Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

What Happened When I Stopped Doing Cardio; Increased Strength Training

ThinkstockPhotos-80699669.jpgSix months ago, a friend dared me to give up cardio for three months and focus on strength training. My initial response was, “No way! I’m a runner, I’ve always been a runner. There is no better exercise than running!” My friend was relentless and eventually I agreed to take a brief hiatus, although I was convinced that I would turn into a mushy ball of goo if I didn’t get in my daily run.

How I Changed My Workouts

Fast-forward six months. During this time, I’ve followed a low-impact exercise routine, which includes four days of low-impact strength activities such as yoga, one day of cardio, and one day of heavy weightlifting. And I have to say, the results are completely the opposite of what I expected.

How the Change Affected How I Look and Feel

What happened when I stopped doing cardio:

  • I gained 10 pounds, but my body measurements decreased. This was perhaps the most surprising change that I noticed. Muscle tissue takes up much less space than fat. After nearly six months of strength training, I’ve added 10 pounds to my frame and my clothes are fitting better than ever—not to mention it feels good to look in the mirror.
  • My energy levels skyrocketed. There is a reason why running burns so many calories: It’s HARD work! And when your body works that hard, you’re going to feel fatigued. Even if you sleep seven to eight hours a night, the physical strain of high mileage takes a toll on the body. I must admit that my energy levels are higher than they’ve ever been, even though I have a 5am alarm to fit in my exercise before work. In fact, I feel more fatigued on the days I don’t exercise!
  • I’m not as hungry. This was a “well DUH” moment for me. Many people tend to focus on the calorie-burning power of running without stopping to think that your body will want to replace all those calories. Several weeks after I stopped running, I noticed that I had a much easier time regulating my food intake. I didn’t need to eat as much, but I felt fuller with the foods I did eat.
  • I’ve noticed improvements in other areas of physical fitness. Previously, I was focused on distance, time, and miles. To me, a run wasn’t “a run” unless I ran at least four miles. Now I’m focused on how many pushups I can do with proper form (I’m getting close to 30!), how long I can hold a plank (nearly five minutes!), and how many pullups I can do (well, let’s just say I’m still working on this one).
  • I have fewer injuries. Focusing on low-impact exercise and strength training has helped my body recover from more than two decades of intense, running-focused exercise programs. My legs no longer ache if I stand for more than an hour. My tight hip flexors are starting to relax, particularly as I focus on improving the flexibility and strength of my hamstrings and glutes.

In sum, to everyone out there who is worried about limiting their cardio because they don’t want to risk gaining weight, try it for three to four months. You might just be surprised at how different you feel and the gains you make!

Looking to help your employees move more?  

Check out our free download below for more information on how to add exercise to your worksite!

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*Weight loss claims or individiual results vary and are not guaranteed.

Topics: running NIFS cardio strength training yoga weightlifting

What If: There Were More than One Class of Elite Performers at Work?

Throughout 2015, we’ll be blogging about our dreams for corporate wellness, fitness, and aging well. Some of the content will represent a gentle “poking fun” at the industry, but it’s all written to stimulate thought about what really could be if we put our heads together and started mapping out what’s really possible in the realm of individual wellbeing. We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about which topics to explore, and by finding us on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

Businesses need top performers in order to survive. We need sales staff who are heavy hitters, research staff who are actually rocket scientists, and customer service professionals who can turn any frown upside down. You know who those folks are in your organization, that top 5% of all performers. In some cases, they might be unsung heroes, but at a lot of businesses, the best among us are often publicly lauded. They are the elite.

Changing the Definition of “Elite”

Not everyone can fit into that narrow industry-specific definition of elite. But maybe, if business leaders opened their minds about what counts as elite, we could have more than one class of top-tier performers.

What if you didn’t have to exceed your sales quota to be considered among the elite at your worksite? Don’t get me wrong. You’d still have to work really hard. After all, becoming top tier is definitely hard work. Some would say rising to the top requires strength, agility, and grace under stress.

