Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Reggie Porter

Recent Posts by Reggie Porter:

Pickleball for Senior Fitness at CCRCs

Two years ago a member of my CCRC fitness center came to me and asked if I had ever heard of pickleball. I told him I hadn’t, so he explained it to me. A month later a member of our sales and marketing team asked me the same thing; this made me do a little research of my own.

ThinkstockPhotos-471663643.jpgPickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, and results in a senior-friendly game that addresses the many health concerns seniors are faced with every day, like poor balance and hand-eye coordination, depression, and the many symptoms usually associated with decreased cardiovascular fitness, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

Why the Game Is Great for Senior Fitness

We all know someone who is not quite steady on their feet; that person might even be you. Well, what if I told you pickleball could help with that? Pickleball has a unique set of rules, mostly regarding volleys (hitting the ball before it hits the ground), that favors people with less mobility and poor balance. The decreased amount of volleying combined with the slower-traveling whiffle ball is great for a beginner, and someone with poor balance who needs a little more time to recover after hitting the ball away.

The large whiffle ball is also easier to hit than a traditional tennis ball. Pickleball is played on a court that is 20 x 44 feet, so it is a lot smaller than a tennis court, which requires the player to cover less ground. When you combine less volleying, a slower ball, and a smaller court, you get a pretty free-flowing game with fewer interruptions, which means great exercise.

Who Plays Pickleball?

Pickleball is played by over 2.46 million people in all 50 states, so you don’t have to look far to find a league or people with experience playing. When I began my pickleball research, I found that a church less than 5 miles from my community had a league that played weekly. I also found that our local YMCA had a regular playing league, and both leagues encompassed people of all ages, fitness levels, and experiences.

All it took was one quick phone call and the church welcomed our seniors to their next session. The first night we took about eight residents who had shown interest. Not a single resident we took knew how to play before going, but after a short tutorial they were all on the court and loving it! The most amazing thing was seeing a resident with Parkinson’s disease get on the court and have no problem playing.

A Weapon Against Depression

If you are around seniors often, you have most likely seen firsthand that some battle with depression. About 6 million in the U.S. alone struggle with it every day. After seeing the smiles and hearing the laughs of residents and church members playing this game, it was a no-brainer for me to introduce it to our community, and we have gotten plenty of positive feedback. (See also: Tai Chi Helps Fight Depression in Seniors.)

Where to Learn More

If you are not convinced or you want more information, there are plenty of websites you can go to, such as these:

If you are looking for a place to try pickleball, I suggest checking with your local continuing care retirement community or community center, or contacting a tennis facility.

If you are a visual person and want to see pickleball in action, look at this video done by the Early Show.

Check out some of our best practices for wellness programming for residents, get creative to get them coming back for more!  


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Topics: CCRC continuing care retirement community balance senior fitness depression

The Senior Fitness Center – Physical Therapy Relationship

If you are a fitness professional working with seniors, you’d better have a good relationship with your physical therapy department. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three seniors over age 65 falls each year, with 20 to 30% of those falls resulting in severe injury.

After a severe fall the senior may need rehab, but there are times when they do not want to go. The three reasons I hear most often about why they’re not going to therapy are

  • “I’m not going to therapy because I can’t afford it.”
  • “I’m not going because I don’t have time.”
  • “I’m not going because you can do it.”
I feel we, as fitness professionals, should have a positive relationship with the therapy department, and we should have a basic understanding of physical therapy protocols, such as Medicare limits. Knowing this basic information may help change the mind of a person who is trying to avoid therapy for one reason or another. When fitness staff and therapy work well together, the client/patient always wins, and that’s our ultimate goal.

The next time you hear one of the aforementioned reasons for not going to therapy, here is some information you can provide that they may not have known.

“I’m not going because I can’t afford it.”

Physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy are covered under Original Medicare; the therapy caps for 2015 are $1,940. If this is the option they would like to go with, Medicare part B will pay 80% of the services and require them to pay 20%. Their cap resets after each calendar year, something many seniors don’t realize, so they may be fearful that they will have to pay 100% of the costs when in fact that isn’t true.

If the person has Medicare Advantage plan or any other detailed questions, I would suggest sending them to this section of the Medicare website, or to the therapy department. After all, we are laypersons in the field of Medicare, but our primary goal is to help them, so having this small amount of information along with other resources they can use may be enough to get them on the path to therapy.

“I’m not going because I don’t have time.”

When I hear this, I often follow it with one of my favorite fitness quotes from Edward Stanley:

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

We make time for the things in our lives that we view as most important. All we can do as fitness professionals is stress how important their body is; it’s their choice to agree and make the time to take care of it.

“I’m not going because you can do it.”

This might be the reason I hear most often. It is definitely flattering to hear the faith they place in your abilities, but we are not therapists and we must not overstep the scope of our training. Some people are really resistant to change, and their comfort level with you may be the reason they ask you to perform their therapy. I have found that if you show faith in therapy, and can suggest a therapist who you know is liked and gets positive results, it goes a long way in getting the person to consider therapy.


