Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Increase Workplace Health by Prescribing Exercise for Depression

Employee Health and DepressionBetween inflation, the rise and fall of the stock market, never-ending projects at work, and screaming kids, there are plenty of things in a employee’s life that can lead them to feel overwhelmed. While we all feel this way from time to time, feelings of anxiety and depression that don’t subside within a few days must be dealt with.

With the use of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications at an all-time high, most Americans seem to be taking the pharmaceutical route to deal with their mental-health issues. As effective as this might be, however, it makes one wonder whether there are other options. Is medication the only hope for your employee's health and depression issues?

Evidence Points to Exercise as Another Answer to Employee Depression and Anxiety

One tried-and-true method of improving mental health is regular exercise. Some evidence suggests it can be as effective as traditional psychotherapy and can even eliminate the need for medication in mild to moderate cases of depression. This is encouraging news for your company wellness initiatives.

If your employees are like me, though, the last thing they probably want to do is get their body moving when they’re feeling a little blue. Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic for getting started.

Once the initial discomfort of beginning to exercise wears off, I find my mind is a little more at ease and I can finally start to relax. I’m more upbeat, I can think more clearly, and I even leave feeling more energized than before. It’s not entirely clear how or why exercise can help improve mood, but it is known to do so regardless.

The Best Employee Exercises for Beating the Blues

Some employees will find aerobic exercise like walking or running to most improve their mood, whereas others find strength training more beneficial. I most enjoy running or playing basketball to get my mind off things; however, strength training has its place in my stress-relief program as well.

What Health Initiative Your Company Can Make to Assist with Employee Depression and Anxiety

As important as medication can be in a person’s life for a variety of ailments, never underestimate the body’s ability to heal itself. Whether it’s the release of endorphins that leads to the famous “runner’s high,” or the psychological benefits of setting an exercise goal and accomplishing it, performing regular physical activity can help employees deal with depression and anxiety.

So improve employee awareness through educating them on the benefits of exercise for depression and anxiety. Encourage them to grab a friend, get moving, and leave their worries behind. They might even lose a few pounds, too. And that alone can perk them up a little (as well as lower your companies health costs)!

Topics: employee health healthy workforce motivation control healthcare costs

Worksite Wellness: Can You Be Healthy and Smoke?

Smoking and Employee HealthSome people associate smoking with being thin, but thin doesn’t always mean healthy. Smoking does suppress your appetite, which helps to keep weight off. But do the health risks of smoking outweigh the negatives of being overweight?

Negative Effects of Smoking on Employee Health

Smoking affects heart health and increases an individual's heart rate. It puts employees at a greater risk for stroke and almost any type of cancer that comes to mind. Smoking doesn't just affect their heart. It impacts every other part of your employee's circulatory system, too.

Although smoking a few cigarettes a day might not keep employees from being able to run a mile every day, if they quit smoking they would see how much faster they could run the mile. Employees that smoke and exercise might not even be aware of how much more their body can do until they quit.

Get Employees Help to Quit Smoking

Offer ways to help employees quit smoking. Quiting isn't easy, but there are programs out there to support them.

Encourage employees to schedule an appointment with a fitness trainer or consultant to get baseline numbers. Once they quit smoking they can reasses those numbers a few months later. They will be amazed at how their health and fitness level will improve!

We all know smoking is bad for an individual's body in several different ways. And yes, employees may be able to exercise intensely every day and smoke, but eventually the negative effects will catch up to them, their body and your company's finances. Helping employees now can pay dividends in the future.

Topics: employee health corporate fitness program

Can Putting a Price on Calories Boost Worksite Wellness?

Employee Health Cafeteria ReceiptsThe majority of office cafeterias post nutrition information for numerous items they serve. But how many employees want to waste valuable lunch-break minutes searching for them or reading their microscopic fonts? I know I don't! I tend to go for the meal I think sounds the healthiest and pray that, when I plug the details of my meal into my online calorie counter, I don't find out I blew an entire day's worth of calories on one little lunch.

