Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Active Aging: Making time for Physical Activity

elderly woman pumping ironRegular physical activity is essential for healthy aging!  There are two main questions that I am constantly being ask: how much exercise should I do? and how do I find the time to exercise?

The first question is easy to answer.  There are specific guidelines that seek to help older adults select types and amounts of exercises appropriate for their abilities. The key word is ability, please know your limitations and make sure you have your doctor’s consent.

Key Guidelines for Older Adults (65 years or older):

  • Avoid inactivity. Some is better than none!
  • Do at least 150 minutes (2hours and 30minutes) per week of moderate-intensity Aerobic Activity! These include walking, biking, rowing, nu-step, water aerobics, and even dancing. These could be performed in episodes of 10-15 minutes throughout the week.
  • Do at least 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities. These include weight machines, hand-held weights, exercise bands, calisthenics, even digging in the garden.
  • Do stretching and relaxation exercises as often as possible. Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent choices.
  • Do Balance Exercises 3 or more days per week. These include backward walking, sideways walking, heel walking, toe walking, and standing from a sitting position.  Remember use support (wall or chair) until you feel more stable.  Tai chi also may help with balance and preventing falls.

The second question is always the most difficult because the number one excuse for not exercising is “LACK OF TIME”.  Even when one retires it seems that all the coupled activities and events leave little room for that important part of our day “EXERCISE”!  No matter how busy you are, someone even busier than you is finding time to exercise.  Here are some ways to squeeze in that time.

  1. Wake up earlier or get to bed later. Sleep is definitely important but you can start your day an extra 30 minutes earlier or end your day an extra 30 minutes later.  You have the advantage of making your own time schedule, and you know whether you’re a morning or evening person.
  2. Cut down on media.  Record how many hours of television you watch or how many hours you spend reading or on the computer.  Cut out some of that time and you will find you have an extra 10 to 30 minutes to exercise.  See Number #3!
  3. Be an active TV watcher or active listener. Combine exercising with watching your favorite show! They have televisions in Fitness Centers! Books on tape are wonderful in enjoying the time you exercise.
  4. Walk around! Getting from one place to another by walking there and back is a great way to incorporate exercise.   Consider your limitations (using a walker, cane, bad knees etc.) but find ways that promote movement.  The stairs, the hallways, standing and talking will burn calories and improve lung function. So take a walk to your retirement community fitness center.
  5. Make it part of your routine.  You brush your teeth, you find time to eat, to socialize, to shower and even to catch up on your favorite television shows or good book.  Therefore, make exercise a part of your daily routine, once it becomes a habit it will be something that you don’t even think about you just do it. Before you know it you will be an active member of your senior living fitness program!
  6. Mix socializing with exercising.  Find an exercise partner, a group to walk with outside or in the hallways, even attend exercise classes where there are others on a regular schedule.  Motivate someone to join you and have them motivate you.  
  7. Schedule an appointment. You wouldn’t want to miss that doctor’s appointment because you may not get another one for over a month.  So why not set a standing appointment with an exercise buddy, a retirement fitness center personal trainer or your dog, and be accountable to exercise on a specific day and time.
  8. Set a goal.  Whether it’s losing weight, gaining weight, standing taller, walking longer or even balancing better.  Exercise provides you those results!  Think about what motivates you to want to incorporate exercising and start working to achieve your goals!
  9. Find an activity you love.  Not everyone wants to come to the community fitness center and not everyone enjoys attending classes.  Dancing, hiking, walking outside and even playing golf provides exercise.  Therefore, do what you love but make sure it keeps the body moving!
  10. Say no.  The big one.  Look at your priorities and responsibilities.  Do you really have to involve yourself in everything on that list?  Can you start to say no to specific things that hinder your ability to find time to exercise? 
Quick Tip to Strengthen Your Community Exercise Program
Topics: adapting to exercise active aging active living balance training staying active

Why Nobody's Using Your New Resident Fitness Center (Part 1 of 3)

empty fitness centerFrom the wellness consulting and fitness management work we’ve done with our clients over the last several years, we’ve seen our share of essentially empty fitness centers and pools in senior living communities.

It’s sad.

So often, community leadership invests substantial capital dollars for dedicated fitness spaces including rooms that hold the exercise equipment, rooms devoted to group exercise classes, and additional (and typically significant) spaces for aquatics amenities. The result after construction is that the spaces are beautiful—even stunning.

But these same swanky spaces, unfortunately, often aren’t functional. Sometimes they contain the wrong equipment or a dysfunctional design. Most commonly, the biggest roadblock to a thriving fitness program is that these spaces weren’t considered under any type of strategic plan, so programming of the space is largely ineffective for the residents and typically disjointed from the rest of the community.

The result is a beautiful new space that sits unused.

If you’re wondering why you poured so much money into this non-revenue generating space that appears to provide no additional benefit to the residents, or how to avoid this phenomenon, stick with me on this blog series, where I’ll write about the following:

  • Your capital investment isn’t the end of your commitment.
  • Your residents need quality leadership in order to engage in the fitness services.
  • Your marketing and sales team may be missing the mark when selling fitness to residents.