Neither department is more important than the other, but both are necessary for a successful and lasting recovery. The best fitness-therapy relationships are symbiotic, with both sides helping one another and referring clients. For more on strengthening this relationship, get this Quick Read.

Download our quickread for more about how intergrating services can be better for your resident's wellbeing.

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Topics: active aging physical therapy senior fitness injury rehab

Workouts for People Who Don't Like the Senior Fitness Center

A few months ago, a resident approached me and asked whether we could meet and create an exercise regimen for her. Of course I obliged her request, and we met and created a plan that day.

For three weeks, “Sally” came to the fitness center twice per week and attended one fitness class per week, just like we planned. But then Sally disappeared! I contacted Sally one week later to make sure she was okay and to see where she had been. Sally told me that as much as she needed to exercise, she just did not enjoy it, so she was quitting. I told her I understood and would be sending her a list of activities I wanted her to try for staying active.

From my experiences with Sally I know she is a fantastic actress and a very social person, hence the reason we initially decided on her taking a fitness class. But since that did not work, I composed a list of activities that I felt would fit her personality and interests while burning a few extra calories at the same time.

The list I sent Sally is as follows:grandfather_and_grandchild_ThinkstockPhotos-78247514

1. Rehearse your lines on the go.

Take advantage of the time you spend rehearsing your lines. Make it a point never to sit when you rehearse. Pace back in forth in your home, or go for a walk while you run your lines. Just don’t be still. This concept can also be used while talking on the phone.

2. Spend time with the younger generations.

Try spending time with your grandchildren or great-grandchildren. No matter what age they are, you can get a great workout when you spend time with them. Chasing after a curious toddler to keep them out of trouble will keep you on your toes and have you constantly moving.

If your grandkids aren’t quite that young, try taking them out walking or for other activities. There is no better workout than trying to keep up with your 6-foot, 4-inch grandson’s walking pace. Spending time with younger people can be fun and make you feel more energized.

3. Run errands for your neighbors.

A great way to see your friends and get in some extra activity each day is by helping your friends. Do you have a friend who is not very mobile? Volunteer to pick up their mail or medication. What about a friend with a dog? Volunteer to take the dog for its walk. No matter what you volunteer to do, you will burn some extra calories, socialize with friends, and have an improved sense of self-value for your philanthropic actions.


The ideas I sent Sally won’t result in large amounts of weight loss or increased strength, but they will get her more active, which is a start. If you see some Sally in you, or you are working with someone in senior fitness who has some Sally in them, try a few of these ideas. If these ideas don’t fit your situation, think of others that do. Just make sure you enjoy these alternative workouts, because if you don’t enjoy them, they won’t last.


Topics: walking calories senior fitness staying active

NIFS: The Substitute; Don't Fear an Unknown Group Fitness Instructor

instructorsStand on the street and ask 100 random people their feelings about going to school as a child and you will get 100 different answers. If I were asked my response would have sounded something like this, “I just want to graduate and get a job so I can be done with homework and live the easy life like adults.” I’m shaking my head as I write this, but that is how I truly felt back then. No matter whom you are certain days in school were destined to be fun, and those days were when we had a SUBSTITUTE. Well today I am going to be that sub, except I won’t be in a classroom with books, I will be on a track with kettle bells, plyo boxes, and resistance bands; I’m subbing for an outdoor boot camp class.

Personally I love to cover other instructor’s classes, because I am guaranteed to encounter something different. The something different part is what we should all look for no matter our profession, new experiences break the monotony of our every day schedules and will positively affect our brain function. As I’m preparing for class my mind is racing and I love it, what music should I play, I wonder how many people will come, how fit are they, what if they can’t do an exercise, what if we don’t have enough equipment?  Are just a few of the questions racing through my mind, but instructing the class and facing those questions gives me the opportunity to hone my skills, meet new people, travel to new places, and hopefully become a better instructor for the classes I already have, and for  those I will sub for in the future.

I hope the same benefits I receive from instructing a new class is passed on to the class I am leading. Any fitness professional will tell you to vary your workouts to reduce boredom and to aid physiological changes. Well nothing will change things up for a group fitness program like being led by a different instructor. No matter how similar two instructors are, there will always be some differences, for example a different cadence will require a higher level of mental focus so that you can stay in sync with the instructor. Often people who have been working with the same instructor for long periods of time can go into “auto-pilot” or turn their brain off during class because they are so familiar with the routine that their body just moves without much thought as to what they are doing.

This blog is not meant for just group fitness instructors and exercise class goers, it’s meant for everyone. Break your everyday cycle and try something different. It will affect an area in your life positively. For all my class goers: when that sub does walk through the door, don’t pout, your instructor will be back, but in the mean time act like a kid again, let all that energy out and have a great class, after all it’s only a sub!

Get your groove on with NIFS group fitness classes

Topics: group exercise group fitness for seniors

Active Aging: Workout Technique - Form First

seniors lifting weightsWe have all heard the phrase “quality over quantity,” and most of us have even directed this adage at someone else. But do we really believe it? And if we do, why is every gym and fitness center in the country filled with people sacrificing form for a few additional reps and pounds?

