Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Roxanne Musselman

Recent Posts by Roxanne Musselman:

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

12 Days of Fitness: Keep Participants Active During the Holidays

When it comes to the holidays, everyone seems to be short on everything: time, money, patience, you name it. We are, however, enjoying longer lines and longer wait times! With all of this in mind, fitness can easily be put on the back burner. There are parties to attend, various people to shop for, and light shows to see, so it’s safe to say that spending hours at the gym is not something most people are doing this time of year. Now come January, that’s a different story!

snowmanPutting a Fitness Spin on a Holiday Tradition

Our staff have found various ways of putting a fitness spin on an old holiday tradition. It’s a program called the 12 Days of Fitness, and it works really well to get people moving during this busy season. When you think of 12 days, it doesn’t seem like a long time—and frankly, that’s exactly the point! Yet, 12 days of burning calories, educating people, and having some fun can have a positive impact for the participants.

We’ve had several sites record a 100% completion rate for this program, and we think the key to success is making each day count with simple but impactful activities and including something that is truly encouraging for the participants.

12 Tips for Creating a Holiday Fitness Program

 Below are our 12 best tips for how you can create your own fun and effective 12 Days of Fitness program.

  1. Offer quick yet challenging workouts since time is of the essence during the holidays. Short 10 to 20-minute classes or challenges will get people in and out. Tis the season to be efficient and effective!
  2. Let’s face it: prizes both pull people in and keep them coming back. Have a daily drawing or a daily competition where one prize is offered on each day of the program. Keep the prizes health and fitness related to further emphasize a healthy outlook.
  3. Hosting lunchtime classes or activities gives associates an alternative to those not-so-healthy holiday luncheons or parties. The potential for binging is everywhere; why not create your 12 Days of Fitness as a respite for employees looking for a healthier escape? 
  4. Get creative with classes or activities that you offer. Provide the participants with exercises they can easily do at home, or offer new and exciting ones to keep them out of an exercise rut. You might try dance-style classes or incorporate an exercise scavenger hunt in your facility.
  5. Use the program as a learning experience. Show participants healthy recipes or even host a healthy holiday party offering samples of modified or low-calorie snacks, appetizers, main dishes, and drinks.
  6. Make participants accountable. Post the exercise or activity of the day and require that the staff sign off when it has been completed. 
  7. Encourage associates who work at home to participate. Send them emails with exercise pictures or video demonstrations. It’s important for people to know they always have time to squeeze some activity into their day no matter where they are located.
  8. If you’re focused on getting employees into your corporate fitness center, require that some of the exercises and activities be performed in the facility. This also gives you a chance to see and speak with the participants.
  9. Incorporate stress reduction and relaxation into the program. You can do this by offering educational materials on these topics, or more interactive things like hosting a free yoga class or 10-minute chair massages.
  10. Add a personal touch. Send out emails or make phone calls to check in with participants who have missed a day or one of the required activities or exercises.
  11. Incorporate teamwork into the program. Similar to our Maintain Not Gain program, working with a partner can increase the chances of success. You can do this in the classes you offer; you can require a partner for certain exercises, or even add a referral component where participants encourage nonmembers to join and participate.
  12. Celebrate their accomplishment! Being successful is key, but everyone can feel a sense of accomplishment if managed correctly. Besides the daily drawings, offer all successful participants something at the end of the program. This can be a prize, but it can also be wrapping the successful participants’ names around some lights and words of encouragement for all to see. Make your participants feel proud of sticking to a healthy routine during the holidays. They’ll surely thank you later, and might even ask for more programs like

If you’re not offering a holiday program, this just might be your key to keeping participation numbers up and the pounds and stress levels down. Use some of the above ideas for developing your own 12 Days of Fitness and see what kind of difference you can make this season.

Corporate Fitness Services

Topics: engagement best practice program planning

Corporate Wellness: Tipping the scale with NIFS Maintain Not Gain program – part 2

group_weighIn the first section of this blog, we outlined some of the core elements that frame Maintain Not Gain.  They’re the pieces that give the program its powerful punch:  it’s team-based, with a little grace, and big time visibility. In part two, we’re going to dive into the facts and see how the program actually works.

It’s not enough to set up a great program where participants form teams, then sign up with the best of intentions, and weigh in on a gigantic scale.  It simply doesn’t guarantee their success.  We take very seriously that it is our job to educate the participants, to motivate them and to provide constant reminders and reinforcements that they CAN be successful at maintaining their weight.   We provide that support in a variety of ways such as:

