. If you do think you want to purchase one, you have five things you’ll want to consider; style, display, compatibility, battery life and water proof.

Fitness trackers range from the super simple, to featuring all the bells and whistles. If you want to know how many steps you take a day, look for an all-day tracker. However, if you want more details on those steps (e.g. speed, pace, and stride), you may want to investigate a training tracker. Training trackers can provide data that’s specifically tailored to a certain exercise (i.e. marathon runners). All day trackers measure your total steps taken, stairs you’ve climbed, duration of exercise, active minutes and sleep time. Training trackers do everything an all-day tracker does PLUS the following: heart rate, breathing patterns, miles traveled, speed, pace, and route information. Some may also be able to control music, make and receive calls, text messaging and emails. Now let’s talk more in depth about the five options I mentioned above.

Activity Tracker GettyImages-918102996.jpg

Style - Many trackers can be worn on the wrist, but there are some that can be worn as pendants or clipped to your clothing. Manufacturers are also paying more attention to design details; think color, shape, and material. Make sure you choose one you’ll feel comfortable wearing all day.

Display - The advanced trackers display a slew of data on the screen. Others (i.e. pendant trackers) show limited data and display information via an LED light, or will only show up on an app. Think about how you want to see your data. Do you want to see it immediately, or are you okay with looking it up on an app when near your phone?

Compatibility - Make sure your cell phone or computer is compatible before you buy a tracker. There’s nothing worse than spending money, only to realize the device isn’t user friendly with your current phone or computer. Most devices on the market will work with Apple’s iOS and Android systems. However, few work devices work with Windows.

Battery Life - Depending on which device you choose, will depend on the length of battery life. A tracker with more bells and whistles will require more frequent charges than a simple band tracker. You also want to pay attention to rechargeable versus non-rechargeable. Some run on batteries like cameras and calculators, others come with charging devices.

Water - Trackers are either water-resistant or waterproof. Keep in mind, water resistant only means that the tracker can be splashed with water, not submerged. This means they can withstand a decent amount of sweating, but certainly not a dip in the pool.

I hope that this information will help you narrow down which type of tracker to purchase. Or, maybe I talked you out of purchasing one altogether. Either way, remember that a tracker is a lot like a gym membership - you must use it for it to work!

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Topics: healthy lifestyle healthy choices wearables fitness trackers fitness tips

4 Myths That Are Limiting The Success of Your Corporate Fitness Center 

Including a corporate fitness center in your menu of employee wellness benefits is worth considering. It takes away a few common excuses people use for not exercising by being convenient and low or no cost for employees to use. But if you think that simply putting a fitness center into your office space is a key answer to lowering your health care costs, you’re mistaken. And, if lowering your health care costs is your primary motivator for funding a corporate fitness center, you may want to reconsider that position because generating ROI figures specific to your onsite fitness program is almost impossible.

If you're still with me because you think a corporate fitness center is on the list of the right things to do to help your employees be well, then consider the myths below that may hold back the success of your worksite fitness initiatives.  

#1: If we build it, they will come.

Corporate fitness center ghost town

No, friends, “they” won’t. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that just under 22% of adults age 18 and older self-report meeting the physical activity guidelines. Because that data is self-reported, it’s probably inflated. If this snapshot is representative of your workforce (and it probably is), then your employees aren’t as active as they should be for optimal health. But simply putting a fitness center in your building won't automatically make inactive employees start exercising. Solely dedicating a space and putting some equipment in, is no guarantee that it won't quickly become a ghost town.

One key to making your fitness center more effective is providing engaging and qualified staff to both manage the center, AND provide key services/support for employees. Without fitness center staff, you are building a corporate fitness center for the 15-20% of your workforce who are already regular exercisers. That said, if you built your corporate fitness center to be a nice amenity and you don’t really care if it’s being used, then carry on. But, if you’re truly interested in helping people adopt physical activity into their lives, consider getting the right staff in there to pull your fence sitters (“Maybe I’ll try it Monday”) off the fence and into the fitness center.

#2: If we can find the right carrot, more employees will participate.

One manager’s “carrot” is another employee’s “stick”. A lack of employee engagement can’t be fixed with HSA money or t-shirts. It’s likely that your employees aren’t participating for reasons much deeper than the extrinsic rewards you’re willing to lay at their feet. 

An individual’s ability to be well goes WAY beyond biometric screenings and an HRA. Research tells us that zip code does more to determine our health than our genes. Employers have zero control over both of those. So, while you’re designing the perfect incentive strategy to get your employees to participate in the annual wellness program, they’re wondering how to keep food on the table and how pay their bills. They're worrying about junior's performance at school and they pray daily that he gets to and from school safely. If that isn't enough to have on their plate, they’re suffering the weight of serious stress brought on by working more than one job. 

