Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Get Rid of Excuses and Find Time and Motivation to Exercise

ThinkstockPhotos-200554312-003.jpgWe have all made the excuse that we don’t have the time to exercise. If you have children, this excuse is even more likely. You have to get the kids ready in the morning, you work all day, you get off work, pick up the kids, and take them to their after-school activities. After that you’re finally getting home to cook dinner and relax with the family. Upon finishing dinner, it’s time to shower and go to bed. Now, I know that may feel like an exhausting day and that you have no time for yourself, but if you really look for it there is plenty of time to fit in some exercise.

Finding Small Ways for Staying Active 

Now is time to throw the excuses out the window. Exercising does not have to be a 30 or 60-minute workout. You can easily achieve your daily recommended exercise in small bouts of 10 minutes. One of the easiest ways you can achieve this is by parking in the back row at work rather than trying to drive around and find the closest spot possible. If you are one of those individuals, it’s time to switch up your routine.

Encouraging Exercise at Work

Leaders in the workforce can be great facilitators of physical activity. If you are a leader in your workplace, try making an effort to encourage your employees to move more. One great way to get your employees up and away from their desks is by having walking meetings.

Many individuals today are using activity trackers to help them stay on top of their movements. Friendly competitions within your workgroup are a great way to promote physical activity as well as boost company morale.

Finding Workout Motivation and Accountability

The key to becoming healthier is finding the physical activities that you enjoy doing most so that you will keep doing them. Using the buddy method is a great way to keep yourself accountable. If there are days you are feeling unmotivated to exercise, your friend, family member, or co-worker can be there to help encourage you along.  Set a schedule and stick to it.

Get the Help You Need to Stay Healthy

The biggest thing to take away is that there are endless ways that you can achieve your health and exercise goals. If you are struggling to find a way to fit exercise into your day, seek the help you need. Whether it’s downloading an app, getting a health coach, or simply learning which physical activities you need to be doing, the more you can get up and move, the better health benefits you will gain. So stop using those old, worn-out excuses and become a healthier you today!

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Topics: exercise at work exercise motivation staying active accountability

What Exercises Should I Do?: Guidelines for Senior Fitness (Part 2)

In my first blog, I discussed two of my guidelines for senior fitness:

  1. Muscle-Activation Exercises
  2. Simplistic Exercises

In this second blog, i will discuss different movements and grip exercises.

Guideline 3: Compound, Multi-joint, Closed-chain Movements

Exercises like sit-to-stands, which are modified squats; and a vertical and horizontal pressing and pulling movement, such as seated rows and wall pushups, just to name a few, give you more bang for your buck. Movements like this burn more calories and fat, lead to greater strength and lean muscle gains, and most importantly, they work the body in unison.

These exercises work multiple muscle groups through the range of motion of multiple joints. For instance, a sit-to-stand works the quads, hamstrings, hips, calves, and even the upper back due to maintaining a neutral, upright spine. Also, this exercise uses these particular muscles through the range of motion of the hip joint, knees, ankles, and more. Isolation exercises, on the other hand, only work one muscle through the range of motion of one joint. For instance, a leg extension works the quads through the range of motion of the knee joint.

When CCRC residents, or anyone for that matter, perform daily activities such as standing up after ThinkstockPhotos-145159937.jpglunch, walking down the hallway, or picking up groceries, multiple muscles are being used through the range of motion of multiple joints. That’s why the compound, multi-joint, closed-chain movements are so much more effective than isolation, single-joint, open-chain movements.

These exercises also increase neurological activation. Compound exercises allow the individual to lift heavier loads, as opposed to isolation movements. Lifting heavier loads demands an involvement of larger muscles, which places more demand on the central nervous system to activate more motor units and fire them off at a faster and higher rate.

These exercises are great for balance, as well. Strength-training exercises are extremely effective for increasing balance. One question I always like to ask residents is, “Would you say that your balance is worse than it was ten years ago?” The answer is usually a resounding yes. Then I ask, “Why do you think that is? Ten years ago, did you regularly perform balance exercises?” The answer to this question is usually a resounding no. What this tells me is that as the resident got older, they lost muscle. As the muscle atrophied, they lost the strength to appropriately balance themselves. Furthermore, if they had a fall, they'd be even more reluctant to do anything. This fear would lead to even more inactivity and muscle atrophy, leading to a steady decline in balance. My suggestion? Center most of the training on the main compound movements and add isolation exercises in for lagging, injured, or imbalanced muscle groups.