An Innovative Employee Health Solution

If the small nutrition labeling on the wall next to the food isn't doing employee health justice, would seeing the calories, total fat, carbohydrates, and protein listed on the food receipt make an impact on employees' overall health? Check out SmartReceipt's Nutricate, a system that prints nutrition information right on lunch receipts. Nutricate has the potential to help employees make a positive change in their eating habits by making it easy for them to value their calorie intake like they value their hard-earned cash.

Weighing Cost Against Employee Wellness Benefits

The biggest issue with a product such as Nutricate will be cost related. Will a receipt plastered with nutrition information benefit companies enough to outweigh the extra cost? Will companies have to put a higher price tag on their food to make up for the expense of supplying a fancier receipt?

Worksite wellness should be about improving employee lifestyles, and thus controlling healthcare costs. Maybe, in addition to adding nutrition information on receipts, companies could also use SmartReceipt to advertise health tips and their corporate fitness programs – making the health impact on employees even greater!  

Topics: employee health corporate fitness control healthcare costs

Employee Health Tip: Get Fit by Running or Walking with Your Dog

Employee Health Can Increase With Pets HealthAs employee waistlines expand, so do their pets. The good news is that man’s best friend can be just the motivation and camaraderie your employees need to jump-start a fitness routine that can benefit both.

According to a 2004 study by the Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, dogs and their owners lose weight and stay trim by dieting and exercising together. A few key preparation steps will have your employees walking and jogging with their four-legged friend in no time:

Help Your Employees Prepare for Fitness by Preparing Their "Paws"

Encourage employees to visit a running/walking specialty footwear store for proper shoes and socks. Everyone has a different gait, so it is important to purchase the right shoes. A pooch's paws are just as important. Some surfaces such as gravel, rock, and even concrete can be hard on a dog's paws. Check your dog's footpads when you return from your workout and adjust your runs accordingly.

Get Employees and Pets to Gear Up Appropriately for Outdoor Exercise

Instruct employes to wear running-specific clothing that wicks moisture away from the body and fits comfortably. For their furry pal, use a body harness and run-specific leash. This will help the dog’s comfort level during the workout and help him associate the leash and harness with serious running, not stopping to smell the roses. Both dogs and their owners should have water readily available, as well as reflective clothing or a blinking dog tag.

Share the Benefits of Starting Slow and Establishing a Routine

Employees should start off slow and warm up prior to their workout. This will prepare them and their dog's muscles for the upcoming workout and reduce the risk of injury. When walking or jogging, they should start with a slow and steady pace. If either one shows any changes in gait, slow down or end the workout. It may mean they're going too fast or too far for their current fitness level. Employees should also keep the age and breed of their dog in mind when determining the pace and distance for their run. They should always keep their dog at their side to avoid dangerous falls.

Dogs thrive on routine and so do humans. So use the opportunity to encourage employee health by teaching the importance of building a routine. Employess should keep their workouts three to five days per week. Not only will this give them a slimmer waistline and improve your corporations financial waistline, too, but they’ll gain some bonding-time with their pet.

Topics: healthy workforce overweight employees motivation exercise at home

Can Short Workouts Improve Employee Health?

Employee Exercise BreakHave you ever heard the recommendation that healthy adults should try to do 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise most days of the week to help maintain health and reduce the risk of heart disease? If you want to lose weight, you'll need to tack on an additional 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. But who has time for even 30 minutes of exercise?

To Improve Company Health Culture, Encourage Short Spurts of Exercise

Although it's ideal to aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, it's not always possible or practical. Between commutes, packed work schedules, and other demands on our lives, many employees find it difficult to fit in three meals in a day, much less 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise.

So, if employees can't exercise at least 30 minutes at a time, should they skip it altogether? The answer is definitely no. Physical activity has benefits even if you can only do it in 10- or 15-minute segments.

Short Bursts of Exercise Benefit Employee Health By:

Improving Employee Cardiovascular Fitness

Research has shown that even 10 to 15 minutes of walking at 2 to 3 mph can improve cardiovascular fitness. This means employees can improve their heart's ability to pump blood and oxygen to the rest of their body. People who currently have a sedentary lifestyle see this benefit most.