In the midst of all of the stress of their personal lives, there isn't a consideration of using your corporate fitness center. Worse yet, every Fall, when you tell them the money that’s at stake if they don’t successfully complete elements X, Y, and Z of your wellness program, they only feel more burden and frankly a necessity to participate in the drudgery that is your wellness program. They NEED those HSA dollars so they’ll scrape by figuring out a way to complete all of the wellness program components. And they’ll resent you all the way. There’s nothing healthy about any of that.

#3: If we ask employees what they need, they’ll put forward ridiculous suggestions we can’t use (so we don’t’ ask).

I can’t say this is 100% false. Case in point, we have one client who has a few employees who annually ask for a pool at work via our satisfaction survey. The client is never going to act on that request. But, it would be equally ridiculous to assume that all feedback is as myopic as this. 

If you subscribe to the ideology that healthy and happy employees are the core of your successful business, then you value what your teams have to say. Sometimes, their needs for improved health shows up in their data, so you don't even have to ask. In other cases, they have fabulous ideas for elevating your organization that would never otherwise have made it to the surface if you didn’t ask.

We make it a habit to solicit feedback from fitness center members, and in many cases, they've asked for services that we were able to implement to the benefit of all of the members. For example, in response to a member request, we now routinely have a large bottle of sunscreen available for members who want to run/walk outside. We also started building a library of grab-n-go workouts on laminated cards that members could use to get through a quick session without a scheduled appointment with a trainer. Eventually, we built those into on-the-road kits for employees who traveled; they could check out a travel kit before their trip and return it when they got back to the office. You could argue that these ideas should have been on our radar, but they weren't and we never would have met these needs if we hadn't asked for feedback. 

#4: If our fitness center isn’t being used we need to change our management partner.

Maybe your fitness center is struggling because of the management company, or maybe it's the right management partner but the wrong staff for your culture. But, before you assume that low participation in your fitness center could be fixed by swapping out the vendor, take a holistic view of what's happening in your work environment.  

Here's why: if your employees have very little autonomy in their jobs, then the corporate fitness center isn’t even on the employee’s radar. They punch in and punch in without looking back. It doesn’t matter how engaging and inviting the fitness center staff is, how great the services are, how fun the group fitness classes are, and how easy it is to join the fitness center. If their work environment offers no flexibiliy, they will not use your fitness center. 

Your fitness management vendor cannot rise above your organization's cultural barriers to magically draw employees into the fitness center, and a vendor switch is a major ordeal. So, exercise caution and take a hard look in the mirror before you fix a vendor relationship that may not be broken.  


Your employees lives are complicated and their work environment is part of that sticky picture.  Some of them are likely fighting to make it each day, in ways that you may have never considered. If you’re committed to a strategy for employee well-being that is truly about lifting your employees up, then you have to bust through these myths to get to the real barriers that make it hard for people to make a healthy choice. For more on addressing social determinants of health in your wellness program, try this article. If you're looking for a few quick tips to infuse a little more movement into the workday for your employees, grab our quick read below.

 Quick tips to help your employees move more

Topics: employee health and wellness workplace wellness corporate fitness management

How a Robust Fall Prevention Program Can Improve Residents Lives

Falls are a big concern for senior living communities. Given the well-known statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's easy to see why. The National Council On Aging provides compelling numbers as well. This is why we work so hard with our clients to establish robust, evidence-based, year-round programming that focuses on improving resident's balance and strength, as well as their self-confidence.  

One of the key elements for successful balance programming is drawing in as many residents as possible; we've found that the best way to accomplish this is through varied programming. It's not enough to simply put a balance class on the calendar. Communities have to take it one step further and offer other ways to interact.

Balance Redfined | NIFS Fall Prevention

NIFS Balance RedefinedTM programming offers everything from fitness testing to classes that teach participants how to safely get up from a fall. We've spent years evolving these services as we responded to resident suggestions and evaluated our program data.  Below are stories from residents whose lives have been positively impacted by the work our staff do.

Ms. Weigle

Despite losing her husband just a few days after they moved into the community, Ms. Weigle made a conscious choice to take that difficult first step out of their apartment to meet new neighbors, and within a few weeks someone invited her to try the Balance Class offered by the NIFS fitness center manager. She has been a faithful participant (and ambassador!) ever since and has expanded her lifestyle to include additional activities such as swimming, walking groups, gardening, and studying Spanish. 