Part 1: Your Capital Investment Isn’t the End of Your Commitment

It’s a big deal: You spent a lot of time with your developers on crafting a new space (or overhauling an existing one) that will match your community’s appearance, and that you hope will be a welcome addition (or change) for your residents. It’s not cheap, either, but you’ve done your due diligence, secured the funds, and designed the heck out of the space(s).

The capital investment may be so substantial that it feels like enough.

Alas, your time and your money are, in fact, not enough. There are important details to consider regarding the design of the space—details that can make or break the overall function of the amenities. Read our blog on key things to avoid when you’re building a fitness center in senior living to find out more about common pitfalls when designing a new fitness space for senior living.

But you can’t stop with the physical space. This isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” type of project. You will need to cultivate a strategic plan for effective use of the space after it’s open for use.

Maybe that strategy is the job of the activities director.

Or maybe…the community needs a whole new approach to resident wellness that puts a wellness director at the top of the activities food chain. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Wellness is a way of life, not an activity, and it should be cultivated accordingly. Do the activities drive the wellness program in your community, or does the wellness culture dictate the activities? Answering that question according to the organization you are striving to be will help you figure out the hierarchy question.

Regardless of who is in charge of it, the strategy for effective use of the fitness center is really central to ensuring that this new space contributes positively to residents’ vitality. Questions for cultivating the strategy should include the following:

  • What is the goal, mission statement, or focus of wellness in the community, and in what ways do you expect that your fitness program will contribute to that end?
  • What investment needs to be made in staffing for the fitness center? (The answer to this question varies by community, but I can just about guarantee you that fee-based personal trainers and group fitness instructors are not enough.)
  • How will you know you’re achieving success in your programs? Will you mark it with simple participation goals, or will you be reviewing health outcomes, satisfaction, or other outcomes in your programming?
  • If you’re changing your activities/wellness hierarchy, how will you communicate those changes to the community and how will you reinforce your emphasis on this culture shift? Will that information need to be communicated to the residents? If so, how will you do that?
  • What operating decisions need to be scrutinized in light of your new emphasis on resident wellness? Does it make sense for your organization to make this strategic shift by including wellness for your employees at the same time?

To be sure, these questions, when thoughtfully addressed, will likely lead to more questions. Be patient; cultivating a strategy takes time and often requires continuous tweaking. It is a journey well worth taking, both for the benefit of your business and for fulfilling you commitment to facilitate a vibrant lifestyle for your residents.

In part 2 of this blog series, I’ll write about the importance of the right leadership in your fitness program. Make sure you have subscribed to our blog so you don’t miss a beat on this series and other hot topics we’re covering.

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Topics: senior center solutions senior fitness management CCRC fitness center engagement senior living community marketing fitness center for seniors nifs fitness center management

Three Lessons Employers Can Learn about Corporate Wellness from CVS

man breaking cigaretteBy now you've no doubt heard the announcement that CVS plans to remove all tobacco products from their shelves by October 1, 2014.  It's a bold move, even if experts think that financially it's not risky for the organization.  They drew a proverbial line in the sand and declared that they would be a business about better health for its customers.  When they measured the financial gain from selling tobacco products to customers against their brand positioning to be a leader in health care, there was really only one decision.

There has been some debate about why CVS stopped at tobacco and why they aren't proclaiming to pull candy bars or alcohol off their shelves.  Tobacco remains the one legal, non-prescriptive drug in the marketplace that, when used as intended, causes harm to the body. Candy bars (and put all other non-nutritious foods in that category) and alcohol do not work the same way (when used as directed).

Despite the limited financial risk for CVS Caremark - they have indeed made a bold move, and employers who are carefully designing and delivering employee wellness services could learn a thing or two about this corporate coup.

  1. CVS didn't wait around for perfection.  The debate on other less-than-healthy items in it's stores will continue.  And in fact, CVS reportedly is still invested in tobacco companies through the organization's mutual funds offered to employees.  So no, they didn't nail it 100% on this one.  But we can't always let perfection be the enemy of good.  What employee wellness initiative are you waiting to launch until it is perfectly primed and elegantly unflawed?  
  2. CVS decided who they were. And it became clear that selling tobacco didn't match up to that vision.  As stated by their CEO, "...the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose." As an organiztion, how are you giving out conflicting messages to your employees? Wellness should be about doing something FOR your employees, not TO them.  If you say you want to help them improve their health, ask yourself how the annual HRA and fingersticking accomplishes that. 
  3. CVS was bold about telling the world what they were doing.  Sure, you could claim it was a PR stunt.  And maybe it was.  But for whatever PR goodness (or nightmares) the announcement created, it has also raised the debate (again) about tobacco.  What debates do you need to be having, publicly, with your workforce about what they need to engage in better living?  What issues are you hiding from, or living with as status quo because no one at your organization is bold enough to address them head on? Are we talking about how a work environment contributes to obesity?  Are we challenging conventional wisdom on how employees can flex their time to engage in mid-day workouts, meditation, or naps?
We can't keep doing what we've always done in corporate wellness and expect different results.  This decision by CVS to stop selling tobacco is a big deal.  What big deal health issues is your organization dealing with (hiding from?) that could benefit from real dialog and a progressive CVS-style approach?
Topics: corporate wellness tobacco cessation