Before you pick up a weight, start a treadmill, or begin whatever mode of training you have planned for the day, think about your technique. “Where should my feet be?” “Should my hips be under my torso or behind it?” and “How am I going to breathe?” should be some of the questions you ask yourself before getting started.

Common problems associated with poor exercise technique include injuries such as sprains, strains, and fractures. Decreased activation of the desired muscle is also common when performing an exercise incorrectly. I see this most often when people are doing exercises too fast and momentum begins to reduce the work the targeted muscle has to do. All of these technique-associated problems have one thing in common: time.

“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time,” said Jim Rohn. So stop wasting your time recovering from injuries you got only because you were doing exercises incorrectly or because you had to do extra repetitions since poor form caused the targeted muscle not to fatigue as quickly as it should have.

Here are some workout technique tips for making sure you take the time needed to do the exercises properly and safely.

Use Your Resources

There are countless fitness resources around us, some clearly better than others, that you can consult with to ensure that you are doing exercises properly. The first thing I would recommend you do is research the exercise technique on your own so that you have a general idea of what to expect. Then you should consult with the fitness professional in your active aging community, who can then provide you with cues and possibly hands-on instruction.

Proper Breathing During Exercise

Proper breathing can make the most difficult exercise seem easy. Or it can have the exact opposite effect, making a routine move seem like the end of the world. The most common method of breathing while performing resistance training is to inhale during the eccentric contraction (lowering weight) and to exhale during the concentric contractions (lifting weight). This method of breathing is not the only option an exerciser has, so do your research and find out what is the best method for you, but keep in mind that some variations carry risks. The Valsalva maneuver, for example, can be used when resistance training, but this method of breathing, exhaling against a closed airway, can cause dizziness as the blood levels returning to the heart drop.

Correct Body Position

Once you learn the appropriate body position for your desired exercise, pay attention to it as you execute the reps. The best way to do this is by watching yourself in a mirror. If you notice that your form is beginning to deteriorate and you are not able to correct it, stop the exercise and rest or reduce the weight you are working with. As I mentioned earlier, a few extra reps now are not worth the time you could miss as you recover from an injury.

This year’s tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon has sparked a new saying: “If you see something, say something,” reminding us all that we are the first line of defense when it comes to our own as well as our neighbors’ safety. This motto could also be used in the gym when you see someone demonstrating poor form; say something, but you better make sure you know what you are talking about first.

Topics: exercise strength training Fitness Center injury weight training

Active Aging: Taking the Extra Step Toward Fitness

senior playing with a dogHow many times do you circle a parking lot looking for that perfect spot right in front of the door? It doesn’t matter if I am at the supermarket, a sporting event, a restaurant, or even the gym (sad, but true); I see people circling the lot like they’re in the Indy 500. As I get out of my car and walk to my destination, all I can do is ask myself, “Do they really think they are benefiting from parking in front of the door?”

My reasons for parking in the back of lots have changed over the years, but the end result hasn’t, and that is more steps walked equals more calories burned.

Can You Walk 10,000 Steps Per Day?

If you have ever been in a walking program or used a pedometer, there is a good chance you were advised to hit the 10,000-steps-per-day mark, but what does that mean? Is it attainable? Let’s break it down into numbers we deal with on a regular basis.

The average person’s stride length (the distance between successive points of contact of the same foot) is about 2.5 feet, so one step would be about 16 inches (assuming a normal walking pattern), which means you take about 4,000 steps to walk a mile. So if your goal is 10,000 steps per day, you will walk about 2 miles per day. If you consistently hit that 10,000-step mark, you are considered moderately active.

But what about the people who frequently take less than 5,000 steps per day? People in this group are considered sedentary. A drastic increase in steps can lead to many people quitting shortly after starting. People looking to increase their daily steps should look to add about 500 to 1,000 steps per day and increase at this rate every week until they hit their goal. So if you currently take 5,000 steps a day and you are increasing your steps by 1,000 per day per week, it will take you 5 weeks to hit your 10,000-step goal.

How to Walk More Steps

So where can you find these hidden steps, you ask? Here are a few activities you can adjust to add extra steps:

  • Parking farther back in parking lots: Parking an additional 20 spaces back equals about 200 steps round trip.
  • Getting up to change the channel: Changing channels 6 times per day equals about 60 steps total.
  • Walking to consult a coworker as opposed to calling them: Based on 2 round-trips of 60 feet equals about 200 steps.
  • Take the stairs: Taking the stairs causes more caloric expenditure than walking on a flat surface, and one flight equals about 15 steps.
  • Walk your pet: Walking around the block equals about 1,000 steps.

These are easy ways to add a few hundred steps to your day; pick and choose all, one, or something else. The goal is to go at your pace and to do what you like; anything else will just lead to a decline in program adherence until you ultimately quit. The steps you need are all around you, and if you look hard enough I guarantee you can find the time and energy to take an extra step.

Topics: employee health walking employee wellness fitness healthy habits staying active physical activity counting steps