Guideline 4: Grip Exercises

Most residents have arthritis in their hands; therefore, they have poor range of motion with them. Hand strength is vital for many reasons. From being able to grab their eating utensil to being able to grab the railing when they walk the halls, grip strength is vital. Doing crushing-grip exercises, like using a hand gripper from a sports store; or rubber band forearm extensor exercises, which are vital to avoid an imbalance from the crushing-grip work; and pinching grip exercises with a dumbbell allows clients to strengthen their hands, reduce, pain and increase range of motion.

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Watch for my next blog when I introduce a fifth guideline for senior fitness—mobility work.

Interested in doing more for your residents and how you can create a culture of wellness?  Click below to see how you can do just that! 

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Topics: CCRC NIFS balance senior fitness muscles exercises

Corporate Fitness: Should You Pay Employees for Workouts?

 

ThinkstockPhotos-468984741.jpgThere’s a lot of misinformation out there on what is and is not good for you. The science changes all the time; unfortunately, changes in health information can sometimes depend on who’s funding the provider. So it can be hard to trust the latest press release “proving” the next best strategy for preventing disease and living longer. Despite the confusing messaging, there are a few constants on health you can count on:

  • Tobacco use is bad for you.
  • Moving your body is good for you.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of which is more important to employee health; there are too many complicating and personal factors to establish such a case. Instead, I’ll focus on physical activity because I think it represents a substantial area of opportunity for employers when considering options that fit into the “doing wellness for (or even with) employees” mantra.

Plenty of employers offer some kind of option for exercise at work, whether that be with group exercise classes onsite, workouts in a full-blown corporate fitness center, or walking trails on the property. In most cases those amenities/offerings are a use-at-your-own-risk proposition. There’s very little leadership support or communication about how to get involved, so only those employees who feel most strongly about pursuing regular exercise actually have the motivation to engage. And then employers wonder why participation is so low.

So here we are at this weird crossroads where employers try a few fitness-based options at the worksite for employees, very few employees enjoy the benefits of those programs, and employers are frustrated. What’s a company to do?

To be fair, we can’t expect everyone to want to exercise. Employers should have realistic expectations about how many people they can draw into these offerings. If you’re looking for ways to tip the scales that make a work-sponsored group fitness class look a little more attractive to your workforce, consider the idea of compensated workout time. Here’s why this is worth your attention:

  • It’s no secret that time, or lack of it, is a primary barrier for your employees participating in regular physical activity. Couple the lack of time with the idea that your employees spend about nine hours per day at the office, and you have yourself a significant potential audience.
  • However, if the workplace culture or departmental mantra is about working harder, producing more, and keeping butts in the seats, then the convenience of a workplace fitness option is a moot point.
  • Alternatively, if we can pay them for 45 minutes of working out three days per week, now we might be onto something that sends a true message about how important the employer feels it is for employees to make healthy choices. And before you read this and exclaim, “We already do that…it’s called a lunch break,” what I’m advocating is 45 minutes beyond the lunch break. For an employee making $25/hour who works out, walks, or takes a group exercise class three days per week during this compensated time, it costs the company about $2,800 a year ($25/hr x 75% of an hour x 3d/wk x 50wk/yr).

Maybe you can’t afford compensated exercise time for your employees. But before you discount it outright, do what my mom always encourages me to do with a big decision. Make a pro/con list. Consider all the health benefits of engaging in regular physical activity compared to the lost work time on your bottom line. Weigh the positive of increased employee loyalty and creativity against the straight dollar cost. Understand the value of really supporting your employees’ quest for better health versus only paying it lip service. If the tick marks in your pro column outweigh those in the con column, you just might have your answer.

Need tips to get your employees moving more?  Download our whitepaper to help you get started with adding exercise to your worksite wellness program.

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Topics: exercise at work employee health group exercise corporate fitness motivation incentives workouts

5 Plyos for Cinco de Mayo

ThinkstockPhotos-468435785.jpgWhat’s better than chips and guacamole? Tacos and guacamole? Fajitas and guacamole? Or guacamole and a serving of guacamole with a little dish of guacamole on the side? Point is guacamole is amazing and what better way to celebrate the awesomeness of guacamole than Cinco de Mayo. If you plan on indulging in as much guacamole as I do this Cinco de Mayo then maybe a plyometric workout beforehand will keep your conscience at bay when asking your waiter/waitress for that third serving of guac. Here are my 5 favorite plyometric exercises for Cinco de Mayo:

5 – Squat Jumps

5 – Power Push-Ups

5 – Split Lunge Jumps

5 – Heavy Med Ball Slams

5 – Burpees

*Repeat these 5 times through, if you aren’t sure of how to execute these exercises here is a rundown for you:

Squat Jumps – Start with feet shoulder width apart. Lower body into a squat by bending at hips with your back straight, pushing your glutes back while looking forward.  Allow your arms to naturally swing back and with a quick pause at the bottom, push through your feet into a jumping motion. Swing your arms to straight up in the air, fully extending over your head. When landing, squat back to the lowered position and repeat.