NIFS Nutrition News: Is It Possible to Do a “Safe” Juice Cleanse?

man using a juicerJuicing is the process of extracting juice from the flesh or the pulp of a fruit or vegetable. This technique has been used for hundreds of years as a way to maximize nutrient intake by drinking only the juice of various vegetables and fruits. I wanted to get the New Year off to a healthy start and reset my digestive system, so I researched how to complete a “safe” juice cleanse.

The idea of a juice cleanse is pretty simple: all meals and snacks are replaced with juices made from (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables for three to ten days. The main health advantage of a juice cleanse is based on the theory that our bodies are more efficient at metabolizing and excreting toxins when our digestive system is freed from the burden of digesting solid food.

Additional Benefits of Juicing

Here are some additional benefits of juicing:

  • It is an easy way to get your recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies.
  • Since your digestive system does not have to break down the pulp or flesh of the fruit or vegetables, your body rapidly absorbs the vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, enzymes, carbohydrates, chlorophyll, and phytonutrients. This is thought to boost your immune system and prevent disease.
  • Juicing experts believe these nutrients are better absorbed when separated from fiber (most juicers remove the pulp, aka fiber).  

Trying a Three-Day Juice Cleanse

After much research, I decided to try a three-day juice cleanse. It wasn’t the best three days of my life, but here are some of my observations:

  • There are many different juicing recipes to try, and most of them are pretty tasty!* (I discovered that lemon helps reduce the bitterness of dark, leafy greens like kale.)
  • After day two, my cravings for carbs/sweets were greatly reduced. (This was a nice surprise!)
  • Cleaning the produce and the juicer took a lot of work and time. (This got old very quickly as I am the mother of two small children and spend enough time preparing food and cleaning!)
  • My energy did increase, but the first day was rough…I was pretty hungry and grouchy.
  • After three days, I missed food, so I slowly added it back into my diet by eating meals that included whole fruits and veggies, lean protein, and some whole grains. My stomach would ache if I ate processed foods.
  • Even though weight loss was not my goal, I did lose several pounds of water weight. This was expected since our bodies require water to properly digest whole food; if you take away the whole food, your body doesn’t require as much water to complete the digestion process. This can translate to a drop on the scale. However, once you start eating whole food again, the water weight will come right back. (This is a major reason why weight loss should not be a main goal of a juice cleanse.
  • As a Registered Dietitian in corporate wellness, I would only recommend a juice cleanse for a maximum of three days as way to “jump start” habits of eating more whole foods and less processed items.

Disadvantages of Juice Cleanse

There are, however, disadvantages of juice cleanses. For example:

  • Juice cleanses that last longer than three days can cause extreme moodiness, irritability, depression, fatigue, constipation, constant/obsessive thoughts of food, and rebound overeating.
  • Individuals who take medication to regulate their blood sugar or blood pressure should be cautious and consult with their physician before beginning a juice cleanse. Blood sugar levels can quickly rise and fall when drinking juice, and a lack of solid food can cause low blood pressure, dizziness, or fainting.
  • Cleanses are strictly off limits to children or to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If your goal is to eat healthy, you don't need to juice as a way to cleanse or detox your body. Juicing can be an easy way to get in your greens (for instance, without having to eat fistfuls of kale), but juices should be used to complement a balanced diet that includes minimally processed foods, good-quality lean protein, and plenty of whole fruits and vegetables—which, ironically, are the real cleansers. The fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables act like a scrub brush for your digestive tract.

Juice Cleanses: Not a Long-Term Solution

Bottom line, although a juice cleanse could feel like a psychological jump-start to healthy eating, it is not a solution for long-term wellness. Simply put, being healthy is a lifestyle event, not a three- or ten-day adventure.

*Recipes were found on Reboot with Joe or in The Big Book of Juices by Natalie Savona.

Topics: nutrition weight loss antioxidants diet and nutrition energy level healthy diet juicing

