Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Is Exercise Getting Left Behind in the Evolution of Corporate Wellness?

NIFS | Exercise ReminderThere is more and more discussion in corporate wellness today about doing wellness for (with?) employees, creating thriving workplace environments, shifting toward programmatic choices that allow for volunteerism and financial literacy, engaging employees with more purposeful work, and using job crafting to create more meaningful work.

It's an interesting time to engage in discussion about what these paradigm shifts really mean when it comes to practical, on-the-ground-application for employees. I agree with much of the dialog; I think it's past time to consider a shift and to take action on it. And yet, I'm concerned that we may be packing away some key elements for "old school" corporate wellness that should not be left out of the mix. One of those program options that is on the fringe is physical activity.

If the basis of your corporate wellness initiative is to help employees live well so that they can bring their best to work each day, then you cannot leave exercise behind. While you consider things like living wage, job crafting and other areas that impact individual well-being, you also need to keep the idea of making the healthy choice the easy choice at the top of mind. Here's how exercise maintains relevance in corporate wellness even as the concept of such offerings continue to evolve. 

The workplace is a prime place for making exercise easy

The research about the benefits of regular activity are clear. What remains elusive are effective strategies to nudge employees toward a more active lifestyle. But, that doesn't mean we should stop creating easy ways for the workers to move their bodies. Time and money (access) remain the two biggest barriers for adults when asked why they don't engage in regular exercise. Like it or not, the workplace becomes a prime location for employees to fit in some activity.  

Exercise doesn't require as much guess work as other initiatives

I know a lot of organizations have taken on wearables as the hallmark of their wellness program's physical activity component. It may be tempting to go that route - it seems relatively easy, and if the cost to implementation isn't a barrier for the organization, you can simply give everyone a Fitbit and get on with it. There are however, many reasons to exercise caution with the use of wearables in your wellness program, not the least of which is privacy.

[Read more: Why Wearable Fitness Trackers Aren't Your Wellness Program]

Outside of the wearable marketplace, there a host of ways you can make physical activity an easy choice in your work environments. We're partial to a corporate fitness center, but that's not the right fit in every business. While you need variety, you don't have to spend a ton of money to execute this well. Group fitness classes can be run with modest cost (or no cost - employees can fund this if you simply make the opportunity available). Painting out safe walking zones in your parking lot, providing resources for stretch breaks, and offering solid education on opportunities for exercise in the community are examples of low-cost initiatives that can easily be developed.  

Leading the way is required

Sometimes, the best way to communicate that movement is important for your workforce has less to do with programmatic offerings, but instead is focused on shifting your culture so that walking breaks are repeatedly encouraged and modeled.

[Read more: 5 Tips To Help Your Employees Move More]

Leaders in the organization have to adopt a mindset where taking a break for physical activity during the day is not just accepted, it's encouraged. One of the best ways to do that is by modeling (yes, that means you need to take your own breaks!). You also have to be mindful of workplace policies (clock in/out policies, productivity quotas, etc.) that may send a different message than the supportive communications you've issued. If words and actions don't match up, employees aren't likely to adopt new practices. 

At the end of the day, you can't really legislate that employees exercise. The motivation to move has to be an inner drive in order for it to be a sustained choice. But, you can make it easier for your workforce to have access to physical activity by creating both spaces and support for regular exercise. 

Tips for adding exercise

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness corporate wellness success corporate wellness programs corporate fitness programming wellness programming

4 Ways to Find a Healthy Relationship with Exercise

We all do it. Your friend says to you, “Alright, we have three months until Jamaica! Let’s start exercising!” Both of you are on board to start an exercise regimen and are full throttle for three months straight. You are committed and neither of you have missed a sweat session since you started. You have been eating healthier, feeling great and working towards a goal. Everything is going great and then, vacation sets in.

Bam! Was all that hard work really just for week-long trip to look good in Jamaica? This is unrealistic goal setting and it can create issues with your relationship with exercise. So, how do we get into a better mind-set that exercising isn’t just getting ready for that trip to Jamaica or to have a body like Jessica Biel?

NIFS | Healthy Relationship with Exercise

#1: Change your mentality towards exercise.

Exercise shouldn’t be a chore. It should be a release; a release physically and mentally from your crummy day at work or from that test you took and think you totally bombed. Maybe, the workout doesn't have to be all "go hard or go home"; what if it was a simple walk on the treadmill or outside to clear your head? Working out as a means to an end (like prepping for a trip, or a class reunion) creates a lot of self-imposed pressure and it leads to a built in stopping point. The added pressure can also increase your risk for injury if you start out too intensely. Why add that to all of life’s other stress? Finding a positive relationship with exercise may take time, but it will be worth it in the long run.

