Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

3 Tips for Improving Posture for Employee Health

Most of us spend the majority of our lives working and commuting to work. In our spare time we also enjoy activities such as reading, watching television, and spending time with our loved ones. What do most of these activities have in common throughout our lifetime? Sitting!

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The Toll Sitting Takes on Your Health

A large portion of life as an employee requires extended periods of time seated in a chair, driving to work, and spending time with loved ones sitting at the dining room table. As we age, being in the seated position can have negative effects on our posture, which will also have a negative effect on our health.

As human beings we are structured to walk, run, and swim (if you learned) to accomplish tasks on a daily basis. We used to hunt, forage, farm our own food, and use our own feet when traveling from one location to another. This strengthened the muscles we needed when growing up and maintained our muscles as we aged. In our modern society, most professional careers have become sedentary and require less physical activity to get the job done.

Aging Well with Better Posture

One of the most apparent characteristics our body shows as we age is our posture. We remember the days in our youth when we stood tall, our shoulders were back, and we were probably a few inches taller. As we age, we and our loved ones begin to notice a change in posture in most individuals who had a sedentary profession. Even though some individuals remained active with a sedentary profession, other might not have taken the right steps to ensure good posture during the senior years, when it matters most.

The old saying is practice makes perfect; the new saying is perfect practice makes perfect! Even as many of us stay active, we are not performing the right exercises to maintain posture. Older individuals must perform the correct exercises to improve and maintain a healthy posture.

Tips for Improving Posture

Here are three tips for improving posture that you can use right away.

  • Stretch often, and stretch the right muscles! Muscles that become tight from working most desk jobs and commuting in vehicles are our chest muscles, neck muscles, and leg muscles. Being hunched over for several hours a day contributes to muscle tightness in these areas. Bringing your arms out to the side and stretching your chest four to five times a day can stretch the affected chest muscle. Learning how to stretch the leg muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) in both the seated and standing position will give you more flexibility and prevent poor posture as you age. Neck muscles become tight from staring at computer screens, sitting at desks and carrying stress from demanding jobs. Learn stretches that loosen the neck and take the weight off of your shoulders.
  • Stand up every 30 minutes throughout the workday. Many of us get focused on our work and forget to stay active throughout the day. Standing up will stretch tight muscles, increase blood circulation, and give you a mental break before continuing the rest of your work.
  • Strengthen the muscles that improve and maintain your posture. Muscles that support an upright posture need to be activated and stimulated to maintain their strength and endurance throughout a lifetime. Many of these muscles are weak and inactive during working hours, which can lead to being inactive for lifetime. Strength training exercises focusing on posture include TheraBand rows, hip extensions, and lateral shoulder raises, which have been shown to maintain correct posture in senior populations.

Looking for a simple program you can implement that will help your employees move more and improve their posture?  Download our ebook at the link below.

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Topics: employee health posture sitting

Weight Loss Secrets: You’re Dieting Wrong

I’ve tried everything. Why doesn’t my diet work?

When you open your newsfeed, you see advertisements and personal testimonies from friends and family with weight-loss and dieting successes. That alone can be the motivation needed to give something new a try, but not everything works for everyone. Various weight-loss systems have time-sensitive supplements, complex counting systems, and other essential guidelines that you must follow strictly to be successful.

“Diets” Raise Questions and Lead to Failure

ThinkstockPhotos-503894126.jpgThe next fad diet may work, but what happens afterward? Do you continue that system forever? Should you follow a program designed for weight loss if you’re no longer trying to lose weight? Diets seem to always pose more questions than answers, and the “I’m going on a diet” phrase will inevitably lead to failure.

Most people will transition “off the diet” when they reach their target weight, eventually returning to the previous eating habits that initially caused the weight gain. This up and down continues the yo-yo weight-loss cycle. This is why “dieting” doesn’t work.

Some people can see results by making a few healthy choices or decreasing calories. Eventually everyone will hit a plateau, but the answer isn’t to further restrict nutrient intake. Long-term dieting can have a prolonged negative effect on metabolism, making it much more difficult for the body to use nutrients.

