Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Stephanie Kaiser

Recent Posts by Stephanie Kaiser:

NIFS Personal Fitness Quest Program Participant: Cheryl Kussow

members_speak.jpgNIFS would like to highlight Cheryl Kussow, who recently completed NIFS Personal Fitness Quest program at one of our client sites. This program takes new members through a goal-setting session, pre- and post-fitness assessment, and 8 weeks of one-on-one training sessions with an Exercise Specialist. These sessions are focused on tailoring their experience to meet their specific goals and lifestyle to pave the best path forward when beginning their exercise program in their corporate fitness facility.

Read about how Cheryl has benefited from the Personal Fitness Quest through improvement in her overall health and fitness level, managing her injuries during exercise, and perhaps the most impressive feat of crossing the finish line in her recent 30-mile benefit hike!


I recently went back to work as a Computer System Validation Specialist and Project Manager after being home for many years with my children and working in a nonprofit. Going back to work full time was a new challenge as I tried to balance my work, family, friends, and fitness. Unfortunately, my fitness took the biggest hit.

However, I would not have traded that time at home as 4.5 years ago, my then 12-year-old son was diagnosed with Wilms kidney cancer. His life was saved through sports, strangely enough, as a hit in the side with a lacrosse stick sent us for a revealing CAT scan that identified this unknown tumor. Through surgery and chemo, my son Seth used his dedication and willpower he learned in sports to get through this difficult time. In fact, a Make-a-Wish trip to the Pro Bowl was one of the biggest motivations that kept his spirits up (and meeting a bunch of Packers and Colts players!).

Sports were the center of his life, and I decided that fitness needed to take a stronger priority in mine too, so I could continue to enjoy my family and all of the fun family hiking/camping vacations around the USA we took. My husband and I also made a commitment to raising money, not only for Make-a-Wish but also for CureSearch, which provides funding for pediatric cancer research and resources for families. To do this, we signed up for the CureSearch Ultimate Hike, a one-day, 30-mile hike on the Tecumseh Trail in southern Indiana (and other sites around the USA), blending both goals together. October 3 was hike day, and I had some work to do to get in shape!


As I mentioned above, I wanted to improve my fitness for myself and to prepare for a long hike. I was walking 9 miles a week and doing some cardio classes, but did not feel that would be sufficient. One of my main goals was to incorporate more strength training. I have always felt less confident in doing strength training—knowing the best exercises, how to do them correctly, and knowing how much weight to use. Often at other gyms I previously attended, the cost was prohibitive or the trainers were very critical and viewed you as “unfit” if you were not in super shape or thin. Stephanie created a great positive atmosphere to reach my goals through personal training.


First, Stephanie, my trainer, did a great job in understanding my goals—specifically that I wanted to successfully hike 30 miles in one day and get stronger, but also that I had a few injuries to work around, too. She modified exercises as needed and really worked with me to improve my weaker areas, especially ones related to hiking long distances and up and down hills. One of the best parts about working with her, though, was I felt I made a new friend, too, in our conversations during training. Even though I am done officially training with her, I can ask her for help when I am working out in the gym; she has encouraged me to try other classes, keeps me accountable when she hasn’t seen me, and even can tell when I may need to modify an exercise if I am struggling. It is great not to feel judged or silly asking questions about how to use a particular piece of equipment. She is very patient and explains exercises well.


During the program and the training I did on my own, I improved my fitness greatly as evidenced by my improved strength, weight (15 pounds) and inches lost, balance, and ankle and core stability. I also felt it helped me reduce my stress and make healthier food choices. I felt that I could be fit and full of energy.

Of course the huge goal I had set with my husband was also achieved. Hiking 30 miles in 14 hours on a hilly trail in the dark, cold, and rain for much of the day was a challenge but a success. We also raised over $5,600 personally, and the hike as a whole raised over $90,000 for pediatric cancer. It was incredibly emotional, inspirational, and spiritual (and, well, occasionally painful!) event, although I recovered quickly after the hike.

My knee did start bothering me going down hills for some time in the middle and I slowed down quite a lot, but I was determined to finish. Advil, adrenaline, conditioned muscles, and the power of prayer kicked in, and all of a sudden I was pain free and started booking. I just had to think about the moms on the hike who had lost children to cancer, or I thought about God’s blessing of my son Seth’s survival and how he powered through all he had to endure. Had you asked me before, though, if I would have ever thought I could hike that far, I don’t think I would have had that confidence without the training and encouragement I received by participating in this program. It is amazing that through training and hiking, my new friends and I were able to help fund critical cancer research and get in shape too!


Having a time set every week to meet and exercise was critical as I find that accountability very important for my motivation. In fact, now that we don’t have our regularly scheduled time as my eight sessions are up, I have to find some other ways to make sure I don’t push the commitment away. Luckily the gym has also had a few other mini incentive programs to help keep us active, and I have also had a chance to meet others in the gym, which helps. I like having that social interaction. Having someone to work out with you either as a trainer coaching you individually or with others in a class keeps me working hard (It would be way too easy to give up if I was on my own!).


I encourage everyone to set goals in both your life and your fitness plans and seek others to help you on that journey to wellness. The blessings of strength you can gain can then be used as a blessing to others!

~ Cheryl Kussow

Interested in how you can do better in your corporate fitness center? Download our quick read for three tips for a successful corporate fitness center for your employees.

