Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Two Key Things Your Wellness Program May Be Missing

staff working with residentAt NIFS, we work in both corporate and senior living settings supporting client wellness strategies. After having done that work in diverse environments for various audiences over the last 25 years, we’ve learned a thing or two about what really works when you’re trying to promote living well.

Below are two key elements your wellness program may be missing.

1: The People

We’ve hired hundreds of qualified wellness professionals to work with our many clients over the last two decades. And we’ve made some hiring mistakes. But we’ve learned from those situations and cultivated a more comprehensive interview and an effective onboarding process.

[Related Content: Tips for Hiring Your Own Fitness Professional]

Hire well and you’ll be well on your way to cultivating significant and meaningful opportunities for well-living for your employees or residents. If you don’t hire well for wellness, your strategy, programs, or initiatives are destined for mediocrity at best.

If you don’t know what skills and abilities you need for your wellness strategy, consider outsourcing your staffing to a partner. Let them be your expert so that you can spend your time and energy running your business.

2: The Program

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: wellness is not rocket science. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require strategic thinking and thoughtful planning. Wellness services should be part of a larger vision that is focused on creating engaging opportunities for well-living.

There is no shortage of valuable resources available for program ideas online. Join a few LinkedIn groups and you’ll soon begin to see engaging ideas and thoughtful discussion that can help take your programming to the next level. Or subscribe to our blog for digestable on-the-ground tips for wellness practitioners as well as high level strategy solutions for wellness leaders.

And let’s talk a little bit about data. How are you gathering it? What are you doing with the data you have? Burying your head in the sand on data is not an answer. I’ve written before on how to gather data that you can actually use in your wellness program. You really can’t afford to continue the work without making legitimate attempts to measure what you’re managing. Otherwise, how will you ever know if your efforts are making the desired impact?

Looking for Best Practice Ideas?

Since we’re all about sharing the love and getting best practices out there for you to run with, I am very excited to announce our upcoming Best Practice Series that will launch in February 2014. There are two tracks:

Why not jumpstart your creativity with a little something that's worked in a similar environment for a similar audience.  (Who doesn't want their job to be a little easier?!)  

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness program senior wellness programs senior fitness management corporate fitness managment corporate wellness staffing

Corporate Wellness: The Scale - Friend or Foe?

woman hitting scaleThe scale is the most common method to measure your weight loss goals, but is it the most accurate way to measure your success? It is a relevant method of assessment when tracking your weight loss, but the number on the scale doesn’t always reflect your achievements. Have you ever stepped off the scale feeling hopeless and discouraged because the number didn’t display how hard you have been working? This can be very frustrating. The good news is there are other, more effective ways to measure your wellness accomplishments that may leave you feeling more encouraged than the scale does.

You may ask yourself, “Well if I am working hard and feel like I’ve lost weight, why is it not showing on the scale?” Well, the human body is made up of 60% water. So depending on the day your body can be retaining more water than others causing your weight to fluctuate up to 10 pounds. Instead of letting the trickery of the scale prevent you from your future goals, let’s take a look at more accurate methods of measurement. As an employee, these alternative measurements are offered to you at your Corporate Wellness Center by your fitness management staff.

If the scale is staying stagnant, but you feel good, how could that be possible? It is probable that you are losing fat, but gaining muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. The way to determine your body fat composition is by calculating your body fat percentage using a body fat caliper or bioelectrical impedance analyzer. One of the many benefits of corporate fitness is having access to these tools at your Wellness Center. 

Another method of measurement is body circumference. A pound of lean muscle takes up less mass than a pound of fat. So if you are gaining muscle, chances are you are losing inches on your body. If your jeans are fitting bigger around the waist and hips, does it really matter what the scale says? Ask your Wellness staff to measure your body circumferences so you can track your inches lost!

Personally, I think the best way to measure your wellness gains (pun intended) is through setting wellness goals. A wellness goal can be anything from quitting smoking to walking your dog without losing your breath. Tracking your wellness goals will allow you to see improvements, keeping you motivated to achieve your long term goals. When you focus on overall wellness goals rather than the number on the scale you will better yourself and your quality of life. Think about what is important to you.  Would you rather be able to walk up and down the stairs without feeling winded, or lose 2 pounds on the scale? It is more important to look at your overall wellness, rather than a fluctuating number on the scale. You will find yourself to be more satisfied, more empowered to keep working toward your wellness goals and a better quality of life. 