Ms. Weigle takes her regular exercise so seriously that she’s told her family not to call in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays because she will be in the pool. When asked, she’s proud to share that through repeat balance testing with the NIFS manager, she is seeing her scores improve.  At 87 years old, she thinks becoming steadier on her feet has helped her in other areas of her health. In fact, in a recent doctor’s visit, she was praised by her doctor for exceptional blood pressure, and she was pleased to share that ankle pain which had long bothered her was no longer a problem. 

[Read more:  Ms. Weigle's full story]

Mrs. Chapin

When Mrs. Chapin moved to her community about ten years ago, she wasn’t new to exercise. With a COPD diagnosis almost 20 years ago, she started swimming laps, and even though she hated to exercise, she kept at it because she knew it was crucial to helping her stay well with a chronic disease. But when she and her husband moved into their community, she took a break from regular exercise to engage in so many of the other opportunities provided. 

She watched her husband’s health gradually decline, so she nudged him to join her for a Balance class, and they were regulars up until his passing last year. Through that loss, Mrs. Chapin felt the support of the members in her class, and was able to keep attending regularly. The social support in NIFS balance programming has been a significant and  positive as she draws her social network from that group. Mrs. Chapin’s annual senior fitness evaluation confirms she’s on the right track with maintaining her balance, but more important than the numbers is how Mrs. Chapin feels. She told us that at 88 years old, she feels steadier than ever and she’s thrilled to still be sewing quilts and clothes, as well as painting, and serving on several resident committees all of which wouldn’t be possible if she wasn’t in good shape. 

Mr. Sadler

Mr. Sadler never used to exercise.  But when he moved to his community in 2009, his decision to start taking group fitness classes and using the pool proved valuable to overcome health challenges that were just around the corner. After a knee replacement surgery didn’t go as expected, he had to have the surgery reversed and replaced the joint with surgical concrete.  Not only did that “fix” leave him unable to walk, he lost significant healthy muscle tissue as well. Following his release from physical therapy, Mr. Sadler was only mobile by scooter or wheelchair and he stopped attending an annual family beach vacation.

He knew his only hope to return to more independence, and maybe to enjoying that annual family vacation again was to get back to a regular exercise routine. After working closely with the NIFS team at his community, he was able to regain significant strength and balance through careful water training. Eventually, he got back to land-based exercise as well and at 87 years old, he has resumed driving and walks confidently with a walker. In 2015, he joined his family again at the beach for their annual vacation. 

[Read more: Mr. Sadler's full story]

Mrs. Boelter

Mrs. Boelter was physical active as a regular water aerobics participant before she moved into her community in 2013.  She was also an avid walker and all of that has continued with the help of the NIFS staff at her community. As her Parkinson’s disease progresses, she feels the importance of maintaining her activity level even more and shared that through regular personal training with the NIFS manager, she has more energy throughout the day. But most noticeably, she is more able to get moving in the morning compared to her previous routine.

Mrs. Boelter noted that although she’s had a number of falls over the past 20 years since she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she’s had no major falls since she started working with the NIFS staff on her balance. She tells everyone at the community about the benefits of the classes and personal training; she’s a living testament to being able to maintain her independence with regular balance training offered at her community.

Mrs. Moore

Mrs. Moore has been active in the fitness center and with the NIFS staff at her community since she moved in 2004. More recently however, she participated in the NIFS Balance Challenge at the suggestion of the NIFS manager. Through a series of evaluations, education, and fun games, residents engaged in the Balance Challenge understand how to improve their balance as well as how to avoid and manage falls. 

New information on managing falls proved to be very timely for Mrs. Moore when she sustained a fall outside of the clubhouse. After she got her bearings, she was able to use skills she had learned from the NIFS manager during the Challenge to get up on her own without injury. She shared she’s been able to use what she learned through the program to stay active with gardening and to keep up with her grandkids too. She has also become an ambassador for all services connected with balance training at her community. 

[Read more: Mrs. Moore's full story]

It's really common for communities to have missed opportunities when it comes to providing comprehensive fall prevention programming. We can help you spot and fill those gaps to provide exactly what your residents need to feel steadier and confident on their feet. Click below for more information about a free consulting session with NIFS to jump start balance training at your community.

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: fall prevention balance training senior lliving balance redefined balance training for seniors

What Happens When We Make Purposeful Living the Heart of Life Enrichment Programming

senior_woman_balancing.jpgLet's see if this sounds familiar:

  • Your residents love the life enrichment staff.
  • Residents sometimes complain that there are too many things on the calendar; they can't attend everything they want to.
  • Your life enrichment director routinely reports how lively and engaged the resident wellness committee is but you don't have real data to back this up.