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Topics: corporate fitness walking motivation NIFS accountability Personal Fitness Quest personal training

Change Your Commuting Habits for Improved Employee Health

Depending on where you live, if you drive yourself to work, your daily commute could be up to 90 minutes each way. The average American will spend 25 minutes commuting to work according to U.S. census data. Unfortunately, this is taking its toll on your overall health in more ways than the obvious: accumulating even more minutes of sitting throughout your day.

Let’s talk about what is really happening to your health as you are driving yourself to and from work each day, and what you can do about minimizing those negative effects by replacing them with positive habits you can incorporate into your commute.

Traffic Jams, Weather Delays, Road Rage = Another Opportunity for Stress!

ThinkstockPhotos-178516386.jpgThere are things that happen on our commute that we did not plan on that put us behind on our already hectic schedules or just annoy us. It is easy to become anxious when these things happen and start or end the day with added stress from the experience. The truth is these things are typically 100% out of your control, so this should not be a source of stress.

Next time you find yourself in this situation, simply take a few deep breaths. According to the American Institute of Stress, to decrease the damaging effects of stress on the body you should take focused and intentional deep breaths. This will allow you to truly relax by decreasing your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, thus decreasing your overall response to the added stress.

Commuting Can Be a Pain…Seriously

When you have to sit for long periods of time, make sure you are sitting correctly. This comes back to ergonomics, but setting up your car to meet your needs has many elements to consider. The USDA APHIS Ergonomics Program does an excellent job of teaching you how to set up your driver’s seat properly as well as the risks associated with not setting it up correctly: increasing your risks for low back pain, neck strains, and many other common musculoskeletal injuries. Take a few minutes to properly adjust your vehicle to prevent these issues from occurring.

The Link Between Longer Commutes and Increased Prevalence of Obesity, High Blood Pressure, and Low Cardiovascular Fitness

Research from Washington University has shown a high correlation between longer commutes and increased prevalence of various health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, obesity, and high blood pressure. An obvious way to combat this is to ride your bike or walk to work, but realistically this is not always possible for many adults. Sometimes the commute is simply too long, or the city you are working in does not have the infrastructure to support this.

When commuting by foot or bike is not possible, it is even more important to find time for physical activity at some point during the day to help minimize these risks. One way that you can do this is to use a fitness facility on your way to or from work. This is a great option because not only will it allow you to access activity, but it will break up the time you are spending in your vehicle. 

Take This as an Opportunity to Make Time for Your Well-Being

If you have the option of using public transportation, your options here can be endless! One study has shown that people who use active travel (walking, public transportation, and biking) compared to those who drive themselves to work report higher levels of positive well-being. If active travel is not an option, maybe you enjoy listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts, or just being alone with your thoughts. The commute can provide a great opportunity to do these things. Many take this time as an opportunity to learn more in an area that they are interested in but just can’t seem to find the time to do, or to simply just unwind from their hectic schedules.

Although the commute is likely not your favorite part of your day, it does not have to completely derail your employee health if you take these things into consideration. Take a few minutes this week and reflect on your commute and think about where you may be able to incorporate some of these healthy habits to improve upon and maintain your good health.

Consider how you can provide better wellness and fitness services to your employee, click below for ideas from NIFS.

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Topics: biking walking stress health staying active sitting high blood pressure

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

Make Time for Micro Breaks from Sitting in the Office

Everyone has been told that a sedentary work environment will put you at an increased risk for a variety of health and ergonomic issues. However, it may not always be possible for you to leave your desk and go for an extended walk a few times a day due to the nature of your job. If this sounds like you or the majority of your employees, it’s time to introduce micro breaks to your workday routine.

A micro break is a short break that allows the mind and body to reset. It is important to understand that micro breaks do not replace your daily workout or having a workstation that has been set up to meet your ergonomic needs, but they should be incorporated if you have a desk job. There are more opportunities than you probably realize to take advantage of a time to squeeze a micro break into your day. 

Just Stand

You may be surprised by how often you can actually do your work from a standing position. A few ways that you can incorporate standing without disrupting your work are to take phone calls or read over documents. If you have the opportunity to have a sit-to-stand desk, you should definitely request to have one put into place. Standing all day is not good either, so being able to switch back and forth between sitting and standing is ideal in a desk environment. Make it a goal to stand up once every 30 minutes, even if it’s just for 30 seconds.

Yoga at workLook Away from the Computer Screen

Yes, computer vision syndrome is a real thing. It is critical to exercise your eyes if you stare at a screen all day. Techniques such as palming your eyes, moving your eyes in various directions, and taking time out to focus on items at varying distances are a few of the techniques that you can incorporate to give your eyes a beneficial rest from screen time. If your eyes have been locked to your screen for more than two hours, you are past due for one of these breaks.


If you perform repetitive actions (including sitting and typing) throughout your day, you need to be completing appropriate exercises that counteract your repetitive movement to prevent overuse injuries. The National Institutes of Health provides a great resource of exercises to meet your specific needs. If you feel a brain block coming on, take a few minutes to do a few exercises and you will likely find your brain block is gone when you return to your work.

Make an Effort to Move Often

Send your print material to a printer across the floor, walk to an co-worker’s desk instead of sending them an email, fill your water bottle on another floor, and do anything that you can think of to have a legitimate reason to get up and sneak in a few extra steps around the office throughout the day. You will feel less stressed and your joints will appreciate the movement, even if you can only walk for a few minutes.

Next time you find yourself stuck at your desk for too long, try these tips for increased workplace wellness!

Interested in offering more wellness opportunities for your employees?  Download our ebook for a program that will help get your workforce moving.  Click Below!

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Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work sitting