Most people prefer restrictive diets in which they decrease total calories or put a limitation on types of foods consumed. These include but are not limited to fat-free, sugar-free, no carbohydrates, gluten-free, or protein-free. Others try overindulgent diets in which they eat nothing but one type of food. These diets are like the cabbage soup diet, protein-only diets, or having nothing but juices or meal-replacement shakes. However, both restrictive and overindulgent diets contribute to inadequate essential nutrients.

Make a Healthy Lifestyle Change

Let’s be clear. A diet isn’t a restriction or an overconsumption of any foods. A diet consists of your daily intake of nutrients. To be successful this year, you need to ask yourself why you want to diet. Are you looking to temporarily lose weight, or are you looking for a long-term solution? If you’re looking for short-term weight loss, continue to check Facebook for inspiration. If you are ready to stop the yo-yo “dieting,” you are ready to make a healthy lifestyle change.

Rethink your daily diet to include foods that will satisfy your hunger and foods you’ll enjoy. Say goodbye to the old diet foods that you used to endure and say hello to flavorful, real, whole foods. Instead of depriving your body of the energy and fuel it desperately needs to function, feel free to eat a meal that consists of at least 300 calories. Just keep in mind that dieting alone never works for long. Take that as a sign to progress to the next step and gradually add activity and exercise into your daily routine.

Nutrition Help from NIFS

For more nutritional advice, a NIFS Registered Dietitian can help give you direction and focus your energy in a positive way. The My Nutrition Coach mobile app allows members to interact daily with a Registered Dietitian at NIFS. You will receive feedback, suggestions, and information on ways to improve your nutrition and help you achieve results.

To get started with My Nutrition Coach, contact NIFS Registered Dietitian Angie Scheetz at [email protected] or by phone at 317-274-3432 ext. 239. 

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Topics: nutrition weight loss NIFS apps diet and nutrition diet and exercise

Resolve to Do Corporate Wellness Better in 2016

The debate in corporate wellness:

Last year I spent a lot of time reading about current debates in corporate wellness. There are two vocal camps (albeit vocal in very different ways):

  • The camp that publicly proclaims we must soldier on with the health risk assessments, the biometric screenings, the weight-loss challenges, and the “cost sharing” of health insurance with employees. That camp is mostly plugging their ears at (and not responding to) the questions from the other camp.
  • The camp that keeps asking that pesky “why” question. But they’re not asking “why” like a toddler who presses on, and on, an on without purpose. Those in that second camp are asking why we must persist with corporate wellness practices that don’t work.

Some in the industry rise above the fighting to offer their long-held positions that are alternatives to more traditional corporate wellness. Check out the work being done by Rosie Ward and Jon Robinson at Salveo Partners, or Bob Merberg’s Health Shifting blog for some insights.

An alternative view:

I admire their work and their passion. I offer my own considerations here based on a blog I read focused on well-being for caregivers of the elderly. (Half of my work life is spent focused on health and fitness services in senior living communities.) The blog is about how The Eden Alternative assesses well-being, the dimensions they use, and how they apply them to their employees and those they serve.

Traditional wellness uses areas like physical, intellectual, and occupational wellness to map out how an individual is experiencing well-being in their lives. The Eden Alternative instead looks at identity, connectedness, autonomy, security, meaning, growth, and joy.

How does the worksite look if we build a corporate wellness strategy around optimizing those elements for employees? Here are three areas to consider.

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This is about more than your break room, or your subsidized healthy foods in the company cafeteria. This isn’t really related to your corporate IT policies for use of social media. But the answer(s) to this question could be about establishing policies that allow employees to provide family support in caregiving roles under reasonable circumstances. Or it could be about establishing a well-thought-out mentoring program at your company.

How are we communicating and following through on areas of autonomy for employees?