Rollerblading_woman_ThinkstockPhotos-476542628According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found one way to get into the top 5% is to sweat. In their analysis of the American Time Use survey, they concluded that only 1 in 20 Americans engages in vigorous exercise (the kind that makes you sweat) on any given day. 

That’s right, a paltry 5% of us are working hard enough to actually sweat when we work out.

What Does This Have to Do with Employee Health? 

The way to sustained weight loss toward a healthy weight is through a healthy diet combined with prolonged cardiovascular exercise (45 to 60 minutes) at least five days per week. Employers: If you want a workforce that is at a healthier body weight, you have to (among other things) create an environment that supports and provides opportunities for your employees to work out hard enough to sweat. You need to build a corporate health culture that supports breaking a sweat in your worksite fitness center, or through another avenue of the employee’s choice.

Certainly, there’s more to individual well-being than being physically fit. But I wonder how many employees hold back on working out because of their environment (lack of access, lack of support). What if businesses publicly rewarded the exercising (aka sweaty) elite alongside the elite sales force and recognized the importance of employee health and fitness?

Download our whitepaper for tips on adding exercise to your worksite wellness program. 

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Topics: corporate fitness weight management corporate fitness centers cardio employee health and fitness health culture what if

Corporate Fitness Center: The Other Side

young couple working outGenerally speaking, there are 3 “sections” to each fitness center. On one side, you have the cardio area. On the other side is the resistance area. And somewhere in the corporate fitness center is usually a group exercise room. The latter can be used for just about anything so we’ll leave that alone for the time being. That leaves us with the cardio and resistance areas.

When you walk into the fitness center, who do you see in these areas? Women jogging on the treadmills (cardio) and men lifting weights (resistance), right? But why? It makes no sense! If you get a general consensus of the various goals of each gender, you’ll come up with a list that probably resembles something similar to this:

Female Goals                                               Male Goals

Lose Weight                                                  Get Stronger

Tone Up                                                        Get Ripped

So now you’re thinking, “What’s the problem? That looks about right to me. Why wouldn’t they be in their respective areas if these are their goals?”

This is why.

Women: Chances are you are probably already relatively thin. You may only need to lose another 10 lbs. or so. Well guess what, you’re not going to tone any trouble spots (i.e. that muffin top or bingo arm) by walking on the treadmill for 2 hours. You have to put those things to work! Get over on the resistance side and do some squats and work those triceps with some pushups. (And yes, you can do squats and pushups.) Cardio is, in fact, good for burning fat and you should continue doing it. But at this point you need to get the majority of your cardio through resistance training.

Men: You’ve been doing the bench press and bicep curls for 20+ years now. Let’s give it a rest. The strength is there, it’s just that fat is hiding it. Your fat is selfish. It wants to keep those muscles to itself. Well I say NO! It’s time to unleash your muscles to the world. Jump on the treadmill for a half hour. Go for a bike ride. Get that cardio in b/c yes, we can tell you’re strong, but we can also tell you like a good beer. I’m pretty sure you want people thinking your wife is pregnant, not you. Continue your resistance training, but get your heart rate up already and do some cardio.

So the next time you go to the gym ladies and gentleman, give the other side a try. You’ll be amazed.

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Topics: cardio health and wellness goal setting Fitness Center muscle endurance

Free Workout Friday: Weight-Loss Circuit

Free Workout Friday

It’s Good Friday! That means two more days until we find ourselves seated around the Easter dinner table, snacking on chocolate eggs, and getting second helpings of ham.

It’s important to remember that even though physical activity is important to overall health and weight-loss or maintenance, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. A person may be able to burn roughly 300 calories for a 3-mile run or 30 minutes on the elliptical, but it is very easy to consume 300 calories in just a handful of candy, a large soda, or a coffee drink with added flavors and whipped cream.

