Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

When It's Time to Expect More from Your Corporate Fitness Program

GettyImages-873616226 (1).jpgCorporate fitness centers are pretty low on the totem pole for most organizations. And that's how they end up just "existing" with the rest of the benefit items; they're on the list of nice things to have, but there's nothing about the corporate fitness program itself that tells leadership it's really thriving or performing well for the employees. If that resonates with you and what you're seeing in your worksite fitness program, it might be time to change things up.

Here are three signs that indicate it's time to take a fresh look at what's possible in your corporate fitness program.

#1: If You Haven't Seen Your Fitness Center Staff Out and About...

...its time to check in on how the staff are serving all of the employees (not just the corporate fitness center members). While it's likely that your fitness center staff are well degreed and credentialed for exercise, they also probably have some skills for promoting other areas of health. If they're not leaving the fitness center to provide additional worksite wellness programming, it's possible they were told that their domain is the fitness center and they should not be doing other health-related programming in the building. That's an easy one to correct; have the conversation with them and see what they can start offering across your campus to support employee health.

One of the beyond-the-fitness-center initiatives our staff members provide allows the employees to put up a signal at their desks that they'd like a quick consultation with the fitness staff. In one case, it was fun stress balls that were the signal; in another case, it was little green army men. Employees picked them up at a promotional table along with a flyer describing the at-your-desk exercise service. Then at designated times, NIFS staff walked the work areas looking for employees who had left out their signals. They provided brief consultations and exercise/stretch recommendations for employees at their desks, and they dropped off a membership application for the fitness center. In just one offering of this program, our staff interacted with an average of 40 new employees each week and picked up 15 new fitness center members directly from their consultation conversations with employees at their desks.

#2: If You're Not Getting Monthly Updates on How the Fitness Center and Related Programs Are Performing...'s time to at least ask for the data to see what the fitness management provider can produce. If the vendor isn't in the practice of tracking at least monthly visit and participation data, you may want to rethink the partnership because it will be a steep hurdle to get them thinking about data collection if that isn't already part of their business model. In truth, you should be able to count on at least two types of data from your corporate fitness center:

  • Monthly fitness center numbers: Total visits, unique users, frequent users (we track 5 or more and 8 or more visits per month), along with appointment volume and group fitness participation.
  • Program outcome data: Executive summary–style reporting that shows key outcomes from the initiative along with a program overview and plans for improvement in the next offering.

#3: If No One Has Really Raved in a While About the Staff or the Fitness Center Programs... might be a good time to confirm how strong of a relationship the staff members have with your employees. We believe the foundation of our successful corporate fitness center partnerships is relationships. While it can take a while to build strong connections, once established, you should expect to hear periodically from your employees about how the fitness center staff are doing great work, helping to motivate them to do more than they would on their own, etc. If you're not getting those kinds of comments, your corporate fitness program might be in a rut and it's time to breathe some new life into what's possible for your employees' health through an exercise program.


Ready to dig a little deeper into what's possible for your corporate fitness center?  You're in luck - we have a whole guide on the topic designed to walk you through three key opportunities to build a more successful program.

Get Our Guide to Successful Fitness Programs

Topics: employee health corporate fitness data staffing worksite fitness

Short 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. 


Want to find out more about how to make group fitness work for your employees?

Download Now: 3 Keys to adding Group Fitness at Work

Topics: corporate fitness NIFS healthy habits group fitness commitment

Corporate Fitness: Why Do Your Feet Go Numb During Workouts


ThinkstockPhotos-484968472.jpgRegardless of whether you're new to exercise or you've been sweating it out for years, there's a good chance you've experienced the sensation of one or both of your feet going numb during a workout. For me, it's most likely to happen when I'm on an elliptical machine in the fitness center, but it's happened when I was out on a run, too. And "Why do your feet go numb during workouts?" is certainly one of the more commonly asked questions posed by our corporate fitness members. This phenomenon is common (and annoying), but it's probably not a life-threatening medical condition. There are a few things you can try to get the sensation to go away for good.