No one really likes to feel like they don’t have control over a particular area of their lives, and studies show that lacking autonomy at work can increase stress. If your micromanaging, timekeeping structure has employees taking bathroom breaks in shifts and feeling chained to their desks, it might be time to rethink how you can improve this area of your workplace culture. In a call-center environment, highly scheduled time on the phones is central to business success, and while you can’t change that paradigm, you can invite your team into building the schedule. They’re smart (or you wouldn’t have hired them, right?), so they might have productivity-increasing, autonomy-boosting ideas that you can actually put into practice.

Do we provide opportunities for our crew to engage in work that’s meaningful?

Not everyone has the good fortune to work day in, and day out, in a job they love. And there’s a decent chance that some of the people on your team are in that tough spot. Maybe you can restore a little meaning in their career by providing opportunities for them to engage in a passion through their work. The catch here is that you have to know your employees well enough to know what they’re passionate about. Start with that discussion and see where the ideas lead you. Establishing a day of service might spark enough enthusiasm for some (“I don’t LOVE my job, but the company I work for is solid”). Others might benefit from a mentoring experience to move into a new role with the organization.

You may have noticed that a lot of this alternative approach boils down to building relationships with colleagues. It’s a scary thing—getting to know your staff. But the rewards for individual well-being are far greater than we could get from any health assessment report or biometric screening. When we’re struggling (so much) with true employee engagement in corporate wellness, we need to step back and look at what we’re inviting them into. If it’s not meaningful, if it doesn’t add value (and I don’t mean money) to an employee’s life, why would they engage?

Change is hard—no one really likes change. But this might be a change your employees can get behind. So what do you think? Are you resolved to do better in 2016?

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Topics: corporate wellness stress productivity

Show your Support for Employee Health


ThinkstockPhotos-171337565.jpgAs you kick off the New Year in your workplace, you will probably overhear many of your employees talking about being healthier this year, and their New Year’s resolutions. Eating better, participating in more physical activity, stressing less, establishing a better work-life balance… the list goes on. If your workforce is like the majority of people who have the best intentions of improving their health this year, many will be unsuccessful once work and life get back in the way.

The good news is that healthy habits can be created and maintained in the workplace with a little help from leadership (and who doesn’t want healthy employees?). Here are some ideas that you can incorporate at your workplace to help your employees stick to their health resolutions and show your support for employee health.

Allow employees to schedule time for physical activity throughout the day.

Studies show workers who are able to participate in activity throughout the workday are more productive, so this is a win-win for you and the employee! Making it known to your workforce that you support a break to exercise can go a long way toward changing the health culture in your workplace. If there is no access to a fitness center or group fitness classes in your facility, this year could be the time to explore some options that best fit your workplace needs.

Have healthy snacks available.

If you have the budget to purchase healthy snacks for your employees, great! Have a few common areas stocked with healthy options made available to employees. If you are relying on your vending machine, look to ensure that you have a good variety of healthy choices clearly labeled and available.

Provide opportunities to better manage stress.

Work comes with stressors that can trigger negative thoughts and health habits among your employees. This can be as simple as allowing employees to step away from their desk to go for a short walk or allowing them to take a few minutes to watch a cat video to get a good laugh. Other options that come with a price tag but would be very popular include having a massage therapist provide ten-minute chair massages every few months, or a yoga instructor one or two days a week to provide your employees with an opportunity to unwind.

Allow for a power nap.

Who would have thought that we had it right back in preschool? Many are sleep deprived and it is impacting the quality of work that is delivered and increasing chances for other health risks. Allowing your employees to take a 20-minute power nap can result in a more productive day with fewer mistakes than a day with no nap.

Identify your health champions and put them to work!

They will love that you thought of them, and they have been secretly or openly plotting how they could make this happen and probably have great ideas to share. Let your nutrition nut run with the task of having healthy snacks readily available around the office, and let your fitness guru seek out a few fitness opportunities that can be taken advantage of in the conference room (if you do not have an onsite fitness center). They will also be great about rallying the employees to get on board with the new efforts.

Looking to help your employees have the resources they need to be healthy?  Click below to download our whitepaper for tips to add exercise to your wellness program.

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Topics: employee health corporate fitness productivity new year