As you try your best to maintain healthy eating patterns around the holiday, try this weight-loss circuit to help shed calories before (and after) the big feast. Alternating cardio exercises with higher-impact or combination strength moves will keep your heart rate elevated throughout the entire workout, thus burning more calories!

Complete 45 seconds of each exercise, allowing 15 seconds of recovery time in between each exercise. Try not to rest for more than the allotted 15 seconds in order to keep the heart rate up. Repeat the circuit 3 times through for a jam-packed 24-minute workout! Watch our short video for exercise demonstrations!

  1. Butt kicks
  2. Squat, bicep curl, shoulder press
  3. Line jumps
  4. Rolling medicine ball push-ups
  5. High knees
  6. Side lunge with upright row (switch sides halfway through)
  7. Plank jacks
  8. Plié squat with overhead medicine ball swing

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Topics: weight loss weight management Free Workout Friday cardio calories strength training high-intensity workouts

Pick Your Arthritis Battles: How Exercise Can Help

Arthritis. When you exercise, it hurts. When you don’t exercise, it hurts. This widespread issue is affecting people of all different ages and driving these arthritis sufferers right to the couch. It just hurts no matter what, so what should you do? Pick your battles.

I understand that it’s painful and can leave you hesitant to do anything to potentially worsen the ache, but doing nothing at all will certainly not help. In fact, it will make it worse. You cannot let arthritis get in the way of your quality of life. 

I’ve spoken with people everywhere along the spectrum, from those in slight pain and avoiding any activity to those who are bone on bone but keep moving along. I am in no way recommending the “no pain, no gain” rule, but I am encouraging you to get active in order to increase the longevity of your joints.

For Arthritis, It’s Better to Stay Active than to “Baby” Your Joints

Your joints will love you so much more if you choose moving over “babying.” Don’t believe me? Check this out: Exercise strengthens the muscles surrounding that arthritic joint, which can reduce pain and improve the joint’s mechanics. It also compresses and releases cartilage, which brings oxygen to the joints.

So, now you’re looking at not only decreased pain and postponing surgery, but you’re also improving your overall health. Plus, if surgery is required, you will drastically speed your recovery. Is this starting to sound like a win-win?

Top 4 Exercise Types for Arthritis

Now you’re wondering, “But what exercises can I do?” There’s a plethora, but before I give you my list, I will tell you the most important factor: alignment, alignment, alignment! Please check with your senior fitness specialist to make sure you’re in a proper alignment while performing exercises. This helps minimize strain on the joints and will make a world of difference! After I correct my own clients’ alignment, they look at me like I’m a miracle worker. (Spoiler alert: I am not.)

dealing with arthritisNow, on to my list of the top 4 arthritis-friendly exercise modes:

  • Low-impact cardio: These heart-happy exercises are easy on the joints and will burn a lot of calories. Popular machines for this include ellipticals, bicycles, and rowing machines.
  • Aquatic exercise: Not a great swimmer? No problem! There’s a lot more that you can do in the water. It’s also very kind to your joints. The buoyancy reduces stress on the joints and spine, and provides resistance without equipment.
  • Yoga: Yoga is an excellent way to strengthen and lengthen the body. Both are essential in improving alignment, which is critical in taking the strain and stress off of your joints. Try out a class before you pop in a DVD at home. That way, the instructor can see your position and guide you if needed.
  • Tai chi: This traditional style of Chinese martial arts includes slow, controlled movements, which put little force on the joints, to improve balance, strength, and flexibility. Like yoga, try a class first to get some feedback from an instructor.

Learn more about arthritis and how to alleviate the symptoms by searching articles at Discovery Health and Lifescript.

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Topics: exercise swimming cardio arthritis joint health senior fitness yoga

Free Workout Friday: March Madness Workout

Free Workout FridayYou don’t have to be a collegiate athlete to join in the fun of NCAA’s March Madness! The tournament is now in full swing. You may be glued to the TV and swept up in “bracketology,” but you can use the half-time breaks to sneak in a quick workout!