#2: Find the workout that makes YOU happy.

One of your friends swears by hot yoga, but you have another social circle who only workout at their CrossFit® gym. You try both avenues and totally hate them, but stick with them because, hey, that’s what buddies do, right? WRONG. You need to find what makes you tick. If hot yoga isn’t your thing, don’t do it because it’s your BFF's favorite thing to do. Maybe, you like to just take leisure walk/jogs through the park or you enjoy power lifting. You won’t know until you try. (And this leads me into the next item on the list.)

#3: Get out of your comfort zone.

I know it’s scary, but staying in a comfortable zone doesn’t create change. It also doesn’t help us figure out what we like and it certainly doesn't help us get better. Maybe you can find a buddy to go with you to your first spin class so it isn’t so daunting. Whatever it takes, get out of your comfort zone, try something new, re-evaluate and figure out what works best for you! If you have access to a gym or a corporate fitness center, talk to staff you trust to broaden your perspective on ways to move that might be fun.

#4: Get a handle on YOUR Relationship with Exercise.

We know now that “getting the perfect body” or “getting ripped for vacay” is NOT a healthy relationship with exercise. A healthy relationship with exercise is using it as a tool to relax, to feel well, and/or to use as a life-long hobby. Trust me, you won’t stick with it if you decide three months before Jamaica you want to look like Jennifer Aniston. Your goals need to be attainable and healthy; they also need to be unique to you. 

Exercise shouldn’t be a quick fix to a problem and it shouldn't be complete drudgery each time you strap on your gym shoes. If you hate moving your body, then try another approach.  It should be a life-style choice that you find gratifying and enjoyable.

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Topics: motivation healthy living corporate fitness programming exercising making time to exercise setting exercise goals healthy relationship with exercise

Unexpected Results with Corporate Fitness Incentive Programs

money_gift_ThinkstockPhotos-179330649.jpgDuring the holiday season, making consistent visits to the Fitness Center can be a challenge. Most gyms see a drop in attendance as members take time off for vacation or travel to visit family. They are consumed with Christmas shopping, baking, and entertaining. 

As with most corporate fitness incentive programs, we naturally gravitate towards rewarding members with prizes for attendance and participation in particular programs. Gift cards, t-shirts, trinkets all come to mind. But this year, I opted for a different strategy to motivate our corporate Fitness Center members.  

For November, we implemented a program where each visit to the Fitness Center earned money towards a donation to charity. Each new member who signed up earned more money towards charity.  We used our budget money that would typically go towards prizes for members and applied it toward a charity chosen by those who visited the Fitness Center at least 15 times during the month. 

When giving to the community is challenging due to personal budgets and money spent for family Christmas presents, this program provided an opportunity for members give without opening their wallets. Bonus for them - they also improved their health!

This program spoke to my heart and love of giving, so I was hopeful that it would attract the attention of members who enjoy doing the same. I must say, it worked well beyond my expectation… but in a way I wasn’t anticipating.

Even though it was November, we maintained a slightly higher visit rate than October. October had 22 business days; November only had 19.  Not to mention, most people take off the whole week of Thanksgiving. One would anticipate a significant drop of 100 – 300 visits. Instead we had a small increase!  We were able to raise $320 that would be sent to the Angel Tree Program through the Salvation Army.  

But here’s the unexpected BONUS! The moment I sent out the email with the results, I received an email from a member requesting to meet with me. Sure thing! I went to meet her only to have a check handed to me?! What?! It was a check for the same amount - $320. The member wanted to match the amount we had raised. I stared at her dumbfounded. She explained that she had made the decision to match our donation when the program was advertised. On top of that, she has a special place in her heart for the Angel Tree Program. So when I notified every one of the chosen charity, she said it was more confirmation of her want of giving. 

WOW. Warm fuzzy feelings. Heart swelling. People do care!

These results with corporate fitness incentive programs encourage programs like this  tostick around for a while. Even if we have no matching donation, it has proved positive for the Angel Tree Program, holiday Fitness Center visits and my heart! 

Want to do wellness better for your employees in 2016?  Click below to download our whitepaper: 4 Reasons Fitness Initiatives Fail in Corporate Wellness Programs and plan for success next year.

CORP Initiatives

Topics: corporate fitness programming wellness programming