Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Power in Silence: Discover Mindful Meditation

old_man_meditatingMeditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively.” ― Sharon Salzberg

So you have some stress in your life. You might turn to exercise to deal with these stressors. Or maybe you had a date with your couch and Ben & Jerry or Sam Adams? Did you zone out to the latest CSI or “reality” show? Out of these three, exercise is the best choice. But what do you do when you come home from a horrible 12-hour day and you don’t have any juice left for exercise. Do you have a room, a floor, and 20 minutes? Why not try a little meditation?

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Initially, seekers and gurus used it to get in touch with a spiritual and mystical dimension. Practitioners would meditate, in silence, for days at a time in order to reach a desired state of mind. In modern times, we can’t carve out days to reach a higher spiritual dimension (try asking your boss for a little personal time off to meditate for three to four days), but we don’t have to commit hours and hours to the practice to reap the rewards. Meditation isn’t just for reaching a higher plane. There are proven emotional and physical benefits to practicing it as well.

Benefits of Meditation

According to the folks at the Mayo Clinic we can gain the following emotional benefits:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions

If you feel like you are even keeled most of the time, meditation can help to control some of these chronic conditions:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Heart disease

Famous People Who Meditate

At this point you might be considering meditation as a real prospect to achieving a healthier and happier you, but you still are on the fence. Sitting still and quieting your mind is that beneficial? Well these folks seem to think so, and they are pretty successful. A bunch of celebrities (and high-powered business folks) meditate, and I looked up a list to share with you. Check out who is getting in their daily silence:

  • Sheryl Crow
  • Paul McCartney
  • Katy Perry
  • Jennifer Aniston

Those are just a few who practice meditation. Their names might not surprise you, but these might:

  • Rupert Murdoch
  • Hugh Jackman
  • Howard Stern
  • (and this one really shocked me) Clint Eastwood!

Getting Started with Meditation

So now that you are convinced that meditation is worth a try, what do you need to start your practice? The best news of all is that you don’t need anything. I have found some great resources online and some terrific podcasts on iTunes. Check out these websites for free guided meditation scripts, music, and mantras:

Check out these podcasts:

Even Pandora has a Meditation station with terrific music to quiet the mind, and to help you find your inner peace.

Meditation often goes hand in hand with yoga, and here's some information about yoga at work.

So go out and find your inner self, quiet the thoughts, and open your mind!

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Topics: relaxation stress relief meditation

Does This Count as Exercise? A Senior Fitness Challenge

Recently we were challenged at our senior community to increase our exercise and record it to send to our corporate office, in hopes of raising awareness of how important exercise is for those who have Alzheimer’s and those hoping to prevent it through senior fitness.

An Exercise Challenge for Alzheimer’s Awareness

The Goal: Each community needed to accumulate around 1,500 hours of exercise in 60 days, which would translate to 100,000 total hours from all communities.

The Prize: The corporate office would donate $10,000 to the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.

The great thing about this challenge is that we already have many group exercise opportunities where hours are easily accumulated, as well as a fitness center that members can utilize. But we wanted to amp up the amount of exercise residents were doing because, after all, it is a challenge to exercise more to bring awareness.  

While explaining this challenge to the residents and fielding questions the following weeks, I found that many residents and members did not know what was considered exercise. I was getting questions left and right, “Is this exercise? Does this count?” 

ThinkstockPhotos-163162703_1What Counts as Exercise?

So here is the thing: exercise doesn’t have to be a hard workout routine only in a fitness center or group fitness setting. Some folks feel as though that is what exercise is, and I am happy to break the news that it is not the only way to get in exercise! Guess what, things that you enjoy as well as activity needed for healing count as exercise!

Here is a list of the “does this count” exercises residents asked me about. 

These are just a handful of the activities residents are participating in that they weren’t sure would count as exercise. The great thing about fitness and activity is that there are many avenues to take in order to reach the level of fitness you are looking for. Exercise does not have to be a boring, long-drawn-out routine. 

If a regimented fitness center routine is what you like for your workout, that is great!  But, if you need something else to hold your interest, whether it is a game like corn toss or working long hours in your garden, it is best to do an activity that you will stick with. And if you want to add intensity or are having a hard time finding what suits your interest, that’s the best time to consult with your fitness specialist to plan out exercises or activity that are best for you!

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC senior fitness senior living community exercise and wellness exercise for elderly Alzheimer's Disease

What If: There Were More than One Class of Elite Performers at Work?