  • Weekly emails. Over the years we’ve changed the topics, added emails about current trends, low-fat recipes, stress tips.  You name it, we’ve touched on it.   In fact, we’d written so many emails over the years for this program that we started wondering about their effectiveness.  So in 2012, we evaluated the program and asked participants what other topics would they like to see in the weekly emails. We were expecting to hear about new exciting topics to cover for the next year but what we discovered was that people still wanted to know about the basics; blood pressure, BMI, diabetes, cholesterol, etc. You would think by now with the internet, the news, health magazines, Dr. Oz, the constant feed of this kind of information, that people would be sick of it and know it by heart.  For our audiences, that was not the case. So, for our 2013 weekly emails we covered the basics again meeting the requests of our participants.
  • Nutrition education.  We know that our members seem to have an insatiable appetite for health education.  In particular, they routinely ask about nutrition.  Our staff constantly get asked about food, drinks, supplements, fad diets, cleanses, juicing, etc.  Turns out, when we asked our participants if they felt the food in their corporate environment was supportive of their Maintain Not Gain goals over the holidays, 15% said no. While we weren’t happy with that percentage, we used that information to communicate with department leads about making different options when providing food for their departments. We have been able to suggest alternatives such as a less calorie dense yogurt bar filled with fruits, granola and healthy toppings, providing smoothies or even bagels made from whole grains and low-fat cream cheese. We’ve also worked with cafeteria vendors so they can put together a healthier spread if they provide the breakfast, lunches or snacks for departments.

The Numbers Tell The Story

We’ve surveyed participants regularly throughout many offerings of the program.  We’ve learned a lot from the data about how we can provide a better program, and we’ve also learned about what participants are gaining from their efforts:

  •  90% of the participants said Maintain Not Gain has positively influenced their lifestyle choices for the duration of the program.
  •  72% of those who responded said that they were able to reduce their calorie consumption
  • 56% said they increased their daily activity
  • 60% said they ate healthier at holiday parties, and
  • 30% said they reduced the fat in their own recipes.

The biggest reason we’ve been running this program for so long is because it works.  From the participants we surveyed, 87% were successful in avoiding any holiday weight gain and 97% said they will participate next year if the program is offered.

Not only have our participants maintained their weight but we also have many participants who actually LOSE a few pounds. That’s quite impressive over the holidays. In 2013, with one client, we had 2,242 associates sign up for Maintain Not Gain and 1,780 of those participants were successful in maintaining their weight over the holidays. That’s an 80% success rate. Bottom line, we are tipping the scales in the RIGHT direction with our Maintain Not Gain program.

NIFS Best Practices Corporate

Topics: employee wellness Corporate Best Practices,

Corporate Wellness: Tipping the scale with NIFS Maintain Not Gain program – part 1

MNG_LogoThere is more to maintaining your weight over the year-end holiday season than simply weighing in before Thanksgiving and weighing out after New Year’s Day.  Still, before we go off the deep end with ridiculous claims about holiday or year-end weight gain, let’s get the facts.  Despite common claims that traditional holiday weight gain is seven pounds or more, the research shows that people typically only gain one to two pounds during the holidays.  The problem with that minimal gain is that studies show many people never get those extra few pounds back off and, over the course of an adult lifetime, what once seemed like inconsequential weight gain can become a significant health issue.   It’s also worth nothing that at least one study  found that adults who are already overweight are more likely to gain five pounds or more during the holiday season.

Given that there’s an appetite to maintain weight during the party-going-season that is the holidays, many business have folded holiday weight loss or weight maintenance challenges into their annual programming.  NIFS, in fact, has been offering our Maintain Not Gain program to our clients for more than 12 years.  And we think we’ve gotten pretty good at it, but our offering is done with a few different, but powerful twists. 

The Power of the Team

You see, we understand the impact of social networks on weight gain; we also know that teamwork can impact weight loss.  So rather than leaving participants to fend for themselves against their natural networks who may be inadvertently working against them, we decided to opt for the team approach.  It doesn’t take pounds of scientific papers to understand why we chose teams as the basis for participation in our Maintain Not Gain program.  If you’ve ever been on a team you know that personal responsibility and accountability increase greatly when others are depending on you for the entire team to be successful. (Do you want to let your team down because you claimed an extra slice of pecan pie and didn’t move your body enough?)

The Power of Forgivenessthanksgiving_dinner

The Maintain Not Gain program is for people, not robots.  We know what it’s really tough to make it through Thanksgiving without overeating, not to mention all the office pitch-ins, family gatherings, and sweet treats that show up deliciously wrapped and calling your name.  We also know that body weight is a dynamic number and we aren’t huge fans of putting undue attention on a single number.  So, we’ve built the program with some grace by giving each participant a two-pound variance.

As an added bonus, the program focuses only on the weight of your team.  So a four person team has an eight pound grace.  If one person gains nine pounds and everyone else loses a teeny bit, then the team can still claim success.  (Of course, we think there’s maybe some room to improve that team’s dynamic.)

The Power of Fun

This program has become such a fantastic tradition for our staff and our members.  One of the ways that some of our sites elevate the initiative is by renting a multi-person scale so all four team members can get on at once for a total weight.  In this case, we do public weigh ins and weigh outs.  It creates quite a scene as participants giggle and gasps when they see the weight of four people!

For fun, we also set up a competition where we offer prizes for the most creative team name and let all the participants decide the winner. A few of my favorites from last year were, Thin it to Win it, Jingles over Jiggles, Dreaming of a Lite Christmas, and Mission Slimpossible.

In part 2,  of this blog we’ll cover the “how to’s” of our program so that you can get busy building this promising program for your own network.

Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers

 

Topics: employee health Corporate Best Practices,