Check your routine. If you find that you frequently experience numbness during a specific activity, try changing up your routine. Maybe that particular piece of equipment or class just isn't the right fit for your body. Who knows, it might be that you just need a break, and taking a little time off can allow you to come back refreshed and ready for a new start.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 7 Ways to Add Exercise to the Workplace >

Check your laces. You may find that a simple adjustment in how tightly you lace your shoes can help. Resist the urge to snug-up the laces for a tight fit, and instead give your foot a little breathing room. Feet sometimes swell during exercise, and if you lace up tightly before you start sweating, you don't leave much room for your foot to spread.

Check your shoes. Consider the width (brand) of your shoe. A medium-width shoe is not the same across brands, and the same make/model of shoe has a different width for men and women. Men's shoes tend to have a wider toe box than women's shoes. So ladies, if you don't need a wide width, but your women's joggers aren't cutting it, try the men's version of the same shoe for a more comfortable fit. If you haven't been professionally fitted for shoes, it may be worth that investment.

[Related Content: How to find the right shoe]

Check your placement. On an elliptical or a bike, where the tendency is to keep your feet in the same position throughout the workout, think about making slight movements throughout the ride/roll. Subtly shifting how you place pressure on your feet over the span of a 20–40-minute session can help minimize numbness in the feet.

Check your symptoms. If you can use one of the recommendations above and the numbness goes away, no worries. If you find, however, that the numbness persists through your day, always occurs in the same place on your foot, or is so severe that you have to discontinue your workouts, it may be time to see your doctor. You may be dealing with a pinched-nerve injury that will need more than the suggestions above to remedy.


Topics: corporate fitness shoes Fitness Center injury workouts numbness

Three Tips for Improving Your Corporate Fitness Program

ThinkstockPhotos-186871442.jpgCorporate fitness programs in businesses all across the country have been doing pretty much the same thing, quite possibly for decades. The programs look very different, one from the next, but the basic premise is the same.

  • Employer: "We want you to be healthy. Here's [insert your corporate fitness answer here: a gym membership, group fitness classes, walking paths, an onsite corporate fitness center, etc.] for you to use. Go be active (when you're not working).
  • Employee: "I'd love to start exercising, but I don't know what's safest and most effective for me. Plus, I don't have much time, and clearly, I have work quotas to meet. It's great that the company offers these healthy options, but it doesn't seem like the right fit for me."

Read Now: Why Corporate Fitness Needs to Evolve

There's a real risk in corporate fitness that we only ever reach the folks who would be active regardless of whether there was a corporate fitness program. So the challenge for businesses becomes how to reach employees who are interested in exercising but who don't know where to begin. Get your organization started in the right direction with these three tips for improving your corporate fitness program.

Tip 1: Get the staffing right.

Finding the right staff to support your corporate fitness offerings is crucial to the success of the program. As an organization that provides this very service to businesses all over the country, we’ve written extensively on the topic. It’s no surprise that we think outsourcing your fitness staff is a great choice. However, if your fitness center staffing style is more of a DIY approach, definitely consider the tips in this blog, 3 Tips for Hiring an Active Aging or Corporate Fitness Professional.

Tip 2: Offer the right services.

There are core services that should be in place for a corporate fitness program to be successful:

  • Individual education through exercise prescriptions and fitness assessment and testing is essential. Both of these services, which can easily be provided by your qualified staff, provide a fantastic foundation to the employees who are fence-sitters about exercise—you know, the employees who want to try moving more but who aren't sure how to get started safely. Those are the very same employees you're trying to draw into the program; addressing their concerns and questions with tailored services is a great way to show them that the door to starting an exercise program at work is wide open.

Alternative to Personal Training -- Read More!

  • Incentive programs can help keep the fitness program interesting and are a fantastic way to help employees reach for better health beyond physical fitness. We've written about several of our successful incentives programs; click any of the titles below to find out more.