Throughout 2015, we’ll be blogging about our dreams for corporate wellness, fitness, and aging well. Some of the content will represent a gentle “poking fun” at the industry, but it’s all written to stimulate thought about what really could be if we put our heads together and started mapping out what’s really possible in the realm of individual wellbeing. We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about which topics to explore, and by finding us on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

Businesses need top performers in order to survive. We need sales staff who are heavy hitters, research staff who are actually rocket scientists, and customer service professionals who can turn any frown upside down. You know who those folks are in your organization, that top 5% of all performers. In some cases, they might be unsung heroes, but at a lot of businesses, the best among us are often publicly lauded. They are the elite.

Changing the Definition of “Elite”

Not everyone can fit into that narrow industry-specific definition of elite. But maybe, if business leaders opened their minds about what counts as elite, we could have more than one class of top-tier performers.

What if you didn’t have to exceed your sales quota to be considered among the elite at your worksite? Don’t get me wrong. You’d still have to work really hard. After all, becoming top tier is definitely hard work. Some would say rising to the top requires strength, agility, and grace under stress.

Rollerblading_woman_ThinkstockPhotos-476542628According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found one way to get into the top 5% is to sweat. In their analysis of the American Time Use survey, they concluded that only 1 in 20 Americans engages in vigorous exercise (the kind that makes you sweat) on any given day. 

That’s right, a paltry 5% of us are working hard enough to actually sweat when we work out.

What Does This Have to Do with Employee Health? 

The way to sustained weight loss toward a healthy weight is through a healthy diet combined with prolonged cardiovascular exercise (45 to 60 minutes) at least five days per week. Employers: If you want a workforce that is at a healthier body weight, you have to (among other things) create an environment that supports and provides opportunities for your employees to work out hard enough to sweat. You need to build a corporate health culture that supports breaking a sweat in your worksite fitness center, or through another avenue of the employee’s choice.

Certainly, there’s more to individual well-being than being physically fit. But I wonder how many employees hold back on working out because of their environment (lack of access, lack of support). What if businesses publicly rewarded the exercising (aka sweaty) elite alongside the elite sales force and recognized the importance of employee health and fitness?

Download our whitepaper for tips on adding exercise to your worksite wellness program. 

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Topics: corporate fitness weight management corporate fitness centers cardio employee health and fitness health culture what if

The Importance of Being Your Own Health Care Advocate

It is safe to generalize and say the majority of people put a lot of trust in their doctor and admire them simply for their level of education. After all, they did go through many years of extensive and exhausting studying and training in order to earn the title of “Doctor.” They even have a decent health grade and framed certificates around the office, but does that mean we should put all of our faith in them and make them 100% responsible? Well, not exactly.

overwhelmed_senior_ThinkstockPhotos-471557740There are a lot of checks and balances in place when it comes to health care. You have nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physician’s assistants, physicians, surgeons, and more, but what if all of these fail? Though it may be rare, it does happen. So who should ultimately be accountable? You. 

Too often, patients sit in a doctor’s office and are given loads of information, which might as well be told in a foreign language, all wrapped up in 5 minutes. The patient sits, smiles, and nods, thinking (or pretending) that they followed every detail that was spilled out to them. We assume the medications and dosages we are being prescribed are necessary and safe.

Kelly’s Story

A friend of mine, who we will call Kelly, was not feeling well and had arrangements to fly later in the week. To avoid being uncomfortable during her travels, Kelly reached out to her doctor. Kelly’s doctor was out of town, but the partnering doctor was available to see her. Without hesitation, the partnering doctor prescribed Kelly an antibiotic, and, without any questions, Kelly picked it up at her local pharmacy. A week later, Kelly felt extremely foggy-headed and enormously sluggish, and started developing rashes, painful headaches, very achy joints, and more. 

Kelly put her week on replay, trying to figure out what she had done differently that could cause such a major downward spiral in her physical health. Then it hit her: the antibiotic. She quickly started searching for answers and within seconds, from a simple Google search, she found it. Kelly was prescribed a sulfa drug, which is the number-one drug that should be avoided if you have lupus. Because the doctor seemingly did not even glance at Kelly’s files, the pharmacist did not pay attention to her log of current medications, and Kelly did not think twice about a doctor’s advice, she had the worst lupus flareup she had ever experienced.