NIFS: Seven things we can learn from Olympic Athletes

cross country skiingOlympic athletes are viewed as superheroes and celebrities; strong, brave individuals at the peak of their career. The words unrealistic or unattainable may have just come into your thoughts; mine too.  After taking a step back and thinking about these superstars, there are many lessons we can learn from them. Years and years of preparation go into becoming an Olympic athlete and it is a full time job. What can we learn from these elite athletes, how can we train like them, how can they be role models to us on a wellness journey?  Think about the qualities an Olympian possesses and how you can translate these into your life.
  1. They have a purpose- LoLo Jones will make history as one of 10 athletes to compete in both the Winter and Summer games. Meryl Davis and Charlie White made history by becoming the first American team to win an Olympic medal in ice dancing. These athletes have a PURPOSE coming into the games; they want to make history. Purpose drives people to do great things. What is your purpose? A goal to work towards is crucial to succeeding.
  2. They don’t allow distractions- Coming out of retirement to compete in these games is women’s skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace. Not only is she racing down the icy chute at 80 mph, she is also juggling her busy life as a mother of two small children. Time, family, work and a personal life can all be distractions and excuses for not working toward your goals. We all have these “excuses”; it is up to us not to use them as an “excuse.” Olympians have these same outside pressures, but stay focused because they prioritize what is important to them. If health/fitness is a priority in your life, you will find time, and your “good excuse” will not be so “good” anymore.
  3. View food as fuel- Food is used for these athletes as a training tool. The food they eat before/after their workout dictates their performance each day, and how they react to their training. I know it can be hard to think of food in this way; our culture has trained us to think the exact opposite. Food is for enjoyment, even therapy, right? We have to face the facts whether we like it or not what we put into our bodies influences how we feel throughout the day. It stays with us much longer than it takes for us to consume it.
  4. Track their progress- The journey to the Olympics takes years and years. How do these athletes stay motivated and not lose sight of their goal? They track their progress. They know their purpose; have a plan, and a goal they are working towards. Progress pictures, exercise and diet logs, performing a fitness assessment or health screening may seem tedious at times, but trust me, you won’t regret them! How will you know how far you have come if you don’t remember where you started?
  5. Don’t let injury derail them- Training for hours each day and the nature of the winter Olympic sports being very dangerous, injuries are part of the process. Yes, this puts a setback in the athletes’ original training plans, but they do not let it become a barrier. These athletes work around their injury and become creative with their training. Hannah Kearney, two time Olympic gold medalist in moguls skiing, lacerated her liver, broke two ribs, and punctured a lung during training in 2012, won gold at the 2013 world championships and is one to watch at these Olympics. Injuries, physical limitations, or illness can feel like a setback in our fitness journey. Working with a variety of clients in corporate fitness, I have found and I think most fitness professionals would agree, there are few if ANY injuries that should prevent a person from not exercising. Don’t think of an injury as a setback, think of it as a challenge to be creative.
  6. They get professional help- If you are scratching your head after the last point, it’s ok; that’s why there are professionals in the health/fitness industry. Olympians may seem like experts in their sport, which is true, but they have a lot of help. This can be a hard one to swallow. As a fitness professional I have learned that I need help with what is my “expertise.”  Just as a physician needs their own physician, a personal trainer can benefit from having their own trainer. Olympians have a team of people helping them. If you are struggling to find balance or with one particular aspect of your well-being, ask a professional. The best of the best need help, and most importantly aren’t afraid to ask for it!
  7. Have passion- Love what you are doing! At age 37, Todd Lodwick is the first American athlete to participate in six Winter Games. He has made his sport a lifestyle. There are realistically times when these athletes feel overwhelmed or burnt out throughout their journey, but they don’t let this derail them because they have passion for what they do. These athletes have to love the sport to dedicate so much of their lives to it. Find activities and healthy habits that you enjoy that will be sustainable through your whole life. 

If you were an Olympic athlete what would be your sport?

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Topics: active living exercise and wellness goals success

Corporate Fitness Program Spotlight: Club PED

Club PedAt our client sites, we’ve been offering walking initiatives for years. After all, it’s kind of the original fitness opportunity at worksites, right? They’re super-simple, generally easy access for participants, and most people can participate. For better or worse, we’ve steered clear of linking the program with pedometers, but we do get a lot of really useful self-report data from participants for the program.

The Basics of Club PED

It’s a mileage-driven walking and running program, and with some of our clients, we run this initiative annually. It’s become such a staple in our program planning that associates ask about it, wanting to be sure they don’t miss the registration.

Participants self-select into their desired weekly mileage goal: 5 miles per week, 10 miles per week, or 15 miles per week. They can complete their mileage anywhere, including walking the halls at work, in the corporate fitness center, or on vacation at the beach! The goal is to maintain their chosen goal mileage each week for the duration of the program. We allow a few “off” weeks (you know how life gets in the way), so participants must maintain a minimum of their goal mileage for 8 of the 10 weeks of the program.

We’ve witnessed participants start out lacking confidence that they can finish 5 miles per week for 12 weeks, and by the time the next year rolls around, they have a 5K or 10K under their belts with an eye toward upping their Club PED mileage goal.

The Data from Club PED

As I mentioned, we’ve been running this program for years. But in the last two years, we have seen some important jumps in participation and completion rates.

In 2012 and 2013, we averaged 59 miles per participant, which means that a typical Club PED member walked 7.4 miles per week beyond his or her normal daily activity. This represents a 34% increase over the average miles per participant for the preceding three years. Another positive trend in the last two years is our finisher rate. Our staff saw an average of 44.6% of Club PED participants successfully meet their weekly mileage goal for the duration of the program. From 2009 to 2011, we achieved a completion rate of 30%.