Boosting Employee's Calorie Burn

Ten minutes of exercise can give your employee's metabolism a boost for up to an hour.

Lowering Employee Blood Pressure

Hypertension Journal reports that individuals can decrease their blood pressure for several hours by taking a few short, brisk walks each day. In fact, individuals can lower it for 11 hours after completing four 10-minute walks.

Relieving Stress

Exercise, even if only for a short period of time, increases endorphins (the feel-good hormone), decreases cortisol (the stress hormone), and provides an outlet for frustrations.

Giving Employee Brains a Much-Needed Break

Employees can clear their head and prepare to focus on the next task at hand after only 10 minutes of exercise. Based on the answers to a questionnaire, study participants said a 10-minute bike ride helped them "feel more clear-headed" and "reduced feelings of fatigue."

Controling Cholesterol

Ten minutes of activity can help lower triglycerides and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Where Does Your Company Go From Here?

Encourage employees to look for opportunities to exercise in three or four 10-minute segments. This could mean giving them a few minutes of paid time during their lunch break to exercise, or encouraging a 10-minute walk before they go into their afternoon commute.

Consider this fact: People who begin a routine of regular physical activity by walking only 10 minutes a day are more likely to stick to the routine and add to it than are new exercisers who start with a 30-minute-per-day goal.

Topics: exercise at work employee health healthy workforce

Decrease Salt. One Important Way to Improve Employee Health

Employee Health Through Reading Food LabelsIn a tough economy, many of your employees are making logical changes in spending habits. They are probably taking fewer vacations, eliminating extras from TV subscription packages, and using e-mail more frequently to save a few cents on a stamp. One thing we hope your employees aren't sacrificing, however, is good, healthy and lightly processed food.

Encourage Employee Health by Providing Health Tips that Teach Them What to Look for on Food Labels

Buying cheap food is tempting when you're at the grocery store, but convenience and processed foods aren't necessarily the way to go. Purchasing frozen meals and other processed food items can drastically increase sodium intake.

Even items you wouldn't think contain salt might be sneaking it in to employee diets. For example, on a recent trip to the store for a bag of frozen peas, I glanced at the back of the package only to find the words “peas, water, and salt” listed as the ingredients. I looked at a few other brands and, wouldn't you know, several had salt listed, as well. I did find one that had only peas and water, a small success that can add up!

Let Your Employees Know the Effects of Excess Sodium

You're probably thinking “what's the big deal? It's just a little salt,” but Americans consume entirely too much sodium. What does excess sodium intake result in? Hypertension! And what does hypertension mean? An increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Most of your employees don't even realize that hypertension is a preventable illness, meaning that people can actually do something to prevent hypertension from sneaking up on them. The best form of prevention is to monitor your daily salt intake by glancing at the nutrition label on the foods you eat and keeping a tally of what you're putting into your body. According to the American Heart Association, we should be consuming 1,500mg of sodium or less per day.

In addition to keeping track of how much sodium you consume, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can reduce your risk of developing hypertension. 

Make Employees Aware of the Risks

Think about this: With all the hype about healthy eating and increasing exercise, shouldn't more companies be tuning into what they can do for their employees in order to reduce the cost of healthcare? Encourage employees to take the next step to a healthy lifestyle and start paying better attention to what they are putting into their bodies. Once people make this a habit, the performance they'll get out of their bodies will be even better!

Topics: employee health nutrition disease prevention control healthcare costs

Investing in Corporate Fitness Management Can Boost Productivity


Employee productivity increases with exerciseYou've had your morning coffee and breakfast and you're ready to begin your workday. You plop down at your desk to scan through the 50 e-mails you received since you shut down your computer last night. By the time you finish, more than an hour has passed, you've answered five calls, and your boss is begging for your help with an agenda for a last-minute meeting.

To top it off, stress is setting in. Guess what? Your brain is already fried and your productivity for the day will probably be minimal.