Employee Wellness Programming Beyond the Corporate Fitness Center

Making Fitness Fun in Corporate Wellness

Increasing Participation with SKELETONE

A Simple Way to Boost Participation in Your Corporate Fitness Center

How a Simple Squat Challenge Improved Corporate Fitness Metrics

Tip 3: Ask the right questions.

Anecdotal feedback and thank-you emails provide periodic indications of whether your fitness staff is on the right track with employees. But there's nothing like concrete bulk survey feedback to help steer a program in the right direction. Sure, there are problems with surveys, but in our decades of experience with managing corporate fitness centers, we increasingly find surveys to be a very helpful tool for setting our management strategy for each client. Here's how we use them:

  • We use them for specific programs to determine whether we're achieving goals with those programs. For more on our evaluation methods, check out this blog: 4 Keys to Getting Wellness Program Data You Can Actually Use.
  • From a program satisfaction standpoint, we've found surveys to be quite helpful as well. While the anonymity of them can sometimes leave our staff open to very negative feedback, the vast majority of responses are constructive and quite helpful for us in determining what our next year of program and service spotlights should be.

Want to learn more about how to make effective use of surveys to improve your corporate fitness program? Download our whitepaper.

Implement surveys to initiate change

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness participation data fitness assessment staffing incentives exercise prescriptions CORP Programs and Services surveys feedback

Avoid an Empty Corporate Fitness Center with These Ideas

B130001.jpgThere are a variety of reasons for you, as a business owner, to set up a corporate fitness center for your employees; employee recruitment and retention are certainly among them. Increasingly, access to some form of exercise at work is becoming an expectation. It’s also not unreasonable to build a corporate fitness center because you actually expect it will help your employees be more active, which can lead to a variety of individual health benefits and possibly some productivity and loyalty benefits for the business.

But establishing a corporate fitness center for your employees is not an “if you build it, they will come” phenomenon. After all, only about 15–17% of the U.S. population owns a gym membership. If you want your employees to have opportunities to exercise, dedicating some space on campus for exercise is a good first step, but it’s not the end of the story. Following is a checklist of steps you need to carefully consider to avoid an empty corporate fitness center and ensure your fitness center is set up for success, both for your business and for your employees.

Do you have the right collection of equipment and amenities in your fitness center?

I've seen corporate fitness centers that run the gamut from fairly bare-bones to spaces that would rival high-end clubs. Fancy matters much less than function. If you don't intend to provide expert staff in the space, you need to have equipment that your employees can use without instruction. Some of the newer functional training equipment isn't all that intuitive; be careful what you buy or only the most sophisticated exerciser will be able to put your equipment to effective use.

If you want to offer group fitness classes in your space, you'll need to have enough room to host the classes; consider 40–60SF per participant (don't forget to count the instructor!). Also keep in mind that your classes will increase volume in the fitness center and you'll want your locker room spaces to accommodate those peak-use times fairly well. With 28 years in the business, I can assure you that employees will stop coming if the locker room situation involves fighting for space.

Do you have the right leadership for the corporate fitness space/programs?

The single best way to maximize employee use of your corporate fitness center is to provide staff who manage the environment. Yes, there is a cost for that, but before you assume you don't want to pay it, consider the ramifications because here's how it plays out. Without staff to support and educate employees, the same 10% of your employees who exercise now are the ones who will use your fitness center. And the employees you're really trying to serve won't try something new in your corporate fitness space because they aren't sure what steps to take.

So committing to the fitness center space but not the fitness center staffing is building a gym for the employees who are exercising anyway. That's a pretty substantial investment for the employees who don't really stand to benefit from it.

Finding the right corporate fitness management partner doesn't have to be hard, and before you assume hiring out for that role is a horrible idea, check out this blog that addresses common misconceptions on outsourcing corporate fitness management. If you're still convinced your business is better off managing your fitness program in house, here are some suggestions for hiring your own corporate fitness manager.

Do you have a healthy culture that supports employees choosing to exercise during their time at work?

