Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Why Wellness Programs Should Tackle Childhood Obesity

This blog was written by Kara Shipman. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

We’ve all heard the staggering facts: One in three children is overweight or obese. This rate is three times higher than it was 30 years ago. If these trends continue, nearly 50 percent of the child population could be obese in a matter of years. 

Why Is Childhood Obesity a Problem for Employers?

But why does childhood obesity matter to employers? Does childhood obesity even come to mind when employers think of worksite wellness? It should. Why? Because employers’ health insurance covers every member of the family up to a certain age—and that includes kids. And obese kids are at risk for a variety of complications and serious illnesses.

Making Kids Part of the Health Culture

Hot dog lunch resized 600I know it can be difficult to target programs toward children, especially if you have age restrictions at your onsite fitness center. One of the things NIFS did recently was put on a Kids' Camp, offering summer-camp–style workout sessions for children. Parents got to drop off the kids and work out at the facility while the kids had fun getting their recommended daily 60 minutes of physical activity.

When employers show that they care about the health of the entire family, they’ll appeal to the parents. This, in turn, may lead to more involvement in the corporate wellness program. Meanwhile, making kids and parents healthier helps control healthcare costs.

How do you incorporate families in your worksite wellness offerings?

Topics: corporate fitness program control healthcare costs health culture

Can Recess at Work Increase Worksite Wellness?

This blog was written by Bethany Garrity. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

According to Playreport, an international project focused on children, families and play, children in a recent study overwhelmingly preferred to play with their parents versus watching TV or getting on the Internet. Sadly, 25 percent of parents interviewed reported feeling too stressed to play with their children. Further, 45 percent of parents don't feel like they have enough time to play with their kids.

Maybe parents have forgotten hPlayground resized 600ow to play. Maybe our work-life balance is so poor that we work too hard, sleep too little, or sit too long to remember what it's like to have fun playing games. Or maybe we just need a little reminder.

Remember recess? What if your employees engaged in occasional recess at work? What if you took the concept of worksite wellness or corporate fitness programs to a whole new level and invited everyone to get crazy with a game of kickball in the parking lot. What if you hosted a Wii tournament in the cafeteria? Even better, what if you had a hula-hoop challenge or a treadmill marathon to raise money for a corporate-sponsored charity?

Maybe, just maybe, if employees remembered how to have fun being active, they could engage more at work and at home.

Have you incorporated play at work yet?  What are you waiting for?

Topics: corporate wellness employee health corporate fitness program

A Corporate Fitness Program Manager Evaluates the Shake Weight

You might have seen, or at least heard about, the Shake Weight commercial. It's that somewhat (and by "somewhat," I mean "very") suggestive ad with a woman (and now a man) shaking a spring-loaded dumbbell at chest level.

As a corporate fitness professional, when I see a new fitness Shake Weightproduct, my first instinct is to investigate further. Did I miss out on inventing yet another ingenious fitness product? Am I going to think "Why didn't I think of that?" There are a plethora of fitness products that I should have invented, including the Gliding disks, the BOSU, and the Bender Ball. Will the Shake Weight be the next product on my list?

The Claims: Strong, Toned, Ripped Arms and Chest

During my initial investigation, I found the product's claim on its website: “In just 6 minutes a day, you'll get strong, toned, ripped arms and chest.” The 2.5-pound (5 pounds for men) product has a spring on either end and is powered by your movement. It comes with an upper-body-toning DVD and an unconditional money-back guarantee.

The product promises to meet its claims through a “completely new workout technology called dynamic inertia.” According to the manufacturer of the Shake Weight, dynamic inertia (the vibration of the muscles) results in a 300 percent increase in muscle.

The Verdict: Not So Fast

A recent simulation study by LifeMOD concluded that vibration training can give us the body we have been waiting for. Keep in mind, though, that this study was not done on humans.

Although the product may have one supporting study, I still have my doubts. The arms and chest may be the most glamorous-looking muscles, but in order to have a well-functioning body, all the major muscle groups should be worked. More importantly, six minutes a day of upper-body work does not meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations of 150 minutes of aerobic activity and two or more days of strength training for all the major muscle groups.

If getting the “ripped arms and chest” that you see advertised in the commercials is the primary goal of your workout, it will take a lot more work than just shaking a weight for six minutes a day to get them. Without a balanced diet, a regular exercise program, and some hard work, it is nearly impossible to build those “ripped” muscles.

A Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

If the Shake Weight claims are true, be on the lookout for exercisers everywhere shaking things in the gym. Gone will be the days of shoulder presses, lunges, and pushups. In will be the days of shaking to create results.

In hindsight, I won't be adding the Shake Weight to my list of fitness products that I should have invented. I will stick with traditional weightlifting for now. If I feel the need to shake something for some muscle activation, I'll grab a bottle of all-natural fruit juice and shake it for six minutes before I take a drink. But hey, if the New York Jets think it's amusing enough to try out in training camp, my conclusion may be way off! 