Exercise at Work Is the Answer

What if your company offered employees 30 paid minutes each day to exercise in its corporate fitness center? Would employee productivity increase? Studies show it would. Exercise has positive effects on the brain. It stimulates the brain and nervous system, decreases stress, and increases performance. I don't know of a single CEO who wouldn't want his or her staff performing better on the job. Fewer mistakes equals more company return, happier bosses, and happier employees.

Increased Productivity Can Outweigh the Cost of a Corporate Fitness Program

You're probably wondering whether the benefits of opening a corporate fitness center outweigh the cost. The right type of managed facility would. Many corporate fitness centers have trainers who can help individuals reach their fitness and health goals, which means lower insurance costs, fewer sick days, and increased productivity. Corporations can reap many benefits from having a corporate fitness or wellness center. 

What's Your Next Step?

Convince company decision-makers to consider the benefits of allowing employees to exercise on company time. If a worksite fitness center seems out of reach, suggest a company-wide walking program or an exercise class at work. Become a healthy workplace advocate by providing articles and research that show how productivity and efficiency increase with employee exercise (see above).

Imagine the positive change that could occur for you and your fellow employees if your company took even a few steps toward better workplace health!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program healthy workforce corporate fitness business fitness solutions control healthcare costs productivity

Worksite Fitness Classes Increase Participation and Motivation

Corporate Fitness Class Increases ProductivityKickin’ Cardio…Butts and Guts…Get on the Ball…fun names, right? These energetic exercise class offerings belong to the realm of corporate wellness and offer unique aspects of fitness that keep a loyal crowd coming back week after week.

In my years of working in a corporate fitness center, I’ve identified three reasons why group exercise continues to be successful in enticing new employees to join the worksite fitness center as well as increasing participation from current members:

1. Adding a Corporate Group Fitness Class Allows for Social Interaction and Accountability

The phrase “buddy system” is used in so many settings because it works! Find any article about weight loss or exercise and it will cite accountability as a key motivational strategy. Telling a friend about a fitness goal—or in this case, meeting a friend at a group exercise class—makes one more likely to follow through. Breaking a sweat next to a friend ties in the social aspect that makes those squats more enjoyable…or at least tolerable.

As a group exercise instructor, I’ve often had to remind my class participants, “If you are able to carry on a conversation with your neighbor right now, you are not working hard enough!” They are having that much fun together!

2. Placing a Fitness Class into Your Calendar Makes It More Likely to Happen

When that friendly Outlook reminder pops up on your computer screen that says, “Kickboxing Class, due in 15 minutes,” it’s hard to ignore. We all know the typical pattern: For those who aren’t “morning people,” exercising before work is out of the question. During the day it’s easy to get wrapped up in deadlines, phone calls, and the like that push daytime exercise off the agenda. So, there you are at 5 p.m., mentally drained. So you think, "I’ll go home and just eat a snack or take a quick nap and then I’ll work out." Yeah, right.

Having a specific class that meets only at a certain time makes the idea of exercise more concrete because it can’t be pushed later and later into the day. Another bonus of adding a group exercise class onto your Outlook calendar is that if coworkers notice you are blocked for that particular time frame, they may try to schedule meetings around it.

3. Going to a Corporate Exercise Class Puts You on Mental Autopilot,  Saving You Stress

I quickly discovered that in corporate fitness centers, clients deal with high stress levels, never-ending meetings, and work piles waiting at their desks when they return from the gym. In other words, exercise is the escape.

The last thing a frenzied, number-crunching employee wants to do in the gym is spend time planning a workout. Leave it to the group fitness instructor to organize the muscle groups, time the circuits, and count the repetitions. Knowing that all you have to do is show up to a class, dressed in your workout gear, makes exercise seem like less of a second job and more of what it’s designed to be: stress relief, a physical challenge, and a recharge of the batteries.

Employees are already offered such an array of professional workshops and classes. Consider adding group exercise into the mix to liven up your worksite wellness initiative.

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work motivation business fitness solutions