I know our staff are really proud of how hard their members worked to meet or exceed their mileage goals during the most recent Club PED offering, and I’m excited about the positive improvements the staff have worked hard to achieve.

The Feedback from Club PED

We get positive feedback from this program each time we run it. I don’t know if it’s our staff, the program’s simplicity, the low threshold for entry, the easy-to-use online portal, or a combination of those factors. Regardless, we’re always honored by the unsolicited compliments we receive. Here are a few examples of the ways this simple initiative has helped to improve members’ lives:

Thank you so much for the program. Because of it, I bought a Fitbit and continue to wear it daily. Can’t say I move as much as when I’ve had jobs out of the house, but I am [more] aware of my steps and take more breaks to move around.

—Dana, Ohio

 

I have been faithful to my walking, getting 4 to 5 miles per week. This Club PED program really helps me focus on my health and on keeping my blood pressure down. Staying healthy is my life change.

—Latongi, Georgia

 

To learn more about Club PED or other programming that our corporate fitness management staff can bring to your worksite, contact me.

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness program corporate fitness walking employee health and fitness data

NIFS: How Happy is your Heart?

heart healthIt's mid-February and you started the year out strong, but have all of your resolutions already departed? Every year, the same two resolutions are shared amongst everyone – exercising and losing weight. Those who exercise regularly prior to New Year’s seem to stick with their same routine, while those who want to start to exercising come January 1st seem to have fallen off the wagon by February. February is month to be aware of your heart health, so I have provided you with some tips to help you stay on track as we enter into spring!

  1. Think: Why is your resolution not working? Do you want it bad enough? What’s your excuse? Is it a realistic resolution?
  2. Create SMART goals: Your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. By using the SMART method you can are set for success.
  3. Exercise: The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week or 150 minutes. Another option is 25 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity 3 days per week. The first excuse is not having enough time. Have you found yourself with 10 minutes to spare in the day? Do something to get your heart rate up! That something is better than nothing and can improve your quality of life.
  4. Diet: You can start by eating and drinking the necessary calories to maintain your weight. This is based on your age and physical activity. Be sure to not consume more calories you can burn off for that day. It is beneficial to eat a variety of nutritious foods from the all of the food groups. Your body requires specific nutrients to stay healthy. Limit the foods and beverages that are high in calories and low in nutrients, while also limiting your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. Be aware of your portion sizes and follow the American Heart Association’s recommendations.
  5. Control Your Stress: You can start by setting goals that are attainable. You could also try to positive self-talk or turning your negative thoughts into positive thoughts. Always look at the bright side of things. Other ways to cope with stress are relaxation and deep breathing exercises, engaging in physical activity, or doing something you enjoy.
  6. Motivation: Try and workout with a friend. You can hold each other accountable, as well as push each other through your workouts. It can also make it fun!

If you’re looking for help or motivation, reach out to your corporate wellness staff. Your overall wellness should be a priority, so what’s stopping you from getting back on track to make your heart happy and healthy?!

Topics: corporate wellness active aging heart health month heart healthy

5 Ways Wellness Consulting helps the Mission of your Senior Living Community

There are a lot of commonalities among senior living community mission statements including high quality of care, exceptional service, and peace of mind.  Also making the list are pledges to promote enhanced quality of life, independence, wellbeing, and dignity.  These are lofty aims and organizational mission statements are not to be taken lightly.  But as resident wellness comes under an increasingly brighter spotlight, I wonder how many communities are examining their wellness-related services under a mission-focused microscope. 

I do a lot of consulting for communities across the country and what I see time and time again is that wellness is still sitting in a second place seat under an Activities banner that represents an old way of doing business.  Wellness is not an activity; it is a way of life. 

And while executive directors often recognize that more should be done for their residents to help them live well and to truly engage with life, they don’t know how to progress to a true community wellness strategy. Add to that confusion an organizational ambivalence about “consultants” and in the blink of an eye, the inertia of status quo starts to look very, very appealing. 

But doing what you’ve always done because it’s too hard to make a change may not truly be aligning your wellness strategy with your mission. 

This is where a consultant can help.  Before you recoil at the word “consultant”, consider these five very-real benefits you can gain from opening up your senior living community to wellness consulting.

#5:  The Fresh Perspectivehappy senior

You know it’s true.  Sometimes activity directors are so buried with the task of filling a calendar each month that it’s difficult for them to see the forest for the trees.  And when you have director-level staff who have been with your organization for several years, “what we’ve always” done is a tough cycle to break, even with the best of intentions. 

When we come in to consult, we bring the benefit of unbiased observation.  We don’t know you and we’re starting with a clean slate to figure out what you’re doing really well, and where the opportunities for improvement might be.  We think there is profound value in not knowing your organization because we can use that position of ignorance to build a non-threatening relationship with your staff.  We can ask the hard “why” questions, because we simply don’t know the answers.  We can see areas of opportunity that wouldn’t be readily visible to you because you’re in the environment every day.