These are "benchmarks" we've used for years to determine when activities are going well in the community. In 2018, those benchmarks are only status quo, and we are well into an era where leadership must begin looking carefully at how resources are being allocated for life enrichment (including the fitness program).

[Read More: How to give resident wellness programs a fresh look]

Activities Directors as Order Takers

Activity Directors (or Life Enrichment Directors, or Wellness pick) are busy like all the other personnel in your community. They are at the heart of every community's bustling events calendar by performing a delicate balancing act every month taking “orders” (requests) from residents and the community all while juggling existing and long-standing calendar events (Do not mess with the card player’s schedule). The programming is delicately placed on the calendar and carefully scheduled with typically limited space inside the community, and tightly booked transportation to areas outside of the community. 

Sometimes the influx of requests from residents alone can fill a whole month. And sometimes the calls from outside the four walls of the community require booking out months in advance because the programming is so tight. It is indeed wonderful to have so many things to do in one senior living arena. 

But a busy calendar isn't the same thing as a calendar built on resident purpose. And there are limitations to your Activities Director serving as an order taker. While many community leaders lay an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" label over activities simply because the resident's aren't balking at their options, those organizations are leaving quite a bit on the table in terms of building truly purposeful living for their residents.    

Residents Do Not Want to be Entertained

You see, residents in your community aren’t looking solely to be entertained.  After all, your community is not The Love Boat with your Director filling the role of Julie. Instead, residents are looking for purposeful living in a setting where some of the barriers that used to get in the way, like home maintenance, have been removed. They’re looking for opportunities to contribute, to grow, and to connect in new and challenging ways. 

The order taker model only meets the needs of the vocal minority. Those who sit on the committee or who speak up are more likely to have their interest pursued. However, over the years, I have observed that senior living activities seem to fall into the Pareto Principle where twenty percent of the population consumes eighty percent of the resources. I guarantee there are residents who don’t participate because you haven’t tapped their interest or desires yet.  

[Read More: Top 5 reasons your resident's don't engage in wellness]

If your Activities Director moved away from taking orders, could the calendar hold more intentional opportunities for residents to engage in the community lifestyle programming?  Would more of your residents be involved in the offerings because of the thoughtful approach to a variety of interests represented by your diverse audience? This shift in how an Activity Director does business requires a change in focus; instead of using the meeting minutes from the monthly committee minute as a to do list, the activities team needs to start thinking strategically about how to engage a variety of stakeholders in the planning process for resident events and activities.

Change for the Sake of Doing Better

Most of us aren't big fans of change, but change for the sake of doing better provides meaning to the difficult decisions that lie ahead. Suggesting a fresh approach to how the calendar is organized, who is supporting events, how events are developed, and how success is measured will help the activities team start to see what "better" looks like. (Note, "better" doesn't mean turning all of the programming on its head. We do not need your residents in an uproar over substantial changes to beloved activities.)

That said, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start when you’re trying to change an approach or a process. Our Build Vitality webinar series (which covers branding, staff, program, and fitness center design) is a good resource. If you’d like a more hands on approach, consider bringing NIFS onsite for consulting to help you chart a course to build a multidimensional activities calendar that cultivates purpose for your residents.

find out more about consulting

Topics: senior living status quo wellness for seniors senior living activities purposeful living

Preparing for Your First Obstacle Race

Signing up for a Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder or a Spartan Race can seem like a daunting task at first glance. You often hear of these races and envision many mileWoman_PushUps-1.jpgs of treacherous landscape and countless obstacles to push you to your limits. Some people jump right into a challenge like this.  But if you're on the fence about signing up because you're not sure if you're ready, you're not alone. While it is typical to feel a little anxious before a race (I did!), I am here to provide you with some tips that I gave my group fitness team, and that I also used myself for my first obstacle race that made it an awesome experience! It is my hope that after reading this, you will make it a goal to sign up for one race in 2018 if you haven’t participated before. You won’t regret it and you will have a blast doing it! Here we go with some some race tips.  

Don’t Run Against the Clock!

Did I say that loud enough? Good. A common concern for people leading up to an obstacle event is whether or not you are fast enough to participate.  “What does my mile time have to be to enter?” or “I don’t want to get last place so I don’t think I should sign up.” These were thoughts I heard many times leading up to our runs. It is important to know that these runs are about the journey and having fun while you do it. You should complete them for you and nobody else. While there are often “competitive waves” that are chasing a great time on the course, that doesn’t mean you need to sign up for them! Most “standard waves” are filled with people just like you who are doing something new for the first time or who are looking for a new workout challenge. Don’t worry about your time and run to have fun!