So ditch the scale and ask your Wellness Center staff how you can better measure your hard work and success!!

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Topics: corporate wellness weight loss fitness scale goals

Top 5 Wellness Blogs from 2013 that you may have Missed

Top 5You’re busy, we publish at least a couple blogs a week, and there’s a good chance ours isn’t the only blog you read.  I get it – it’s tough to stay on top of all of that reading.  So I thought I’d help you get your “read more” resolution kicked off on the right foot by compiling a “best of” list for NIFS Corporate Fitness and Active Aging blog in 2013. 

Check out the list below and let us know if we missed one of your favs. 

Most Viewed Blog:  Employee Health and Nutrition:  The Pros and Cons of Organic Foods

We must have hit a hot topic on this one.  It’s a quick read covering basic the pros and cons of helping to improve your employee’s health by offering organic food options at work. 

Most Controversial Blog:  Corporate Wellness:  Is Obesity Really a Disease

In 2013, the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease.  We couldn’t help ourselves – we had to write about their declaration.  It has significant, as yet not dealt with, implications.  This blog series generated a lot of buzz in the social sphere.

Most Practical/Useful Blog:  3 Must-Dos During a Senior Living Fitness Center Renovation

This two part blog was written with much love and direct experience.  Melissa, one of NIFS managers who just lived through a fitness center renovation at the community where she works, puts forward some very practical advice on how to help both your fitness staff and your residents survive the dreaded change. 

Best Vlog Series:  Free Workout Fridays

In May, 2013, we launched a weekly Free Workout Friday series.  It’s been a great outlet for our creative staff to share a variety of simple workouts you can do with limited (or no) equipment.  The most popular video we posted was on how to use a circular resistance band for an effective workout.  Check out NIFS Corporate Fitness Youtube channel for more Free Workout Friday options.

Best “Tell It Like It Is” Blog:  Top Five Reasons Your Residents Don’t Engage in Wellness

I’m nothing if not direct.  In this blog, I outline the five most common reasons I see that residents don’t participate in wellness in your community.  If wellness has floundered in your organization and if you can’t seem to get staff or resident buy in, you might want to review these reasons to see if any of them ring true. 

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Topics: corporate wellness active aging Best of 2013 blogs

NIFS Fitness Management: 12 Days of Wellness

December calendarThe holidays are in full swing and everyone is singing about jingling bells, and Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen,  Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blizten, and Rudolph of course.  Another reoccurring song or tradition that has become a part of our culture in various ways is the 12 Days of Christmas.  We see it on TV with 12 Days of Giveaways, our staff did 12 Days of Fitness via Instagram, and all over Facebook there have been 12 days of something or another where companies thank you for supporting them by offering contests throughout the 12 days. 

This got me thinking about how we jump on that wagon, easy enough… we are going to offer the 12 Days of Wellness.  So I set out to ask around the office, when do the 12 Days of Christmas occur?  Most people, including myself thought “around the 13th or 14th?”, 12 days out from Christmas.   Doh, I’ll just google it. Here I thought I’d engage people, because that’s what we are good at, engaging your residents in your senior living communities or your corporate wellness members and strike up a conversation.   I could have gotten the answer right away if I just Googled it. 

If you haven’t Googled it yourself, in general you would find that the 12 Days of Christmas actually begins on Christmas and carries on for 12 days ending on January 5.  If you need a more detailed explanation, I recommend you Google it for yourself as it does vary between beliefs.

Back to me jumping on the band wagon to celebrate 12 days…  Join us via our Facebook page or Twitter for the 12 Days of Wellness starting tomorrow.  As we head into the New Year and establish those dreadful resolutions, take into account more than just the typical exercise more, lose 10 pounds, eat better.  There are more aspects to your overall wellness that will help you lead a healthier life.  Subscribe to our blog, we have some new authors from our staff in 2014 along with some great programs to share with you in our NIFS Best Practices series where we will feature some of our most successful programs in both Corporate Fitness settings and Active Aging communities.

Enjoy the holiday season and our 12 Days of Wellness!

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Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness active aging nifs fitness management senior living community 12 Days of Christmas 12 Days of Wellness

Corporate Wellness: Of the People, By the People, and For the People

What’s happening in corporate wellness programs right now could be characterized as something of a revolt. Well, revolt might be a little dramatic (don’t think Arab Spring), but perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that those who are the target of carrot/stick employee wellness strategies are pushing back.