#4:  The Change Agent

Let’s go back to the idea that you recognize there should be more substance and strategy to how your community is facilitating a healthy resident lifestyle.  It’s tough to get there, or to even start the conversation as an insider.  Staff can get suspicious, they may feel threatened by potential change (“Is what I’m doing not good enough?”), and before you know it, your efforts to live into the community’s mission are thwarted. 

Bringing in a consultant, as an outside observer, allows you to position the consultant as the change agent.  Then, you can effectively leverage the consultant’s experience in wellness strategy design to start initiating change in your lifestyle offerings. 

#3:  The Resources

If you work with NIFS for wellness consulting, you get the benefit of our years in the field and all of the work we’ve done with other communities.  We don’t just consult; we put our staff on ground in communities across the US.  So we’ve tested our own recommendations and we’re continually innovating with real-world programs for actual residents. 

In short, we walk the talk.

The same should be true for any other consulting organization you choose.  If they bring a cookie cutter approach to evaluating your situation, be suspicious.  You’re unique, and the consultant’s approach should be also.

#2:  The Report

When we consult, we provide a report that covers areas of need/attention specific to the client.  It’s common for our recommendations to cover everything from branding your wellness strategy for effective marketing, to updates on physical spaces in the community.  We don’t shy away from tough topics like assessing staff credentials and effectiveness, evaluating liability and making risk reducing recommendations, or establishing better structure to your initiatives so that you can evaluate effectiveness

We’re not just pointing out areas for improvement.  Our report offers practical and tested solutions that you can put into action. 

#1:  The Value

Consulting isn’t free; you will get billed for time and travel.  But you can get a project estimate up front that should outline both anticipated costs as well as expected outcomes from the consulting work.  Before you engage in a consulting relationship, get all of your questions answered. 

  • Find out how the agency works with your staff.
  • Determine if they will be willing to talk to your residents.
  • Learn about their specific areas of expertise in wellness strategy.
  • Ask what the final report will look like.
  • Find out whether there is opportunity for ongoing support if needed.
  • Ask if they can provide you with references from previous work.
  • Determine if their recommendations will narrowly connect you with their product/service or if they will connect you with resources where you can decide which are best for your organization?

It’s time to look at aligning your wellness programming with your mission.  And the great news is, you don’t have to tackle this alone.  Consulting doesn’t have to be daunting, unfulfilling, and lacking in value.  If you’re ready to cultivate a wellness focus for your community that works with your current strengths and that compliments your existing brand, then contact me to get answers to those value questions I outlined above.

Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.
Topics: active aging nifs fitness management senior center solutions wellness consulting

NIFS: Go Red for Heart Health

heart healthThe first Friday in February has been designated National Wear Red Day to raise awareness about heart disease in women.  Over a decade ago, research showed that heart disease was the leading cause of death in women and was deemed the silent killer because symptoms often go unnoticed. 

There are ways you can take steps to reduce your risk for heart disease, take control of your life and your heart health!

  • Be Active: Get off the couch and get moving.  Individuals who get little to no physical activity are at a much higher risk for heart disease.  Get up and moving daily to increase your physical activity, simply cleaning your house or doing yard work can lower your risk. 
  • Healthy Plate = Healthy Heart: Choose foods low in fat and cholesterol and increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables.  Blueberries are a great source of antioxidants which help reduce risk!  Your cholesterol levels are also a risk factor, simply improving your diet will help reduce those numbers which in turn will lower your risk.
  • Quit Smoking: CVS recently pulled the plug on selling tobacco, so now it’s your turn to stop smoking.  Individuals who smoke have twice the risk of having a heart attack than non-smokers.  If you need tips for how to quit, talk to your doctor or ask your corporate wellness staff where you can find resources to help you quit.
  • Control Blood Pressure: As the most common risk factor, over fifty million people have hypertension.  If your blood pressure is consistently 140/90 or higher you are considered hypertensive.  Speak with your physician about how to manage your numbers.
  • Manage your Stress: Find what techniques work for you, exercise is a great way to reduce stress.  Make time to incorporate 30 minutes into your day to take your mind off your stressors. Individuals with poorly managed stress are at risk for heart attack or stroke. 

Join the movement to help raise awareness.  Talk to the women in your family to make positive changes in becoming healthier together.

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Topics: heart disease cardiovascular disease nifs fitness management wear red day healthy behaviors

NIFS Nutrition News: Beware of AdvoCare® Weight-Loss Supplements

food vs supplementThis time of year many people are looking to drop excess weight. In their desire to see rapid results, many start a supplement program such as AdvoCare®. I’m writing to warn individuals who may be interested in trying this particular program. First, I will describe the program before sharing my professional (and maybe blunt) opinion as a Registered Dietitian.

The AdvoCare® Weight-Loss Program

AdvoCare® offers a variety of supplements and weight-loss programs, with the 24-Day Challenge being the most popular program. The 24-Day Challenge is the most popular program because it supposedly helps people “get skinny” in just 24 days. The program consists of a 10-day “cleanse” phase followed by an additional 14 days of a “Max” phase. AdvoCare® advertisements claim that the supplements taken during the “cleanse” phase will rid your body of toxins and prepare your body to better absorb nutrients. These supplements include an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement and an energy drink. According to AdvoCare®, these supplements will help jump-start your weight-loss efforts by ridding your body of water weight.