Power Push-Ups – Start in push-up position with arms shoulder width apart. Keeping body straight, perform a push-up. On the way up, in an explosive motion, push your body up so your hands come off the ground. Resistance can be decreased by having knees on the ground.

Split Lunge Jumps – Stand with one foot forward and other foot back with knees bent slightly. Dip body down by bending legs lowering yourself toward the ground. Immediately jump upward quickly switching legs and landing with feet in opposite positions. Keep torso upright and hips straight forward. Repeat sequence with opposite leg movement.

Heavy Med Ball Slams – Hold a medicine ball with both hands and stand with feet at shoulder width apart. Raise the ball above your head fully extending arms overhead. Reverse the motion, slamming the ball into the ground directly in front of you as hard as you can. Receive the ball with both hands on the bounce and repeat the movement.

Burpees – Start standing with feet hip width apart. Squat down placing hands shoulder width apart on the floor. Jump both feet back into a push-up position. Perform a push up and immediately jump feet back into the squat position. Jump up from the squat position extending arms straight up. Land back on the ground and repeat.  For an easier version, eliminate the push up, you can also step your feet out and back to eliminate the explosive movements.

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Topics: employee health exercise fitness healthy choices

Weight Training for Women

Weight training for women has a common concern: engaging in resistance training may lead to “bulking up” or gaining significant amounts of muscle mass. But this is simply not the case. More likely, it will lead to weight loss.

Gender Affects Muscle MassThinkstockPhotos-116356254.jpg

First, I’d like to discuss the basic physiology of women that significantly debunks this concern. Imagine a healthy adult male specimen with an ideal amount of muscle mass. Compare that to a healthy adult female specimen. I’m sure most of you are imagining that the female is overall slightly smaller and has significantly less muscle mass than the male. What other differences are there between the two specimens? They have different reproductive systems. The male reproductive system, more specifically testosterone, is completely necessary for building significant amounts of muscle mass. Testosterone is an anabolic substance; without it, the human anatomy is dramatically less efficient at building muscle mass.

Testosterone Makes the Difference

Taking this into consideration, here’s another scenario. This time, instead of adult male and female specimens, imagine prepubescent male and female children engaging in an identical resistance training program. Theoretically, both children should have similar responses and gains from their training because neither is producing significant amounts of testosterone. Now imagine those same children of similar size and health entering puberty and continuing with their training. Along with the mood swings experienced with the influx of hormones, the male specimen brings testosterone into the equation. As these children continue with their identical resistance training programs, the male should begin building significantly more muscle mass and at a much faster rate, while the female experiences a response to the resistance training similar to the response she experienced prior to puberty.

Genetics Play a Role

I’m implying that if women engage in the same resistance program as men, it is very unlikely that they will experience the exact same response as men. That being said, I am also a firm believer in genetic individuality; certain individuals’ physiology may differ slightly compared to the usual. Although men typically produce more testosterone than women, women do still produce a lesser amount of testosterone from the ovaries and adrenal glands. It’s more than reasonable to assume that a certain percentage of the female population might produce higher than average amounts of testosterone. Although this is possible, it’s also certainly not the norm.

Increased Metabolism Enables Weight Loss

In either scenario, muscle mass requires energy in order to function, whether you are exercising or just moving around the house. Our bodies get this energy from calories, so an increase in muscle mass will lead to an increased rate at which we burn calories, or metabolic rate. Now with an increased metabolic rate, it becomes easier to lose weight!

It’s also important to keep in mind that muscle mass is a dense material and weighs substantially more than fat. Taking this into consideration, the scales won’t necessarily show the results at first. Stay patient and determined, because over time you will notice a physical difference.

Here are some more reasons women need strength training, and more thoughts on why the ultimate goal of weight training isn’t always bulking up, but can instead be a boost to women's health.

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Topics: weight loss women's health weight training metabolism weightlifting muscle mass resistance