How to Advocate for Your Own Health Care

Why do we assume all instructions are best for us because of a health professional’s level of education and authority? It is our body, yet we blindly and mindlessly do as we are told. Why is it difficult to be vulnerable and admit that we do not understand the information we are given during our visits? When did we lose our curiosity or stop asking “why?” You are at the office seeking medical advice, so seek it! Here’s how:

  • Ask questions.
  • Have logs and questions written down before you walk into the office.
  • Make the doctor or nurse write down information for you.
  • Ask for the doctor to explain what the lab results mean, not just rattle off numbers that you can read yourself. Then ask for copies of the lab results.
  • Remind all health professionals involved of your medications and lifestyle changes.
  • Request print materials related to your diagnosis. If your doctor is not willing, it may be time for a new doctor.

Remember, you are part of the team that makes decisions toward improving your health and wellness. Be involved, be informed, and be okay with asking for help when you don’t understand. Be your own advocate.

Your health is important, check out our quick read to see why exercise is important in aging well, download it below!  

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Topics: senior wellness health and wellness wellness health care

What Does Wellness Really Mean for Senior Living Communities?

Our use of the word “wellness” in senior living is confusing and potentially problematic for the consumer. When the possible definition by organization for “wellness” swings all the way from a few group fitness classes at one community to a full-blown medical clinic in another organization, it’s challenging to succinctly define what is being offered under the wellness banner. 

Nurse_doing_fitnessThinkstockPhotos-474647990Sometimes I visit a community and they have a wellness director who is an RN with primary responsibilities for running the community’s outpatient clinic and helping residents navigate their health care needs. In other cases, I interact with an individual at the community level whose title is wellness director, but whose primary roles are focused on running the fitness program. Those two individuals have two very different focus areas, diverse areas of expertise, and they offer two entirely different value propositions for prospective residents. And neither of them paints a full picture of what community wellness can be.

How you define your community in the area of wellness can be a point of distinction and a clear competitive edge for your business. But I wonder if that definition is best suited to be made at the community level or if there is a need, or even better a benefit, to defining it at an industry level. LeadingAge has initiated a “NameStorm” to find a new term for “continuing care retirement community” (CCRC). Is there a need for this kind of industry-wide focus on how we universally define wellness in senior living?

If we use the well-recognized dimensions of wellness (and I’ll go with the seven defined by the ICAA) as the means to define individual wellbeing, then the essential duties of the RN clinic director and the fitness program manager fold into various dimensions. But so do the essential duties of several other common jobs at a CCRC, including the activities director, the social worker, the dietician, the chaplain, etc. I could argue that each employee at the community has some portion of his essential duties impacting resident wellness.

I think, in a lot of cases, we get wellness all wrong. We want to box it into neat compartments, but it really spills out to all areas of the organization. Wellness is about building meaningful lifestyle opportunities for residents. It’s about honoring who they are as individuals and finding ways to help them tap into what motivates them, what provides them with purpose, and what keeps them engaged in life.

As I’ve started shifting my view on resident wellness in senior living to this broader perspective, I’ve started wondering whether resident wellbeing doesn’t need to sit a little higher in the organizational chart. Wellness isn’t just fitness and it’s not just activities. It doesn’t belong under either of those “departments.” It’s not limited to nutrition or spiritual designations, and it’s not focused on health care and clinical services.

Perhaps it’s the culture we’re trying to build.

But if that’s true, if wellness provides a cultural focus for our organizations, then each employee needs to have a stake in what it means to provide person-centered opportunities for well-being. And that message needs to come from the top. It can be supported by a well-developed employee wellness offering, as well (which is being discussed more and more in senior living). It can get folded into employee goals, job descriptions, and team meetings. And while one person should probably have ultimate responsibility for wellness in the community, it cannot operate in a silo apart from other elements that are unique to what your community offers. (This post talks more about how the various departments can collaborate better.)

How are you cultivating wellness beyond your fitness programming, your activities calendar, and your clinic?

Download our whitepaper on how you can create a culture of wellness in your senior living community.

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC continuing care retirement community

Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis: The Scary Truth of Being Uninformed

familly_caringDuring my morning commute a few months ago, I switched on the radio and caught the tail end of a brief NPR story about doctors not communicating to their patients when they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Because I am surrounded by this disease in the workplace and have experienced it first-hand in my family, I was quick to become empathetic and my heart sank into my stomach. It just seemed so unfair and, well, wrong.

The next day, I decided to dig a little more deeply and find the article in writing. Maybe I missed some important details at the beginning of the story. Maybe the twist was that these patients were being diagnosed but simply forgot after they walked out of the doctor’s office doors, because, after all, they do have memory loss and dementia. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

According to this specific study, an alarmingly low number of patients with Alzheimer’s (only 45%) claimed that they were given this diagnosis by their doctor. When the study looked past the patient’s input, still only 53% of family members or caretakers reported being aware of the diagnosis. The reasoning behind this sits among a variety of excuses, ranging from the doctor having limited time in each appointment to the doctor simply feeling uncomfortable.