The “Max” phase consists of a “metabolic nutrition system,” which claims to increase metabolism, control your appetite, and support core nutrition when the user consumes meal-replacement drinks and more energy drinks. Additionally, this phases includes a meal plan that emphasizes lean proteins (such as ground turkey and chicken breast), non-starchy vegetables (such as asparagus, broccoli, and tomatoes), and complex carbs (such as whole grains, oatmeal, and quinoa).

Why the AdvoCare® 24-Day Challenge Is Bad For You

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, let me break down the reasons why this particular AdvoCare® program should come with flashing signs that say “WARNING! DANGEROUS DIETARY HABITS AHEAD!”

  • The supplements included in the “cleanse” phase are quite simply glorified laxatives. Will this reduce your overall body weight? Sure…anything that purges your body of water will reduce your overall body weight. However, these supplements can create electrolyte imbalances within your body that can lead to serious complications, like a heart attack.
  • Any program that advocates the consumption of energy drinks should be considered potentially dangerous. The ingredients in energy drinks are NOT regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and contain artificial ingredients and stimulants. Last I checked, these particular foods are not considered to be a part of a “healthy” meal plan!
  • The meal plan in the “Max” phase claims to provide “core nutrition” without ever defining what this means. If you have to question the definition, it’s probably not a good idea.
  • The good thing about the meal is the emphasis on lean protein, complex carbs, and non-starchy vegetables. The bad thing about the meal plan is its lack of dairy and fruit, which fall far below the number of daily servings recommended by most nutrition professionals. No amount of supplements can replace the natural vitamins and nutrients you get from these foods.

Other Warning Signs About AdvoCare®

Those are my complaints as an RD; however, there are other warning signs that everyone should know. Numerous reports are popping up online in different forums warning other consumers about the safety of these supplements. People are reporting severe health complications such as gastric pains that require hospitalizations, organ failure, and adverse medication interactions. One of my own corporate wellness clients experienced a very serious medical scare while participating in the 24-Day Challenge. Not only did her blood pressure spike significantly during the program, but she also experienced kidney failure despite having no previous risk factors or pre-existing medical problems. Her doctor immediately told her to stop the supplements, and luckily her kidney function and blood-pressure levels were moving back toward normal after two weeks.

To be frank, I’m appalled that products like AdvoCare® are allowed to be sold in our country. It just demonstrates that although many supplements can benefit one’s health, they are not tested and regulated by the FDA.

I encourage anyone who wants to try AdvoCare® or a similar program to consider the warning signs of an unhealthy (and potentially dangerous) diet plan:

  1. If the claim of the program sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Supplements will NEVER replace the nutrient content of whole foods!
  3. Save your money and put it toward your grocery bill. Stock up on the healthy foods your body needs and you’ll be just fine.

The old-fashioned way of losing weight will never change: eat healthy and exercise. Simple, but true.

This blog was written by Laura Zavadil, RD, LDN

A message from the author.

Topics: nutrition weight loss diet and nutrition healthy diet supplements

NIFS: Post Game Diet Damage Control

game day foodDid you enjoy yourself a bit too much while watching the big game on Sunday night?  Did you vow to stop at three chicken wings and one beer?  Did the wings and beer turn into a dozen chicken wings, plus two pieces of pizza, and more artichoke spinach dip then you’d like to recall?  Despite our intentions to practice some self-control, we all over-do-it with food and alcohol sometimes. Don’t let one night or even several days of poor eating habits discourage you from chasing after the goals you set for yourself this year. 

 

Here is your guide to getting back on track after a night of over-indulging:

  1. Forgive yourself. No one is perfect including you.  You may feel disappointed that you ate too much, but demanding perfection of yourself isn’t going to make you feel better and it’s certainly not going to help you reach your goals. Acknowledge your feelings and move on.  You can’t change the past but you can determine how you’re going to move forward.  
  2. Don’t get on the scale.  You’ll be tempted to see what the “the damage” is by weighing yourself but if the number is up, it may only serve as more ammunition to make you feel bad.  This is not helpful if you are trying to practice step #1.   Most importantly, it’s unlikely that you actually ate enough calories to gain significant amount of body fat. So, that inflated number you may see is not a reflection of true weight-gain.  The truth is, most of the food we eat when we’re watching football is very SALTY.  Any additional pounds you might see on the scale or feel when you put on your pants likely reflects water your body is retaining because of the higher sodium foods you ate.
  3. Get back to normal.  Starting today begin eating your typically healthy diet and exercising again. “Punishing” yourself with near starvation and putting in more time at the gym for the next 24 hours is not reasonable or helpful. 