They’re pushing back on what has been conventional wisdom for a while: that health-risk assessments and biometric screenings are central (dare I say foundational?) to a sound, data-driven corporate wellness initiative. Employees are pushing back on penalties for not playing, and they’re pushing back on programs that brand failure for anyone who doesn’t achieve arbitrarily selected thresholds for biometric markers. They’re growing intolerant of workplace cultural norms that scream hypocrisy in the face of company wellness policies.  

As someone involved in the world of corporate health, you’d think I would land squarely on the side of gathering the data and using it to capture ROI. But I don’t; it’s just not that black and white.

Why All the Numbers All of the Time?

What I’m seeing in the industry is that corporate wellness providers bow to the number-focus of the CFO or the CEO and communicate in ROI-speak that uses words and phrases like engagement and human capital. To the untrained eye, you’d think “engagement” and “human capital” would have something to do with…well, humans. But it turns out, most of the time they have more to do with participation quotas, biometric thresholds, and productivity benchmarks than with the actual people who need tools, resources, and support to make healthier choices.

Wellness vendors position and market themselves by spouting figures and “facts” (and I use that word loosely), quoting studies and experts (should I use that word loosely, too?). They put into print ridiculous statistics that have ridiculous consequences—all in the name of numbers, data, and ROI.

Raise Your Hand If You Launched a Career in Corporate Wellness to Calculate ROI.

Accountants are passionate about numbers. Fitness specialists are passionate about people. Seriously, most of us got into this business because we were passionate about forming relationships with people so that they would trust we had their best interest in mind when we suggested resources that would help them make healthier choices. As an industry, we’ve largely forgotten our roots, which grew from wanting to help people.

So who’s to blame? Maybe this isn’t the CEO’s fault; maybe it’s just the way of the world. Maybe it’s the almighty dollar we should be blaming. (I predict a comment that blames the government.) Who knows, maybe it’s my fault. I don’t know where the blame goes, but I don’t think it really matters at this point. We’ve simply swung the pendulum too far onto the numbers side of the equation and we forgot about the people.

You know, the people—the individuals who have complicated, busy, overwhelming and typically unhealthy lives. Like the 56-year-old woman with high blood pressure and back pain who is raising her grandchildren and who has no time to take care of herself. Or the single working parent who works by day, goes to school by night, and who is doing everything he can to ensure his daughter has a better life. He struggles to find time to grocery shop, not to mention cook a meal. And then there’s the hourly call center employee who feels hovered-over by her supervisor, who smokes (though she wants to quit but isn’t sure where to start), and who is pregnant with her first child.

These Employees Need Our Help.

They need a relationship with a wellness professional who cares more about the individual accomplishments of the few than the participation quota of the company. They need someone to stand up and say, “I care about you, and I am here to listen to you, to help you find the tools and resources you need. I’m here to help you celebrate your successes and pick you up when you falter on your path to better health.”

Because at the end of the day, if we don’t move the needle on the health of the individuals, then the corporate strategy means nothing. If the only behavior we incentivize is for people to go get their wellness forms signed so they can “get cash for doing it,” we’ve missed an opportunity.

what's wrong with wellness

Topics: corporate wellness employee wellness employee health and wellness ROI data collection corporate fitness centers; return on investement businesses demanding work schedule

NIFS Member Speaks: Ashley Shirley, Fit After Kids

NIFS members speak

Ashley Shirley, one of our corporate fitness members out of Ohio, shares her story and the benefits of utilizing the NIFS Fitness Management staff at her onsite corporate wellness center.  After having two kids she relies on the NIFS staff for accountability and to keep her going!  