Master Your Body Weight

While most races are at a minimum of 5k, or 3.1 miles, it certainly helps to do some running before joining an obstacle race. However, there are other important areas of your physical fitness readiness that you will want to address. Body weight circuits are a great way to prepare for an obstacle race and it is something I trained my classes on frequently before heading out to the course. Areas that I recommend you focus on are:

  • Core – Isometric exercises like Planks and Back Extensions (Superman) to stabilize as well as dynamic exercises like Bear Crawls, Army Crawls, Wood Choppers, Leg Lifts and Crunches are all great choices. These core exercises help you maintain your balance on uneven ground or slippery surfaces.
  • Grip – Most races will require you to hang during an obstacle, which requires more grip strength than you would expect. Spend time at a pull-up bar working on hanging and supporting your body weight in space. If you can execute pull-ups, even better. For those who are unable to hang or do a pull-up, no sweat!! Most races offer an option of walking around or through an event that requires action on the monkey bars.
  • StrengthPush-ups and Squats will give you a foundation to conquer most obstacles you will face. Make it a goal to get comfortable performing high repetition sets of these exercises.
  • Conditioning – In addition to running and incline walking (most courses are going to have hills) you want to be ready for anything thrown your way. Try to incorporate exercises like burpees, jump roping and mountain climbers into your routine. Some races like the Spartan issue penalty burpees for missing an obstacle so always read through the race rules depending on which race you join according to your fitness levels!

Grab a Buddy & Enjoy the Day!

This may be the most important factor of them all if you are interested in joining a race. I had an incredible time running races in 2017 mainly because of the great group of people who attend my Bootcamp classes. Each race we completed as a group, helping each other through difficult obstacles, competing with one another and motivating each other. If you have a training group (as the trainer or participant) or even just one workout buddy who you frequently train with, consider signing up together! You will without a doubt find the experience much more enjoyable with a group of like-minded people. Your group will feel more like a team than ever before after completing a race together! Also, realize that it isn’t just about the race itself. Most races give you a ticket to a festival the day of the race as well! Those event are filled with music, food, drinks and activities. The post-run festivities are a great time to relax and enjoy the company of friends, reminiscing about all the challenges and excitement that the day offered. 

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Topics: beginner training for obstacle races team training obstacle races

Making Time to Exercise

Since I was a young child, I have continuously heard in school how important it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious meals and exercising regularly. Starting at a young age is important too because it will create good habits that will carry on throughout life. I remember in my classes we would talk about adults having difficulties making time to exercise. One of the reasons that stuck out the most to me was not having any time. I had a hard time understanding this reason but now that I have entered the work force, I definitely understand how some may believe that there is not ANY time to exercise.  I can only imagine other factors such as kids, workload, second jobs, errands, etc.  That is okay, because today we are going to look at the top reasons for not exercising and finding solutions so that everyone can find a way to exercise even on your busiest day.

Studies show these are the top reasons why some do not exercise:

Not Enough Time 

When you have work, kids, cleaning and other errands to run, it may seem impossible to take time to workout because other things are more of a priority or more necessary. I think that is the key to making time to exercise, it has to be a necessity. When we believe things are important, we make time for them and should do the same for exercising. It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. That is just 30 minutes a day, for 5 days a week! It can be broken up any way you want, whether it is 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, doing it all at once or even breaking it down in to 10 minute sessions.  It does not matter as long as you hit the recommendation.

ThinkstockPhotos-I can do it.jpg

Exercising Hurts 

Never push yourself to where you feel pain. If you are feeling pain, it is time to decrease the intensity and slow down. It is okay to ease into a basic workout routine. Light cardio and light weightlifting is acceptable to start until you feel comfortable increasing the intensity. Sometimes, you experience soreness from a previous workout and if that is the case, take extra rest days to let your body recover. 

Lack of Motivation 

It is so easy to stay home relaxing and not make an extra trip to the gym, but what is going to get you motivated to exercise? Sometimes writing goals down can help.  Also, rewarding yourself each week or once a month is great motivational tactic. Rewards should be fun and exciting and you could bring a friend on board for an extra boost and a dose of commitment.  You can also benefit from the behavioral science of loss aversion to keep you moving.  Find out more about charity fitness apps as a tool to keep you motivated.

It’s Boring 

There are so many ways to enjoy exercise. It is about finding which form of exercise  or activity you like best to continue moving forward. Yes, you have your traditional way of exercising by hopping on a cardio machine or lifting weights, but there are many other options. You can try a group fitness class at a local or private gym and see what styles you enjoy.

[Read More: Check out the NIFS Group Fitness Schedule!]

If you are not a fan of group fitness, consider joining an adult sports league or try outdoor activities such as running and hiking. You can also buy exercise DVDs or subscribe to a fitness streaming services to use at home.  There's a good chance your kids’ game system has workout “games”  the whole family can use. It is a great way to get the kids involved as well!