Cardio is important for basketball or any sport that involves constant running up and down a court or field. Quick reaction time is also important for basketball players so that they can capitalize on rebounds and open holes in the opposing team’s defense. As for strength training, developing power in the legs for jumping is crucial as well as building upper-body strength for long passes and three-point shots.

The following exercises are similar to those that basketball athletes use to help them train for the big game. But they are a fun challenge for anyone! View the video below for exercise demonstrations.

  1. Basketball single-leg squat
  2. Basketball push-ups
  3. Basketball lunges (side to right and crossover to left)
  4. Medicine ball squat throws
  5. Medicine ball slams

The NCAA Men’s Final Four takes place in Atlanta this year, with the championship game on April 8. The Women’s Final Four will happen in New Orleans, with their final game taking place on April 9. For more information about March Madness, click here!

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Topics: Free Workout Friday fitness cardio strength training

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

free workout fridayAre you ready to make a change in your life? Have you been busy with a career or raising a family and put working out on the back burner? Most people’s activity level tends to significantly decrease in their 30s and 40s, and it only continues from there. It’s time to focus on you and spend just a few minutes each day doing something for yourself.

I understand this is easier said than done, so I’ve created a workout to get you started that can be done in your own home with no equipment required. All you need is an open space on the floor. This workout is designed to be challenging but not impossible. Do what you can and work your way up to going through it all, and eventually go through it twice!  View the video for a brief demonstration for the exercises in the workout below.

Beginner cardio circuit workout:

  • 1 minute straight leg kicks (travel as you do them if you have the space; otherwise do them stationary)
  • 1 minute high knees (travel if you have the space; otherwise do them stationary)
  • 1 minute walking or stationary (alternating legs) lunges
  • 1 minute recover/rest
  • 1 minute skater lunges
  • 1 minute mountain climbers
  • 30 seconds split jumps
  • 30 seconds froggers
  • 1 minute recover/rest
  • 30 seconds modified push-ups
  • 1 minute lateral hops (feet together)
  • 1 minute forward and back hops
  • 30 seconds modified push-ups
  • 30 seconds knee tucks
  • 1 minute recover/rest
  • 30 seconds center plank (modified if need be)
  • 30 seconds side plank (modified if need be) on each side
  • 30 seconds center plank (modified if need be)
  • 1 minute straight leg kicks (traveling or stationary)

This workout can be done with modifications or added intensity if you are up for the challenge! This is intended to be done two to three times a week in combination with other forms of physical activity and a healthy diet. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and stretch at the end of every workout.

Topics: corporate fitness exercise at home Free Workout Friday cardio staying active

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout FridayIt’s easy, when walking and talking with friends or coworkers, to follow their lead and get on the elevator. Time for a change? Try being the leader and lead them toward the stairs instead of the elevator. Not only will you get where you’re going faster by taking the stairs, but you will also burn more calories throughout the day.

February is "Take the Stairs" month, so try to break the habit of using elevators! You have the power to persuade others to take the stairs and become more active.

Not only is it good to take the stairs when you have the choice, but it’s also good to incorporate stairs into your workouts. If you have stairs in your house or at the gym, that is great! But not everyone has that option, so you can resort to a stair climber or stair stepper. Most gyms have a cardio machine that simulates going up stairs.

Incorporating stairs will help to improve your aerobic conditioning and lower-body strength. Try this indoor workout during the winter months and look around for a set of stairs you can use outdoors when it’s nice outside.

  • Jog in place for 3 minutes to warm up
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 3 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 20 squat hops
  • 5 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • Jump rope for 3 minutes
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 20 squat hops
  • 5 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • Jump rope for 3 minutes
  • 5 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • Walk a lap around the fitness center/house to cool down

Legs burning? That’s okay. Your lower body will thank you for trying something new and incorporating more stairs!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness exercise at home Free Workout Friday cardio calories

NIFS: January Class of the Month - Bodycombat

Written by Tara Deal, NIFS Group Fitness Instructor.

