Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

NIFS Member Speak: Mandy Kisamore transforms herself and her family

members_speakMandy Kisamore was a little reserved when we first met. She is not a jump in the front of the room type of person. She came to a few classes and then became more of a regular.  After a while she started to hang around after class and ask questions that began with her and then shifted toward her children, and her family. She has done a lot of work from when she started and it hasn’t stopped with her.  Check out her story about how she transformed herself and her family.  It has been extremely rewarding to be able to be a part of Mandy’s success. 

Transforming Myself and My Family

Exercise was not one of my favorite things to do.  It was never fun; I would never look forward to it, or hate to miss a class. Today is a different story.

Three years ago I started to get serious about taking care of myself.  This transformation has been, and continues to be, a struggle that I have to work on at every class, at every workout, and every time I exercise.

Here is my story.  In the beginning, my family and friends would always tell me that I needed to find some “me” time.  Having a husband and two kids at home, finding “me” time was the last thing I thought was a possibility.  After thinking about this “me” time that I apparently needed, I decided that I would start checking out the gym at work and the classes that were offered.  I thought that would be something positive for me, mentally and physically.  That could be my “me” time, one night a week for 45 minutes. 

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Of course going to the gym itself is overwhelming, and joining a class for the first time was terrifying for me.  I found myself frustrated during the past three years because the scale did not tell me the number I wanted it to. I have had to shift my thinking to look at the inches I have lost, the new pants I have had to buy, the muscles I have built, and the confidence I have gained.  During the past three years I have had some setbacks which were frustrating, but I know that I cannot stop now. I feel that I have come so far that giving up and going back to where I was is not an option for me.  I started with a lower body class, it was only 30 minutes and who doesn’t want a better back side? A few friends and I started going to the class together. It was definitely a good decision to start with people I knew.  To my surprise, I ended up enjoying the class and started going once a week.  I attended this class for a month, and then added two classes a week for the next month, then three a week the next month. I soon found myself going to as many classes as I could fit into my schedule. As time went on, I could feel how much better I felt inside, and I could see the changes that were happening to my body.  These helped me stay motivated and continue trying different exercise classes.

My motivation to keep pushing through and continuing to make this more of a lifestyle change than what started as just a way to find “me” time is definitely my family.  To see the changes and the positive thought process this “me time” has brought to my family is amazing to see.  At one point during this journey my son said he was proud of me.  That was such a motivator for me to keep going no matter how hard it was, or how much I didn’t think I could keep up with it.  Since then, my kids have started paying attention to their eating habits, and exercising because they want to.  My husband, sister, and father have been making changes to be healthier as a result of what I have started.  It is wonderful to see that what started as one group fitness class has turned into a positive change for my entire family.

To me, every positive change you make is a success, whether it is stepping foot in the gym, joining your first class, or trying a healthier meal out on your family.  These changes can lead to so many more positive changes in your life. Although I haven’t reached my initial goals yet, I have found the smaller goals I have made are just as important.  I have to remind myself of what I’ve already accomplished, and that I am a work in progress.  I am going to keep trying to be a better healthier me, for myself and my family.   

Interested in helping your employees make great strides in changing their habits to live healthier lives?  Checkout NIFS Fitness Management Services to see how we help your workforce.

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

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Topics: employee health and fitness NIFS member speak corporate wellness success

What If: We Did Corporate Wellness FOR Our Employees, Not TO Them?

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 possible in the realm of individual wellbeing. We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about what to write about, or by finding us on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

There is a growing swell of chatter online these days about where corporate wellness is headed. Outcomes-based programs seem to be the flavor of the day regardless of the profound lack of data about their effectiveness. Similarly, the battle of numbers continues between those who promote data about the effectiveness of wellness that is, at best, questionable, and those who strongly object to that potentially flawed data.

Underneath all of the banter is a concept, originally put forward by Al Lewis in his book, Cracking Health Care Costs, that wellness should be something done FOR employees, not TO them. I’m not going to be coy about this—we sit squarely on the side of doing wellness FOR employees. What follows are (1) my observations about common corporate wellness program elements done TO employees, along with (2) what if ideas that speak to our continued quest toward wellness that is FOR employees.

Health Risk Assessments

I have never been a fan of the much-praised Health Risk Assessment (HRA) for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the survey tool is one of many done TO the employee. There is very little personal and intrinsic value for the employee when he fills out an intrusive online survey. Sure, employers tack on financial incentives for the employee who follows their rules—and sometimes the incentive is substantial. But there isn’t really any answer for the employee’s question, “How will this help me change my health?” because an online survey (and the results) don’t move any health needle for any sustained amount of time.

What’s worse is that in some cases, flawed HRA recommendations are pointing employees toward unnecessary follow-up medical care that is in direct conflict with U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations. And let’s not discount the harmful effects of employers hacking off their employees by doing what feels like invasive questioning about personal issues, only to leave employees with yet another reminder about their likely substandard health.

Does an employer really need aggregate HRA data to learn that their employees are representative of the adult U.S. population with high rates of overweight and obesity, risk for diabetes, and heart disease, and lack of physical activity? How much did it cost the employer to administer an HRA that provided an employee health profile that was already understood?

Biometric Screenings

And then there’s the bloodletting (oops, I mean screenings). I won’t belabor the issue here because the challenges with finger stick/venipuncture screenings are much the same as what I outlined with the HRA above. When was the last time employees walked away from their screening session feeling enhanced loyalty to the employer—as if the employer was genuinely interested in their health and had their back on taking whatever steps were necessary to improve their health? (If you have that warm-and-fuzzy story, I’d love to hear it.)

carrotstickThe Carrot (or the Stick, Depending on Your Perspective)

Incentives come in carrot and stick varieties, and really, it’s just two sides of the same coin. Whether the employer is offering an incentive or a disincentive is a matter of which side of the message you’re standing on. Frankly, there is little evidence to indicate that financially prodding employees leads to any sustained behavior change. But you don’t have to take my word on this; check out this joint position paper published as a partnership among the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association. And yet, employers put piles of cash into these financial offerings.