Making exercise a habit is going to make it more possible to stick with your fitness goals. There are many ways to make extra time for a workout, you just have to find what works for you and make sure you are choosing enjoyable activities. That’s a recipe for success!

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Topics: exercise and health exercise habit making time to exercise

Using Wellness to Decrease Employee Turnover in Senior Living

NIFS | Employee Turnover | Employee WellnessTurnover in senior living is notoriously high for a number of reasons. One of the tools leadership can use to increase tenure for employees in community settings is offering balanced and thoughtful wellness programs. What follows are suggestions for how to elevate wellness in your corporate strategy so that your workforce understands you care about them beyond the day-to-day work they provide to keep the community running.

Employee wellness is about much more than a walking program.

How you position wellness in the organization can determine whether it sinks or swims. Physical health is only part of the picture. That's not to say you shouldn't offer a walking program. It can be a very simple way to help employees be more aware of how much they're moving during the day. But keep in mind that much of your community's staff members are on their feet most of the day serving the residents; a walking program for them may feel like "one more thing to do" in an already busy, service-oriented day. And giving everyone a wearable fitness tracker doesn't always communicate a "we care about you" message, either. The CNA scraping by on $12.50 an hour might rather have a small raise than a fancy wristband.

[Read More: Why Employee Purpose Could Be the Heart of Corporate Wellness]

Consider the health challenges across your workforce.

Your administrative/leadership team will have different obstacles in achieving good health compared to what you might see for your physical plant staff and nursing aides, and the community's approach to wellness needs and what it will take to address that range. The wearable/walking program I mentioned above is a good example of a well-intentioned offering that often falls flat for hourly staff. But, if you provide compensated exercise time for employees, you might be onto something in terms of a message that truly says, "We want to make it easy for you to live well."

Be careful if you intend to use biometric screenings and health risk assessments as the pillars of your wellness program. They have become hallmarks of a good "outcomes-based" wellness program in recent years, but that title may be misplaced. If you're just getting started on a wellness program for your community employees, it could be tempting to latch onto such screening tools as the place to begin. But there are challenges with these offerings that should not be glossed over.

Also keep in mind how important social determinants of health are for your workforce. The health habits that your crew practice at work are only part of the picture of how well they live. Where employees live can have a profound effect on their well-being. Access to healthy foods, reliable and convenient transportation, safe living environments, cultural norms and other issues have a strong influence for all of us on how they engage with healthy choices, and your workplace wellness program may be butting heads with those strong social factors. Maintaining realistic expectations about the ways your workforce can engage at work will help set your program on the right path.

Align your wellness strategy with the rest of your business strategy.

If your organization is already built on a model of caring for employees, infusing a message that you want to help employees live well should resonate positively. But if employees feel that the culture is punitive and as if their every move is being watched, "wellness" is quite likely going to sound like one more management hack designed purely to cut costs. Here are some suggestions for improving retention through a supportive relationship-based approach. You'll need to get the overarching company culture in place first before you add in a wellness component if you want your message about employee health to resonate with the staff.

Where to look next.

If you're more confused than ever about how to get an employee-centered wellness program off the ground for your workforce, you're not alone. The variable shifts, the wide range in roles (many of which are quite physical in nature), and the simultaneously gratifying and exhausting nature of the work you do, complicate how to both establish and deliver a wellness message and programming. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  1. If you don't know what makes your employees tick, start by getting to know them a little better. They may have interests they could share with colleagues that would buoy the whole department or organization.
  2. Connect with employees working in a variety of settings across the community to find out what would help them feel supported to live well. You probably won't be able to execute on all of the ideas, but you will likely get suggestions you couldn't have imagined on your own.
  3. Start small and with the right messaging. (Hint: You can craft the right messaging when you have information from tip #1.) Always lead with words and actions that communicate a desire to help employees live well. If you say it in words and your actions don't align, employees won't engage.
  4. Learn from other similarly situated organizations. There are communities out there doing this work with their employees, and they can help you avoid some of the pitfalls they've already climbed out of.

It's not easy work, but don't let that stop you. Doing well for your employees helps them do right by your residents, and that's a community where everyone benefits. Need a little more information to get your wellness program started in the right direction? Check out the blog below.

Blog: doing corporate wellness for employees

Topics: corporate wellness senior living staffing wellness programs employee turnover

3 Ways to Use Surveys to Improve Your Corporate Fitness Program

In a seasoned corporate fitness program, sometimes it's hard to figure out where to look next for improvement in the services, staffing, or overall offering. In NIFS almost three decades of providing corporate fitness management services, we've continued to evolve our use of surveys well beyond the typical satisfaction ratings. Below are three tested survey styles that we use on a regular basis to improve our corporate fitness centers and  ensure our staff are doing everything they can to sustain a positive and inviting fitness atmosphere for employees.