Les Mills Body CombatIf you are new to group fitness, or new to the Les Mills program, then the term “Bodycombat” may sound a bit intimidating.  If you have attended even just one Bodycombat class, then you know that this intense cardio workout focuses on utilizing mixed martial arts moves such as punches and kicks to strengthen the entire body.

 

NIFS Body CombatThis past Tuesday, January 8, NIFS hosted an Intro to Bodycombat class for newcomers, beginners, and anyone who wanted to understand a little bit more about what was going on behind the punch.  There was a wide variety of people attending the class, and everyone walked of off the court with a better understanding of how to properly execute the various punches, kicks, blocks and other mixed martial arts moves.  

The class began with a group warm-up to get everyone moving and comfortable with the space on the gym floor.  We then broke down the Bodycombat workout into smaller manageable pieces of just upper body exercises and then lower body exercises.  We were able to learn the proper technique for all of the basic punches and kicks, and then apply the new and perfected techniques we learned to actual Bodycombat tracks in a shortened class.

NIFS Body CombatBodycombat is for everyone at a moderate-intermediate fitness level, and the moves are simple so little coordination is required!  When you attend a regular Bodycombat class, you should expect to be led by your instructor through the martial arts moves drawn from various disciplines such as karate, taekwondo, tai chi, and muy thai while moving to the beat of heart pounding music.   At the end of the class, you will feel strong, empowered, and slightly invincible.  

Like all of the Les Mills classes, a new release of music and exercises is released every three months to keep your body guessing, keep the workout interesting, and keep your body in top-notch condition.

No equipment is needed for this class, just the warrior within, a towel for your sweat, and a water bottle. 

Make sure to join Tasha and Emily for Bodycombat classes on Mondays at 5:30pm and Wednesdays at 6:35pm on the auxiliary court at NIFS Fitness Center in Indianapolis.

 

Topics: group exercise NIFS fitness cardio les mills martial arts

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout FridayPeople everywhere are always searching for the best, most modern training device that will produce great results in the least amount of time. It is likely that you’ve tried the latest craze, yet you’re still searching for something more. Ironically, you may already own one of the most inexpensive yet effective training devices: the jump rope.

Getting Fit with a Jump Rope

It sounds old-fashioned, and it is. However, the jump rope is making a comeback in gyms and fitness centers everywhere. What began as a schoolyard game has progressed to recreational use and is now evolving into competitive sports training for all levels. Whether used as a warm-up or training, there is room for jumping rope in every workout. Benefits include upper- and lower-body coordination, muscular endurance, balance, and agility.

Jumping rope tones muscles, improves cardiovascular fitness, and burns calories all at the same time. Jim Zielinski, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Illinois, endorses jump rope in the September 2011 issue of Training and Conditioning magazine. “The activity can achieve a “burn rate” of up to 1,000 calories per hour. That means jumping rope for 10 minutes is roughly equivalent, calorie-wise, to running an eight-minute mile.”

How to Start a Jump-Rope Workout

The best way to begin a jump-rope workout, like any new program, is with correct form. Grasp the handles and start by swinging the rope to your side without jumping. Next, without the rope, practice small jumping movements, barely lifting off the ground. Finally, put the two movements together. When done correctly, jumping rope while staying high on your toes can involve less pounding on knee and ankle joints than jogging.

H  Images jump rope resized 600There is never a better time to start than now. Pick up a jump rope and try this FREE workout.

Complete 5 rounds of the below exercises for a total of 15 minutes.

Basic Jump: 1 minute

Rest: 30 seconds

Alt. High Knees: 1 minute

Rest  30 seconds

Challenge: How long will it take you to complete 500 total jumps?! (Count to 500 and time yourself and record)

 

Topics: exercise at work exercise corporate fitness exercise at home Free Workout Friday cardio balance