Employees spend more time commuting to and from work and actually at work than they spend anyplace else. Inviting them to exercise while they're already at the office may be our best hope for helping adults move more. But if taking a full 60-minute lunch break to work out is frowned upon by management, your corporate fitness center will stay mostly empty. If employees don't see their leadership making healthy choices a priority, your fitness center will remain a ghost town. It's not enough to have "break-time" policies written into your handbook. You have to lead by example and you have to make it okay for your management team to engage in the behaviors you want to see.

 Webinar Series: The Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers

Topics: corporate fitness corporate fitness managment health culture nifs fitness center management equipment staffing corporate fitness center

Why Corporate Fitness Needs to Evolve (Like Corporate Wellness)

The elements that make up corporate fitness haven’t changed much in the almost 20 years I’ve been connected to the business. We’re still working hard to attract as many employees as possible to our programs, we’re still running fun, lighthearted games, we’re still tracking memberships, and we’re still helping employees with their exercise programs through prescription and assessment services. Group fitness is still a staple, and you still typically see corporate fitness centers with staff only in larger businesses.

Sure, equipment has changed, and there are a ton of new (albeit not necessarily better) certifications available for practitioners. Big players have more bells and whistles to win new business, but the core elements that make up a sound corporate fitness program for your employees are the same as they were years ago.

Corporate Wellness, However, Is in Flux

And yet, corporate wellness as a broader header under which corporate fitness sits has changed dramatically over the last decade. It’s still in significant flux. While the somewhat dated biometric screening and health risk assessments are still fundamental in many corporate wellness initiatives, they are losing popularity. As businesses look past the limited utility of those elements, they are turning toward opportunities to educate their employees into becoming better health care consumers as well as looking toward creative outlets for stress management along with getting back to basics by meeting basic human needs.

So why, then, is corporate fitness still doing what it’s always done? Can corporate fitness partners be part of the wellness evolution by offering solutions beyond the typical elements outlined above?

How NIFS Is Offering Evolved SolutionsThinkstockPhotos-512169680_1.jpg

We think so. Here are some of the ways we’re doing just that:

  • Personal training has a niche market; it’s the people who benefit from it and who can also afford it. We work with clients who have a lot of employees that can’t afford the luxury of a personal trainer. Rather than tell them they’re on their own, we built Personal Fitness Quest to meet that very real need. Here’s how that alternative to personal training works for us.
  • Where clients have allowed it, our staff have stocked and promoted activity centers. These simple nooks, typically carved out of high-traffic areas like the cafeteria, provide a small space were employees can take a break and focus their minds on something other than their work. They can realize the stress-relieving benefits of coloring, play their teammates in Jenga®, or listen to a relaxation meditation on an MP3 player.
  • Our staff are capital-S serious about their work; they believe completely in what they’re doing to help improve the health of the employees with whom they work. But sometimes work is a little too serious, and we understand our role is to provide a light and welcoming environment. Employees need to feel understood, and they need a place to decompress. Some days they just need a good laugh. Check out how one of our managers put a laughable spin on the benefits of being a chicken.

Corporate fitness would benefit from the lessons that old-school corporate wellness is feeling by evolving into a service that promotes holistic well-being, perhaps with an emphasis on fitness. How are you promoting more than just exercise in your corporate fitness program?

Looking for more on what can make your fitness program tick? Use the button below to download our quick read with three tips for a successful corporate fitness center.

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Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness stress NIFS corporate fitness centers group fitness personal training

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.

Download quickread 3 Things Every CEO Needs to Know

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

A Simple Way to Boost Participation in Your Corporate Fitness Center

Our staff are routinely focused on how they can grow participation in the corporate fitness centers they manage. Granted, they don’t have to work that hard at it in January, and maybe into February, but beyond those first two months of the year, the remaining ten months can prove challenging for meeting their participation goals.