The New Member Experience Survey

We know that creating a positive and welcoming first experience for employees in corporate fitness is crucial to winning loyal members. And we value customer service skills in our staff as much as we value sound exercise science knowledge. In order to capture our staff's effectiveness at using strong customer-focused skills with new members, we began implementing a new member experience survey. We use the tool in a monthly welcome email with new members to get a better picture of any potential barriers members may experience as well as to better understand how well our staff are implementing expected procedures for orienting new members. Results from this survey offer strong talking points in semi-annual review discussions or more frequently if needed to both praise and correct staff, based on member feedback.

 View a sample of our new member experience survey

The Quality Assurance Surveys

When we contract with a business to provide fitness center management services, part of the package includes managing liability within the fitness environment. We have several components in our quality assurance program that support this activity, including a monthly emergency procedures survey which our managers fill out. It provides a nudge to ensure they're checking emergency equipment, stocking first aid kits, and documenting any missing or broken supplies in a timely fashion. We also have an annual risk management survey and a semi-annual emergency survey where staff work through emergency scenarios and take an emergency preparedness quiz.

View a sample of our monthly emergency procedures survey

The Satisfaction Survey (with a twist)

I suspect that most vendors like us provide a satisfaction survey to share with clients how the staff, services, and spaces are being received by their employees. It's foundational to measuring our commitment to the client; in fact, portions of our satisfaction survey sometimes translate into service level agreements between us and the client. We've made tweaks to our standard survey over the years, and we recently added a Net Promoter Score question as a new twist that provides us with more of an industry benchmark for the way our staff are connecting with members to build loyalty. 


Even if you're unfamiliar with NPS, there's a good chance you've answered a product or service survey question that generated an NPS for the provider. It's usually worded to ask how likely you are to recommend X service/product to a friend and the answer is given on a 0-10 scale. The responses then are broken down into three categories:

  • Detractors, rate their likelihood to recommend between a 0-6. They are considered likely to stop using your product/service and/or share negative feedback about your product/service.
  • Passives, rate their experience as a 7-8. They’re neutral to your brand; they might continue to use your product/service, but they aren’t likely to invite others into the fold.
  • Promoters, rate their experience as a 9-10 and they are considered evangelists for whatever you’re selling; they LOVE you and will tell others about how great you are.

The industry average NPS for fitness centers as tracked by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub association (IHRSA) is 43. That score includes commercial gyms, so it’s not quite apples to apples, but we are talking about a very similar scope of services where members are entrusting their physical health to the fitness center staff and carving out their very precious personal time to spend time at the gym.  Since we added an NPS question to our survey over the last few years, we have far exceeded that industry benchmark and we are regularly looking at strategies to continue growing member loyalty.

This overview provides a good snapshot of the types of information we gather through surveys, but I haven't touched on how we use the survey responses to coach our staff, improve our client relationships and manage customer liability. To dig more deeply into these topics, grab our white paper.

Make better use of surveys in your fitness program >

Topics: employee health and fitness corporate fitness center service level agreements for corporate fitness corporate fitness survey tips

A Warning About Wellness Data in Senior Living & How We Can Do Better

NIFS | senior living wellness Special thanks to Sara Kyle as a co-author for this piece.  You can read more about her experience in senior living here.

Over the last several months, the senior living industry has seen more published data on wellness offerings. A few examples include this report from Senior Housing News (SHN), and the 2017 ICAA/Promatura Wellness Benchmarks report. I'm thrilled that organizations are taking a stronger and more consistent approach to measuring the impact of wellness for older adults in senior living. We can all benefit by being more informed; but I want to suggest a few cautionary notes about the data. 

As you read the reports, articles, and posts, it's easy to get swept up in the headlines and colorful images. Instant validation seems logical when the numbers back up our own experiences. But just beneath those captivating soundbites are sample size issues, a lack of consistent definition of terms and problematic comparisons between a study population and real world groups. We've seen these research challenges for years in corporate wellness (check out this blog for a consistent digest of how the corporate wellness industry has routinely gotten it wrong). I'd hate to see senior living go down that same path.  

Here are a few examples from the above noted reports that spark additional questions when you dig a little more deeply into the numbers:

Who makes up the sample and how many of them are there?

