Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Surprise Group Fitness Breaks Overcome Commitment Issues

ThinkstockPhotos-119386421.jpgWe’re onto something in corporate fitness, and guess what? It involves no commitment. I know what you’re thinking; it goes against everything we’ve always said. You have to commit to a workout plan, commit to changing one thing at a time, commit to your goals, commit to this, and commit to that. No wonder we’re all scared of the “C word”!

Not only do we commit to our health journey every day and do our best, but we also have many other obligations: work schedules, family events, volunteer activities, and more. It’s a heavy load, and many feel lost without their handy planner, online calendar, phone, or other gadget to keep it all together.

We’re a society that loves to feel busy, and some even feel more empowered by the more they do. Newsflash: it’s exhausting! Add one more thing to that calendar and some feel like an overinflated balloon. We get it, or at least we’re starting to get it. How can we continue to help our clients on their health journey without breathing that one last breath of air into their already full balloon? For starters, we don’t want your commitment.

Healthy Habits Should Come Naturally

Now don’t get me wrong, committing to a healthy lifestyle is important and should never fall to the bottom of the list. However, it’s also not something you need to add to your calendar. It’s continuous and ever-evolving; so whether it’s a walk, a salad or smoothie, a few moments to breathe, refilling your water bottle, or getting enough rest, many of these things come automatically. There’s no scheduling these, and there’s no plugging them into a calendar. These are signs of a well-rounded health passage, and reassurance that it’s become somewhat instinctual to take care of your mind and body.

If you feel this way, good for you; it’s an excellent start! But what if you’re not in this boat? What if you do need these reminders? It’s just one more thing to commit to and add to the long list of things “to do.” You’re not alone. Many feel this way, and we’ve found something that alleviates the problem. Are you excited? Me too, so let’s get down to the good stuff.

Join the Impromptu Fitness Fun

Our staff are starting to do impromptu stretch breaks, brief meditation introductions, and mild exercise instruction with no obligation. That’s right, no signing up ahead of time, no paying, no email confirmation required, no Outlook invite—none of that. We’re asking you just to show up if time allows.

When, you ask, do these activities occur? The answer is “I don’t know,” and neither does our staff in many cases. They may have an hour on a Tuesday at 2pm or a Thursday at 10am. We’re looking for any free time possible, just as you are. All we’re doing is sending out and a spur-of-the-moment email to members and associates about the quick activity, and they are actually showing up! In decent numbers, too—usually more than our group exercise class participation.

Why? Well, this is my theory. First of all, we aren’t asking for a commitment. Second, I think people enjoy the element of surprise. Imagine you’re plugging away at work thinking about your schedule, upcoming calls, what’s for dinner, when do I need to pick up the kids, and suddenly you get an email that says, “Join us in an hour for a stretch break in the quad.” Your calendar looks clear, it’s only for a short amount of time, and I don’t have to change clothes, so yes I think I’ll go! Miraculously we’re opening the door to two things that most people enjoy: no commitment and a nice surprise. It seems to be well received, and anything well received is worth pursuing. As long as there is no commitment, of course. ;)

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Topics: corporate fitness NIFS healthy habits group fitness commitment

Best Snacks for Healthy Eating

ThinkstockPhotos-88749380.jpgSome people think that snacking can sabotage your healthy eating plan. However, snacking keeps your energy levels up and prevents you from becoming overly hungry, which can lead to poor food choices. Eating every three to four hours can also help regulate your metabolism, which ensures that you burn calories throughout the day. Strive for at least two small snacks per day, but try to limit yourself to 100 to 150 calories or less per snack.

Also, be sure your snack is balanced—that it offers complex carbohydrates for energy, protein for muscle building and repair, and a small amount of fat for satiety. You can ensure nutritional balance and prevent snack boredom by varying your daily choices.