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program corporate fitness technology

The Importance of Water for Employee Health

Water is necessary for the digestion and absorption of food. In describe the imageother words, it’s essential to life. But does everybody require the same amount of water? You always read that we need to drink eight glasses of water a day. So I did a little more research to figure out under what circumstances you would need more than that.

According to corporate fitness program consultants, you should drink more water when you

  • Are on a high-protein or high-fiber diet
  • Have an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea
  • Are more physically active
  • Are exposed to hot weather conditions

Many worksite wellness centers have handouts for more information on how much water you personally need based on several circumstances. The Mayo Clinic's website also offers some helpful guidelines.

Most people choose beverages that dehydrate them instead of drinking water. Coffee, tea, alcohol, soda, and other sugary drinks are all examples of beverages that dehydrate your body. Not only do sugary drinks cause dehydration, but they also cause you to pack on the pounds. Then you will need to spend your lunchtime going for walks or in the corporate fitness center trying to work off the extra weight.

Water is a great natural resource and it’s involved in all bodily functions, so drink up! Try to drink more water on a daily basis starting today.

Topics: corporate wellness employee health corporate fitness program

Using Music in Corporate Fitness Programs to Pump Up the Motivation

When it comes to exercising, sometimes the music selections are just as important as the physical activity. I am a self-professed music junkie, so I may be biased. But nothing ruins a workout quite like an iPod dying, a CD skipping, or just plain bad music.

Music Helps with Tempo and Motivation

MusicIn the pursuit of my Exercise Science degree, one of my college courses dealt with exercise leadership. We learned how to plan a group fitness class and manage all the dynamics that went into it, music included. We learned what tempos are best for warm-ups, which beats are motivating for the bulk of the exercise, and which styles of songs are conducive for cool-down periods.

Now, after having hands-on experience teaching group fitness in a corporate fitness center, I see how important music choices truly are. Specifically in cycling classes, instructors often lead drills to the beat of the song. Instructors will say phrases like, “One pedal per beat,” as a way of keeping cyclists at the right tempo. When it comes time for a steep hill climb or a round of sprints, nothing can be as powerful as hearing the pulsing beat of your favorite song.

Resources for Making Playlists Easily

With that said, here are a few resources, mostly online, that make music playlists easy. You can use these in corporate fitness programs as well as for your own workouts.

  • Music For Cycling: This website includes playlists for cycling, and also actual bike workouts to go along with them. Some of the playlists are themed, such as “Around the World” or “Halloween Playlist,” making for fun, easy ways to motivate your corporate fitness members.
  • Here you can purchase mp3 files of full albums geared toward certain styles of workouts—for example, running or strength training. You can download shorter albums that are great for a quick abs class, or longer playlists for extended activities like running.
  • Magazine playlists (Fitness and Shape): Shape magazine offers a monthly 30-minute playlist. The writer suggests a mix of newer pop songs as well as classic sing-alongs. Fitness magazine publishes a yearly feature in January, listing the best music for cycling, running, walking, weight training, and yoga.
  • iTunes: The iTunes music store can also be a good resource for ideas. You can search for a certain song, and often there will be a cardio remix version that makes the song more upbeat than the original. iTunes also suggests Perfect Playlists: Workout, which you can preview and download all of its songs for $9.99.  
Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program corporate fitness motivation exercise at home resources

Employee Health: The Sweatier, the Better

Here’s some good news: You do not have to meet your sales Sweatquota to be considered among the elite at your worksite wellness center. All you have to do is start breaking a sweat.

According to a study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers analyzed the American Time Use survey and concluded that only 1 in 20 Americans engages in vigorous exercise on any given day. That’s right, a paltry 5% of us are working hard enough to actually sweat when we work out.

Why is this important to employee health as well as corporate health?

The way to sustained weight loss is through a healthy diet and prolonged cardiovascular exercise (45 to 60 minutes) at least five days per week. If you want members of your workforce to reach healthier body weights, 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.

What if businesses publicly rewarded the sweaty elite alongside the sales leaders? After all, employees who can help you control healthcare costs do as much for the bottom line as those who meet their sales quotas.

Topics: exercise at work employee health corporate fitness program healthy workforce control healthcare costs

Group Exercise: Important Job Benefit for Employee Health

describe the imageGroup exercise classes are known for their high-energy environments and uplifting tunes. However, employees can gain numerous other benefits, especially if your organization provides on-site group exercise classes. And because people spend more time at work than ever before, it only makes sense to offer worksite wellness programs and onsite group exercise as a benefit to employees.

Stress Reduction and Accountability Increases

One of the benefits of worksite group exercise classes is reduced daily stress. In a world where 12-plus hours of work are shoved into an eight-hour workday, any reduction in stress is a huge help. Not only is stress reduced, but accountability and success rates increase. Who wants to miss a worksite group exercise class when the instructor and your colleagues will know you skipped out?