ThinkstockPhotos-465140373.jpgOne of the ways they work on achieving specific participation numbers is through successful programming. It’s not rocket science, but you do have to know your members and understand what works with them in order to build effective programs. That’s why our crew is so focused on evaluating their offerings; the results help them better understand how to provide incentive and educational programs tailored to the interests and needs of the audience they’re serving.

Tapping into existing successes

One of our managers at a corporate fitness center in New York created a simple St. Patrick’s Day–themed program to help New Year’s resolution makers carry through with their newfound exercise habits into March. For this program, she set specific goals to increase fitness center visits (targeting eight or more monthly visits per member) and to increase participation in group fitness classes.


Each member who signed up for the program was given a small pot (“pot-o-gold”) into which they could place the gold coins they received for coming in to work out on their own or to take a class. She weighted the group class participation by giving two coins for each class. The participant goal was to collect as many gold coins (get as many visits) as possible for the duration of the program. Supplies for the program cost about $30.

[Related Content: 3 Ways to Improve Corporate Fitness Programming on a Small Budget]

Simplicity wins

Members provided feedback that one of the things they enjoyed about the program was its simplicity. It was both easy to understand and easy to participate. When work and personal lives are so complicated and hectic, it’s refreshing to have the corporate fitness center offer no-brainer incentives as a diversion and stress reliever. Not only was the program easy for the members, but our manager reported that she appreciated the simplicity as well; there were no detailed spreadsheets to manage, no massive uptick in 1:1 appointments to juggle, and no convoluted formulas to compute to determine program winners. In fact, even marketing the program was easy—who doesn’t want to win a pot of gold?

The NIFS manager reported that she saw several new faces engaging in group fitness who have continued taking classes long after the program concluded, and some associates who hadn’t completed their memberships hustled through their remaining steps so that they could participate in the program. Overall, she saw 72 percent of program participants workout out at least eight times during the month-long initiative, substantially higher than her typical frequent visitor percentage. Additionally, group fitness class participation increased by 15 percent.

Want to get your hands on other great program ideas that have been tested and proven in corporate fitness?  See what we've outlined as NIFS Best Practice programming.


Topics: corporate fitness motivation corporate fitness centers participation program planning Corporate Best Practices, group fitness incentives

Corporate Fitness: Should You Pay Employees for Workouts?


ThinkstockPhotos-468984741.jpgThere’s a lot of misinformation out there on what is and is not good for you. The science changes all the time; unfortunately, changes in health information can sometimes depend on who’s funding the provider. So it can be hard to trust the latest press release “proving” the next best strategy for preventing disease and living longer. Despite the confusing messaging, there are a few constants on health you can count on:

  • Tobacco use is bad for you.
  • Moving your body is good for you.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of which is more important to employee health; there are too many complicating and personal factors to establish such a case. Instead, I’ll focus on physical activity because I think it represents a substantial area of opportunity for employers when considering options that fit into the “doing wellness for (or even with) employees” mantra.

Plenty of employers offer some kind of option for exercise at work, whether that be with group exercise classes onsite, workouts in a full-blown corporate fitness center, or walking trails on the property. In most cases those amenities/offerings are a use-at-your-own-risk proposition. There’s very little leadership support or communication about how to get involved, so only those employees who feel most strongly about pursuing regular exercise actually have the motivation to engage. And then employers wonder why participation is so low.

So here we are at this weird crossroads where employers try a few fitness-based options at the worksite for employees, very few employees enjoy the benefits of those programs, and employers are frustrated. What’s a company to do?