Is It Acceptable to Withhold the Diagnosis?

Are these legitimate excuses? Is it ethically acceptable to withhold information that is unknowingly being written down in your medical records just to save one or both parties from feeling uncomfortable? 

Sure, it feels terrible to look someone in the eye and tell them devastating news, but when a person is relying on someone, their doctor in this case, to keep them informed, the doctor needs to take responsibility here. Withholding this information puts the patient at risk of harming himself, as well as those around him. What if those around a person with Alzheimer’s believe these forgetful moments are merely part of a normal aging process? Maybe one day the person with Alzheimer’s cannot recall a street name, which may seem normal, but what if the following week(s) lead to such scenarios:

The person with Alzheimer’s…

  • Goes for a walk or bicycle ride without telling anyone and gets lost.
  • Accidentally leaves the gas burner on all day while home alone.
  • Needs help but forgets how to dial the phone.
  • Leaves the water running in the bathtub, does not realize it, and goes to bed.
  • Gets in a pool alone and forgets how to use their legs, loses footing, and goes under.

Benefits of Knowing the Diagnosis

Some of these examples may seem extreme, but they are actually scenarios that either myself or someone I know has personally witnessed. So many dangerous situations can be avoided if family or close friends are aware of the diagnosis. And though there is no cure, doctors are finding medications that can help slow down the disease process, and researchers are finding more and more ways for people with Alzheimer’s to gain a better quality of life through means such as music, aquatics, memory care, and more.

I often see family members or caretakers get frustrated, and even angry, with people who are forgetful. When we are able to have a medical diagnosis, can realize that it is truly a disease and out of the person’s control, and can view the whole picture, we are opening a door to having more compassion and understanding for the situation a person with Alzheimer’s is facing. 

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Topics: senior wellness cognitive function memory dementia memory care Alzheimer's Disease

Active Aging: Ten Ways for Seniors to be Active in the Country

active_in_countryLiving in the country can have its share of pros and cons when it comes to getting in your recommended daily activity. Although you might not have access to a fitness center at your fingertips, here is a list of 10 ways for seniors to stay active in multiple wellness dimensions while living in a rural area: 

  1. Can you dig it?  Try gardening!  Plant your seeds and reap the benefits with a bouquet of flowers, a variety of vegetables, and some new herbs to spice up your daily activity as well as your meals.
  2. Enjoy some time with nature by going on a nature hike!  With the scenery ever changing, this can be a beautiful change up to your typical cardiovascular exercise routine.  So don’t delay, lace up your shoes and take a hike!   
  3. Go for a swim at a local lake or community pool.  This activity uses the gentle resistance of water to strengthen your muscles.  It is easier on joints and the buoyancy of the water is effective for those with balance issues.  Don’t forget your water floaties!
  4. Walk a pet.  Take your favorite companion around the block for some good company during your exercise.  Maybe you start with a short distance that increases over time as you and your pet improve your stride and endurance together.
  5. Not feeling like going outside?  Then workout to a fitness DVD!  Pick out a yoga, gentle aerobics or senior boot camp DVD to do at your own pace in the comfort of your home.  What other workout DVDs do you recommend? 
  6. Go to the mall!  Do laps around your local mall to get your steps in each day.  You don’t have to go into a store and make a purchase if you don’t want to, but this is a great option whether the weather is rain or shine!
  7. Camping with the family.  Helping set up camp and carrying a pack can be a great way to burn calories while spending time with your loved ones.  Just avoid eating too many roasted marshmallows to gain back all of the hard earned calories that you just burned off!
  8. Check off the “honey-do” list.  Kill two birds with one stone by doing chores around the house while making your spouse overwhelmingly appreciative of you!  Dust, vacuum, do the laundry or put way the dishes and work off calories all the while!
  9. Do work around the yard.  Spend a nice, sunny afternoon outside by mowing, pruning and raking your yard.  Have a home improvement project that you’ve been putting off?  Then now is a great time to conquer it!  Your neighbors will be impressed by how immaculate your yard looks, and you will be reaping the benefits of your activity!
  10. Play with your grandkids at a park or playground.  Tap into your inner child and participate in the games that suit your fancy!  These are memories that your grandchildren will cherish for the rest of their lives. 

What ways have you found to be fit in your area?  Keep in mind these safety recommendations to optimize your overall wellness.  Don’t live in a rural area?  Then check out this blog about Ways to Stay Fit in the City!

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Topics: active aging active living senior fitness