In the SHN report, authors note that 308 adults age 65 and older were polled using a Google survey. We lack key information about these 308 respondents. For example, we don't know if those surveyed are employed, if they're community-dwelling, if they have health issues, if they're living with government assistance, what their faith background is, etc. And while 308 respondents seems like a significant contribution, it may/may not be enough to declare data from that sample to be statistically significant. These missing elements don't mean the survey findings are unimportant, but it does mean we need to take a measured approach to digesting what's offered.

We also need to ensure that study limitations (like sample size) are included in the write up because those limitations impact how we process the information for validity, reliability, and transferability into other populations. Limitations don't necessarily render the research incorrect or useless, but they do provide important context for the findings as well as how we might move forward to study a similar topic.

What do we mean by engagement?

It's common to see terms like engagement and participation when reviewing data related to wellness in senior living, but those terms often aren't clearly defined. In one case, I found (after some digging and discussion with the publishing organization) that participation was defined as residents choosing at least one activity per month. When NIFS staff report to communities about participation rates in the fitness program, we're providing data on resident who visit 1x, 5x, and 8x per month. It's easy to see how a lack of standard definition for participation could skew a comparison between the two different data sets. 

You might think participation is fairly cut and dry. And I suppose if our single focus is measuring the number of behinds in the seats, then participation is clear. But, we also know that headcounts don't always mean the individuals are involved in the activity. I would argue that sleeping through a stretching class requires a very generous view of participation to assume that the resident received the intended benefit from the class. And that's where engagement comes in; it's definitely a moving target. It's highly subjective and very individual. But the individual who is engaged in the stretching class is moving his body, making eye contact with the instructor, and is responsive to feedback or changes in the activity. While some people use engagement and participation synonymously, they are not the same thing. 

Is selection-bias an issue?

It might be. Here are a few ways I saw it play out in the two reports I've mentioned:

  • The ICAA notes that 89% of older adults living in Life Plan communities who are tracked through their bench marking tool, self-rate their health as good or excellent while only 68% of age-matched older adults who are non-community dwelling, rate themselves the same. That's a huge boon for housing operators, but this data suffers from a self-selection bias where a variety of factors well beyond the community's control may contribute to the higher scores for residents and the lower scores for non-residents.
  • The SHN report profiles a fall prevention program where the program operators note the baseline data showed that 38% of residents in the community had suffered one or more falls.  One year following the implementation of their initiative targeted at reducing falls, they noted that the incidence rate had gone down 10%. What wasn't noted in the report was a listing of potential reasons for the decreased rate of falls that are completely unrelated to the initiative such as variations in the pre and post-sample, and the increased likelihood for residents to not report falls (particularly when they know they're being watched for falls). The program providers indicate that they've saved the community $500,000 with this fall prevention initiative, but that savings would indicate that we can assign value to that which we prevented. I'm not aware of a concrete way to value prevention; it's one of the great shortcomings of preventive health strategies.

How can we do better?

While there are some holes in the data that has been coming out on wellness in senior living, I think the research should continue, and below are a few areas where we could all improve the quality of what we're releasing for the greater benefit of the residents we're serving.

  1. Let's ’s get industry clarity about how we define wellness because right now we see it as the “wellness gym”, the “wellness nurse”, the “wellness staff” who are really fitness center staff, the “resident wellness committee” who plans activities that may or may not be tied to purposeful living. Gaining a more clear and shared definition of what we mean when we say resident wellness gets us all started on the same page. 
  2. Let’s get clarity about how we define engagement and participation. To me, defining participation as 1x per month to seems kind of low, but if we’re going to agree to that baseline, then at least it's a starting point.
  3. Let's find value beyond hard numbers. The ICAA does a great job of profiling and recognizing fantastic programming provided by 3rd party providers as well as directly by housing operators. There are similarly interesting initiatives throughout the SHN report.  Continuing to share meaningful lifestyle offerings is a win for everyone.
  4. Let’s use data where it’s significant and less subjective. For example, one of the programs outlined in the SHN report showed where one operator demonstrated a 50% improvement on average for residents who did baseline fitness testing and repeat testing. In-between their testing periods, participants engaged in exercise prescribed for them by a trained fitness professional. This isn't a complicated initiative, our staff offer something similar in our client communities, and the data is hard to dispute.

When you're paying to download a report that promises reliable numbers, and meaningful information, it's okay to ask questions about what's being offered and whether it will translate to your environment. It's also okay to question the study design to better understand definitions inherent to the outcomes. 

We have a long way to go as an industry to tighten up research so that our evidence-based practices are better. Do you have other areas in senior living research or in wellness specifically where you think we can all do a little better? Comment below to keep the discussion going. 

Topics: senior fitness senior living community senior living wellness programs wellness for seniors older adult wellness