To be fair, we can’t expect everyone to want to exercise. Employers should have realistic expectations about how many people they can draw into these offerings. If you’re looking for ways to tip the scales that make a work-sponsored group fitness class look a little more attractive to your workforce, consider the idea of compensated workout time. Here’s why this is worth your attention:

  • It’s no secret that time, or lack of it, is a primary barrier for your employees participating in regular physical activity. Couple the lack of time with the idea that your employees spend about nine hours per day at the office, and you have yourself a significant potential audience.
  • However, if the workplace culture or departmental mantra is about working harder, producing more, and keeping butts in the seats, then the convenience of a workplace fitness option is a moot point.
  • Alternatively, if we can pay them for 45 minutes of working out three days per week, now we might be onto something that sends a true message about how important the employer feels it is for employees to make healthy choices. And before you read this and exclaim, “We already do that…it’s called a lunch break,” what I’m advocating is 45 minutes beyond the lunch break. For an employee making $25/hour who works out, walks, or takes a group exercise class three days per week during this compensated time, it costs the company about $2,800 a year ($25/hr x 75% of an hour x 3d/wk x 50wk/yr).

Maybe you can’t afford compensated exercise time for your employees. But before you discount it outright, do what my mom always encourages me to do with a big decision. Make a pro/con list. Consider all the health benefits of engaging in regular physical activity compared to the lost work time on your bottom line. Weigh the positive of increased employee loyalty and creativity against the straight dollar cost. Understand the value of really supporting your employees’ quest for better health versus only paying it lip service. If the tick marks in your pro column outweigh those in the con column, you just might have your answer.

Need tips to get your employees moving more?  Download our whitepaper to help you get started with adding exercise to your worksite wellness program.

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Topics: exercise at work employee health group exercise corporate fitness motivation incentives workouts

Three Ways to Improve Corporate Fitness Programming on a Small Budget

staff001.jpgSometimes employers go all in on their investment in a corporate fitness center. Thousands of square feet are dedicated to treadmill upon treadmill, thoughtful changing facilities, ample group exercise space, creative equipment solutions, and around-the-clock dedicated fitness staff.

But that’s not the reality for most employers. It’s important to remember that corporate fitness doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can provide programs, services, and (probably most importantly) an environment that’s conducive to movement. So if you’re trying to improve the exercise options you provide onsite for your employees, but you’re on a tight budget, consider these ideas.

1. If you have dedicated staff for an exercise program, invite them to be a Jack (or Jill) of all trades.

Most exercise professionals with a college degree have a background in more than just exercise. It’s common for an exercise science curriculum to fold in public health, nutrition basics, stress resilience, and other health-related disciplines. We work with one client who has a small fitness center and no additional budget for fitness programming, and rather than lock our staff down to the four walls of the fitness center, they are out and about providing healthy lectures, offering stretch breaks at key shift-change intervals, and coordinating extra workplace wellness services like onsite chair massage.

2. Consider group fitness classes.

Sure, dancing to music isn’t for everyone, but group fitness has come a long way. You don’t have to be coordinated or be able to keep the beat to enjoy a great class. And if your office includes meeting space with tables and chairs that can be pushed to the walls, you probably have everything you need to run a class. Instructor costs can be paid for by employees, subsidized by the employer, or paid in full by the employer. Check out our quick read: Three Keys to Adding Group Exercise at Work.

3. Think long and hard about your environment.

How are your employees encouraged to work, and how are your leaders and managers incentivized to run their teams? Are employees expected to sit glued to their screens all day to make a quota? Do your managers have substantial pressure to meet the same quota? These kinds of unwritten cultural norms make it almost impossible for an employee to take a 10-minute walking break. Can that mindset be shifted over time? This article suggests that employers have to start taking a look at creative ways to address employee stress.

What about your physical space? Maybe you can’t have a dedicated space for employee exercise, and even group exercise classes in an unused meeting room seems out of bounds. Perhaps simple signage encouraging the use of stairs instead of elevators would be a starting point to encouraging employees to move more.

Think about incentives for exercise differently. Good, old-fashioned behavioral economics around loss aversion could help you build an inexpensive incentive model for encouraging more frequent exercise in a sedentary workforce.

Don’t let a lack of physical space or dedicated staff derail your brainstorming about ways to inject more opportunities for activity at the office. The options are only limited by your creativity (not your budget).

  Tips for adding exercise

Topics: corporate fitness stress corporate fitness centers fitness programming exercise in the workplace group fitness workplace wellness