All of these tools—if truly helpful to the employer such that they must stay in the corporate wellness toolkit—could be repackaged so as to be an actual benefit to the employee. The employer would need to send a message that clearly indicated a desire to help the individual employee improve his health, and then they would need to back that up by putting their money, policies, environment, and productivity expectations where their mouth is.

The Alternatives

In my opinion, the current wellness program pillars outlined above are flawed—very flawed. So how do we get back to this idea that wellness should be done FOR employees, not TO them? Our staff, largely practitioners through managing corporate fitness centers, took a moment to dream about the possibilities for shifting the current wellness paradigm to one that might actually support and inspire individual health. Here are some of our what ifs:

  • What if the five-minute walk break throughout the day was supported, encouraged, team-driven, even required? We’ve been beaten about the head with the research that shows the harmful effects of sitting. But now, new research from Indiana University has demonstrated that walking as little as five minutes on three different occasions during a three-hour sitting period can reverse some of the harmful effects of prolonged sitting.
  • What if there were no unhealthy options available in your vending machine or cafeteria? Is this the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction? Most of the clients we work with have shifted to healthful subsidized options with unhealthy choices at full cost. I can’t think of a client who has made a 100% change in their worksite food/snack option, though.
  • What if management at ALL levels in the organization supported employees working out during the day? There are a lot of corporate policies that keep employees in their seats, and even for those with more flexible schedules, there is a pervasive management message that work comes first and there is not time for a workout, a walk, a mental health break, etc.
  • What if paid-time-off policies provided bonus time off based on the number of minutes an employee spends exercising in the company fitness center? In a similar vein, what if employees who choose to spend their 30-minute lunch break exercising could be given another 30 minutes to still eat lunch, away from their desk? (Gasp…compensated workout time!)

None of these ideas is a complete pie-in-the-sky kind of concept. And just like outcomes-based wellness programs, none of these ideas has been tested for long-term effectiveness (or harm), validated, or assigned an ROI that means anything. They do, however, require a shift in workplace policy, and they require fresh thinking about how organizational wellness money is allocated. These what ifs fit squarely into the “doing FOR employees” camp, and I’m sure there are many more ideas like this out there. Comment below on your own “FOR employees” what ifs or share your successes with these and other ideas. 

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Topics: corporate wellness employee health corporate fitness employee wellness exercise in the workplace corporate wellness success what if

NIFS Member Speaks: Stepping out of her comfort zone

My StoryThis month marks one year of having the pleasure working with Marisol Bruno. When I started working with her I was already blown away by her weight loss progress she achieved on her own and I had no doubt that she was going to continue to impress me. For the past year, Marisol and I trained three days a week and she never missed an appointment. Every morning she walked in the Wellness Center ready to work. She was so motivated and really understood the programs I created for her. She has made this a part of her lifestyle and there is no turning back for her. Each day she gets healthier and stronger physically, but most importantly mentally. She has gained a new sense of confidence and has become an idol for her coworkers. Not only has she chosen a healthier lifestyle, but she has motivated many others to join her in this way of living

Everyone has the ability to improve their health. Marisol is living proof that anything is possible with determination and dedication. I can’t wait to see what other milestones she achieves in the future. I hope her success story inspires you all as much as it inspires us here at our Wellness Center:

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It was April of 2013 and I knew I had put on some weight over the winter but was in denial because I was enjoying the eating more than I wanted to drop the extra pounds. I used the same old excuses: I don’t have the time, the kids, the husband, the house, they need me. I couldn’t possibly take time out of my busy day for me! My husband finally said to me, “we do need you, but we need a healthy you, so go make time for you.” I was left with no excuses; I guess it was time to get to work!


So, I took a leap of faith and emailed Lindsey Corak, the NIFS staff member at my location. When Lindsey and I met I was nervous and a little scared at the level of excitement & energy she brought. We talked about goals, focusing on my overall health and wellness. Some goals I never fathomed accomplishing. I thought to myself “Oh my, what have I gotten myself into!” Our first fitness evaluation I could hardly walk the treadmill, do a sit-up and failed on a single push up. I felt bad the poor girl had her work cut out for her!


MBrunoWe set up sessions 3 days a week working on cardio & strength training. I thought I was going to pass out after each session; I had never pushed past my comfort zone before. Within weeks, I saw improvements. I began to run on the treadmill, and a few months later I was running my first 5k with Lindsey running right alongside of me. It was the beginning of my new way of life. Since I was working so hard in the gym I decided to make changes in food choices for both my family and I.  Pretty soon my entire household was feeling and looking better than we’ve ever have. It’s been one year since I started training with Lindsey and I’ve not only met each goal I setup on that initial evaluation, but I’ve exceeded my own expectations. Today, I am proud to say I’ve lost 10% body fat and met my goal weight. I no longer feel the need to step on that scale every day.


I now take 3 morning group exercise classes offered at the gym and have incorporated functional training with Lindsey two times a week. I work out between 4-5 days a week and am the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life. I am thankful everyday to work in a company that not only gives me a great fitness facility but has a great staff that cares about us and guides us to lead a healthy life every day.

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

Help your employees be successful like Marisol. 

Check out our webinar series below for our quide to successful corporate fitness centers. 

Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers

 

Topics: NIFS members speak wellness testimonials corporate wellness success