Best Snacks for Great Nutrition

Here are some great snack choices:

  • 6 oz Greek yogurt topped with ½ cup of berries
  • ¾ cup of whole-grain cereal, nut, and dried fruit trail mix
  • 1 apple and 1 oz. low-fat cheese
  • 1 cup yogurt smoothie made with real fruit
  • 1 oz. baked tortilla chips with ¼ cup bean dip
  • 2 oz. low-fat cheese on five whole-grain crackers
  • 1 whole-wheat tortilla with 1 oz. melted cheese and ¼ cup salsa
  • 1 cup raw vegetables and 2 Tbsp. low-fat dip or hummus
  • 1 Tbsp. nut butter on a banana
  • 1 cup berries topped with ¼ cup low-fat granola cereal
  • ¼ cup whole-grain cereal and ¼ cup raisins with ¼ cup skim milk
  • ¾ cup pasta salad made with raw veggies, cheese, and low-fat dressing
  • ½ pita pocket stuffed with raw vegetables and 1 slice low-fat cheese
  • 1 cup low-fat vegetable-bean soup
  • ½ turkey and cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • 1 handful almonds and ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup cottage cheese and ½ cup pineapple
  • ½ peanut butter/banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • ½ whole-wheat English muffin toasted and topped with a slice of tomato and low-fat cheese

The Benefits of Snacks

You might feel guilty about snacking, but snacks aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, mini meals several times a day can be beneficial. Here’s how:

  • Binge control. If eating several low-fat, whole-grain crackers, a few pretzels, a piece of fruit, or some raw vegetables keeps you from taking second or third helpings at your next meal, you may actually consume fewer total calories for the day.
  • Extra energy and nutrients. Traditional, made-at-home meals often lose out to busy schedules. A grab-and-go snack can be the difference between some nourishment and none at all.
  • Satisfaction for small appetites. Young children’s tiny stomachs can hold only small portionsof food at a time. Older adults who are less active and who burn fewer calories also may feel comfortable eating smaller meals more frequently.

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Topics: nutrition weight control fiber snacks protein healthy eating

Thinking of Going Vegetarian? Plant-Based Nutrition Basics

ThinkstockPhotos-520129642.jpgHave you been considering plant based nutrition, vegetarian diet? Approximately 3.2% of the American population currently follows this diet, with 0.5% of those following a vegan diet, which includes no animal products at all. This is very small when compared to India, where an estimated 42% of the population does not eat meat.

Why Eliminate Meat?

So why would you consider going vegetarian? There are many reasons, but the most popular are for health reasons, to help preserve the Earth’s natural resources, and for animal rights. However, when some individuals decide to eliminate meat and other animal products from their diets, they might not be getting in all of the essential nutrients that are important.

Proper Nutrition for Meatless Eating

Here are some nutrients to make sure you are getting in to guarantee that your diet is balanced.

  • Protein: Essential for growth and maintenance. Food sources include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). Milk products and eggs are options for lacto-ovo vegetarians.
  • Iron: A primary carrier of oxygen in the blood. Food sources include iron-fortified cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole-wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruit (apricots, prunes, and raisins).
  • Calcium: Important for building bones and teeth, and maintaining bone strength. Food sources include fortified breakfast cereals, soy (tofu, soy-based beverages), calcium-fortified orange juice, and some dark green, leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, and mustard greens).
  • Zinc: Necessary for many biochemical reactions and helps the immune system function properly. Food sources include a variety of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds; and milk products for lacto vegetarians.
  • Vitamin B12: Necessary for cell division and growth, and strengthens the immune system. Food sources include milk products, eggs, B-12–fortified foods (breakfast cereals, soy-based burgers, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast).

Vegans who do not have fortified foods and ovo-vegetarians who do not have fortified milk substitutes should consume the following daily:

  • 3–5 teaspoons vegetable oil (for calories and essential fatty acids)
  • 1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses (for iron and calcium)
  • 1 Tablespoon brewer’s nutritional yeast for B vitamins, especially riboflavin and B12

Tips for Plant-Based Meals

Some final advice for those considering this diet is to build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and quinoa. Don’t overload meals with high-fat cheese to replace the meat. Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake. A variety of products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.

Most restaurants can accommodate modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat from stir-fry dishes, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that make food to order.

If you would like to schedule a personal nutrition consultation to help you decide whether switching to a meat-free diet is the right decision for you, contact me at amitchell@nifs.org.

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Topics: nutrition protein vegetarian vegan plant-based