Skipping meals leads to blood sugar crashes which can send down the road of over-eating once again.  Eat a normal healthy breakfast to begin the day.  Wanting to eat a bit lighter is a good idea and may make you feel better.  Aim for fruits and vegetables and don’t be scared to include sources of protein to help maintain even blood sugar levels throughout the day.  And finally get rid any left-overs that may be in the house and calling your name.  I suggest storing them in the trash can!

When it comes to getting back to your exercise routine you may not feel like completing that two mile jog if you’re feeling bloated and full.  Start with something simple if you don’t feel well like a low intensity walk.

  1. Drink up. Drink, Drink, Drink that water to help flush the body of water it’s retaining.  Staying well hydrated is also helpful for combating cravings that can occur post-binge.
  2. Review your goals and learn from your mistakes.  As in step # 1 don’t demand perfection from yourself.  You didn’t exactly stick to your plan so ask yourself what you can learn.  Did spend too much time in the kitchen grazing the buffet all night?  What will you do differently the next time you face a similar situation? Don’t forget to commend yourself for the things you did well.  Creating a positive mindset starts with a positive thinking.

If you’re a recovery junk food junkie trying to develop healthy eating habits realize it is a skill that must be practiced.  Don’t forget to review the goals you set for yourself this year. If you didn’t write them down, do that now. Keep your goals in site, review them frequently, and determine what must be done in order to reach them.  If you find yourself modifying and adjusting as you go along, don’t get discouraged, this is only a sign of determination.

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Topics: exercise healthy habits wellness smart goals

NIFS: 4 Additional REALISTIC Tips for a Fumble-Free Football Party

business man fumbleI attended a webinar a few years ago that suggested that the holiday season now extends from Halloween until the first Sunday in February when we gather ‘round a screen and raise a beer to the football God’s to watch the “Big Game”.  During this 13 week stretch, which is a quarter of year, we encounter candy dishes, cookie trays, cheese platters, and punch bowls overflowing with seasonal treats and goodies.  The number of temptations we face should make us wizards of refusal for those of us trying to control our weight, but saying no to creamy dips or bacon wrapped anything can be very difficult.

On Sunday, February 2nd many of us will once again find ourselves in the end zone of a bountiful buffet of wings, chili, pizza, and seven layer taco dip. If you resolved to lose some weight this year or just want to practice better self-control it’s time to step up to the line of scrimmage and play some defense.  Below are tips that can serve as a game plan for keeping you on track at home, at a party, or anytime you’re facing an event where food is the MVP. Additionally, these tips are realistic, meaning you won’t see me recommending a scoop of fro-yo with some fresh berries at half-time (which I have actually seen as a suggestion). That is an excellent dessert option, if that’s want you really want, but the last time fro-yo was offered at a football watch party was never!

      Here we go!

Don’t try to “save” calories for the party. This means, and I’m speaking from experience, that you eat almost nothing for the first part of the day so you can indulge come game time and not ruin your diet. This is a really bad idea.  Frequently this approach leads to over-indulging and eating several hundred if not thousands of calories over what you would have consumed if you had just eaten as you normally would during the first half of the day.   Wanting to eat a little lighter at the beginning of the day, think vegetables and protein, isn’t a bad idea but going into game time with and empty stomach can really backfire.

Create boundaries.  Creating boundaries means limiting your availability to tempting foods.  For me these foods are sweet, offer a satisfying crunch, and are small enough to pop one, two, or twelve in your mouth in no time.  To prevent over-eating these foods that light up all the pleasure centers in my brain I stay out of the kitchen or away from the buffet table. Once my plate is full I don’t go back for a second pass.  My plate, not the entire chip bowl, is my boundary.  For an extra precaution I may only eat dessert as I’m heading out the door.

Keep your hands occupied. This tip relates back to tip number 2.  I’m less tempted to go back to the buffet table if I’ve got my hands and head occupied. For this reason I keep a cup full of water in my hands all the time. In addition to being calorie free the water helps keep me satisfied during the party and the cup keeps my hands from finding its way back to the nachos.

Make and vocalize your plan to someone else. You probably set some goals on or just before January 1st, but did you ever right them down? Did you take the time to specifically make a plan for reaching you goals? If not, it’s not too late. Write down your goals and make them specific.  What do you have to do to reach your goals?  If you have to lock yourself in your house and never attend a party again that is probably not realistic.  Tell a friend, partner, or spouse about your goals and don’t forget to discuss how they affect what you eat and drink at the parties. Ask your confidant to encourage your or even join you in making the best choices when it comes to food and drink.  If you declare you only be drinking water for the evening, ask him or her to hold you accountable.


Let these tips remind you that eating healthier doesn’t mean you never get to go to parties. Instead you now have some new, realistic, behaviors to take with you and practice. Let these behaviors help keep you on track rather than distract you from your goals.  Also remember that like any athletic skill practice is important for success.  Sometimes we have a bad game but that doesn’t mean we should hang up the cleats and give up, instead we learn and we continue to practice and sharpen our skills.

Check out our blog on Monday morning for post game diet damage control tips!

Topics: exercise nutrition NIFS healthy habits