Mood and Morale Improvement

Not only can worksite exercise programs positively contribute to employee’s weight-loss success, but group programming can improve the mood at the office when employees are pressed to perform and produce. A well-run worksite group exercise class will allow for the sociability that employees may not otherwise receive throughout the day. Classes can also build on an element of friendly competition where participants will work harder in a group than they would push themselves on their own.

Reduced Liability

Last but not least among the benefits of group exercise is an increase in participant safety and organizational liability. Classes that are taught by a certified instructor drastically decrease the likelihood of employee injury and minimize liability for the employer.

Your employer may not offer a corporate wellness program or a corporate fitness center now. But when they realize all of the benefits for their associates and the company, I’m sure they won’t be too far behind the fitness train.

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program employee health benefits corporate fitness

Fitness Book Review: 14 Days to Wellness

14 Days to Wellness: The Easy, Effective, and Fun Way to Optimum Health by Donald B. Ardell

 14 Days to Wellness book resized 600

This book is one of the best fitness books on the market. Although it was released in 1999, it remains timely because it does not promote time-sensitive trends, refrains from endorsing brand names, and is simple. The intent is for the reader to cover one chapter per day, for 14 days. By the end, readers will understand the need for personal wellness and have the tools to begin a plan.

Ardell tackles one health topic at a time, giving the reader an entire day to digest that particular concept. The book offers a multidimensional approach to wellness; and, as health professionals in a corporate wellness center, we’ve learned that multidimensional viewpoints is the only successful route. It covers topics such as

  • Creating a healthy self-image
  • Assuming responsibility for your own well-being
  • Eating for performance and enjoyment
  • Being physically active
  • Learning your vital signs

My favorite aspect of this book is that Ardell steers clear of deep scientific processes and terms, while still driving home the most important components of health. The subtitle is accurate when it claims to be both effective and easy. This book sheds new light on topics for health professionals, but also offers a great starting ground for the average person wanting to start a personal wellness plan.

Consider adding 14 Days to Wellness to a worksite wellness program library. You can pick up used copies for a reasonable price on

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness program resources

Physical Activity vs. Exercise: Do Corporate Fitness Programs Care?

Most people use the terms "physical activity" and "exercise" interchangeably, even though there is a difference between the two. Physical activity is movement that causes the muscles to contract, while exercise is structured and helps to maintain or improve physical fitness.

So, is it okay to use these terms interchangeably, or should companies promoting employee health and fitness be sure to specify one over the other? (Ugh, the confusing terms of the fitness industry.)describe the image

Physical Activity Is Easy to Incorporate into Your Day

The biggest bonus to physical activity is that you can be physically active throughout the day by taking the stairs, raking leaves, or parking your car in the back of the parking lot. You can do all of these things at your own leisure when you don’t have time to schedule a workout. And, if you are being physically active to the point where your heart rate is elevated and you feel as though you are working hard, your overall health will benefit.

Scheduled Exercise Makes Employee Health a Priority

I think the biggest question among corporate wellness promoters is, "Will a daily exercise routine benefit employees more in the long run compared to physical activity?" I have mixed emotions on this. By scheduling time to exercise, individuals are making their health a priority and have taken the step to improve their overall well being. But being physically active, beyond activities of daily living, can make a difference in an employee’s health as well.  

If companies want to see the benefit of incorporating corporate fitness into their organization, they can start by encouraging employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator. I can guarantee that once employees make this a habit, their productivity will increase, stress levels will decrease, and they will start asking for more ways to increase physical activity throughout their shift. Or they might even start asking for an onsite fitness center!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program corporate fitness exercise at home

P90X: Using Muscle Confusion in Corporate Fitness Programs

Some will argue that muscle confusion is no good for building muscle mass. But I have to admit, the P90X workouts are no joke! I would like to consider myself somewhat in shape, but when I did the videos I was extremely sore. After doing the biceps video, I Woman PushUpscouldn’t straighten my arms all the way for two days. I liked the videos so much, I’m going to put a copy in my corporate fitness center for employees to use on their lunch breaks.

Mix It Up in Corporate Fitness Programs

I feel that mixing up your workouts and adding variety will help increase strength, endurance, speed, and agility. You increase in all of those areas by keeping your muscles guessing and challenged. After years of always running and lifting the same weight and exercises, I finally discovered it is okay to not have a routine. This might seem difficult to those of you who hate change, but the results are worth it.

Now I change up all my workouts, especially in the classes I teach at the onsite corporate fitness facility. This helps the employees who won’t change their workouts on their own. As a result, our bodies can handle more basic daily movements (unloading the groceries, cleaning out the garage, and so on) and we are stronger for those not-so-graceful falls.

P90X Is Not for Beginners

In my opinion, P90X is not for beginners. Like I said, I work out on a regular basis and teach at a corporate facility, and for two days I couldn’t wash my hair because I couldn’t get my arms up that high. So, please take it slow and do only half the video at first if you are a true beginner or if it’s been years since you have worked out.

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program muscle toning