"Eating healthy and being fit was a way of life for me before having 2 kids. It was just something I wanted to do for myself. When I got pregnant with my first child I gained 75 lbs, so I went from 155 to 230 in a 9 month period. It was extremely hard on my body. After my second child I was pretty much right back to where I was after my first one. I was miserable because I knew that it wasn’t the way my body was made to be. It’s hard to work out when you have two little ones at home, so having the wellness center here at work is an extreme blessing for me. I take advantage of it every day on my lunch hour. I love the fact that we have an option to take classes if we choose to and I also take advantage of Monday boot camp and will be starting Wednesday TRX classes. Another reason I keep coming back is because I have accountability through Adrienne. She is awesome! She gives us the workout of our lives every time we walk in the wellness center. Member's Speak - AShirleyEven if I’m not taking a class with her she is always there for encouragement and to help me become the best I can be by educating me. She pushes me personally to be better than I knew I could be, and she stretches me way past my comfort zone! For her position, that’s a compliment! There isn’t a class I take that I don’t wake up the next day feeling it. She is all around a sweet person and really makes it a comfortable atmosphere to workout in. Since my last child was born last October I have lost close to 60 lbs! She has been there every step of the way cheering me on! I’m not the only one who feels this way either, we sure do love her!"

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

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Topics: corporate wellness employee health nifs fitness management employee health and fitness NIFS member speak testimonials

Trick or Treat? Corporate Wellness and Philanthropy

Now playing at NIFS-managed corporate fitness centers all over the country:

halloween operation gratitude image

Simply put, corporate wellness and philanthropy go hand in hand.  This is one great example.  What are you doing to cultivate giving back as a measure of good health?

Topics: corporate wellness healthy workforce corporate fitness

Corporate Wellness: Free Workout Friday - Pumpkin Workout

free workout fridayBefore you carve those pumpkins for Halloween, put them to use for a good workout!  NIFS Fitness Management staff in our corporate fitness centers had great success in offering pumpkin workouts to employees this month.  If you think about it, pumpkins are like a medicine ball and come in a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate all intensity levels!   So grab that pumpkin off the porch and show your kids how to use a pumpkin for a workout!

Squat and Curl – Hold a pumpkin in both hands with arms extended down in front of your body.  Step feet wide with toes pointing out at an angle.  Keeping your chest up, lower into a squat and hold the position.  Now curl the pumpkin up toward your chest performing a bicep curl, lower the pumpkin slowly back down and perform 12-15 repetitions.

Full Sit Up – Lay on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Holding the pumpkin on your chest, do a full sit up reach overhead with the pumpkin as you perform the movement.  Slowly lower to the floor bring the pumpkin back down to your chest in one smooth movement.  Repeat for 15 repetitions.

Toe TapsLay on the floor bringing your legs up toward the ceiling (bend your knees if a modification is needed).  Holding the pumpkin in both hands, contract your abs and crunch upward pushing the pumpkin toward your toes.  Rather than relaxing and lowering back to the floor, continue to quickly contract and release taping your toes with the pumpkin for 30 repetitions.

Overhead pressWith feet shoulder width apart, hold the pumpkin in both hands in front of your chest.  Press the pumpkin up over your head extending your arms, and then slowly lower to the starting position.  Repeat for 12-15 repetitions.

Push Up Plank – For an advanced option, place both hands on the pumpkin, if that is too much you can place one hand on the ground and the other on the pumpkin.  Extend your legs out behind you into a plank position.  Slowly bend your arms to lower your body toward the ground, push through your hands and shoulders to return to the starting position to complete a pushup.  Strive for 10 repetitions.  

Russian twist – Sit on the ground with the pumpkin in your lap.  Place your feet on the ground shoulder width apart, for a more advance move lift your feet up keeping your knees bent.  Holding your pumpkin lean back slightly, dropping your right shoulder and taking the pumpkin toward your right.  Slowly move back toward the middle and continue toward the left.  Continue side to side for 30 seconds.

Now get creative and share with us what your favorite pumpkin exercise is!!  

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Topics: corporate wellness employee health nifs fitness management Free Workout Friday pumpkin workout

Corporate Wellness: Free Workout Friday - Tabata

free workout fridayAre you looking for a new, quick, high-intensity workout routine? Then Tabata may be the training style for you! Be prepared to go all-out for short durations of time to increase your strength, while improving your cardio at the same time!  Tabata facilitates a workout which is so intense that 8 rounds will be completed in only 4 minutes! If 4 minutes are enough, then you have completed a full Tabata set, if not, choose a different exercise and repeat the Tabata!

The general set up of Tabata:

  • Go all-out for 20 seconds
  • Rest for 10 seconds
  • Repeat 8 times (8 rounds)

The key points of Tabata:

  • Do as many repetitions as possible in the 20 seconds of work.
  • Pick weights which are hard enough to make you breathless after 20 seconds, but light enough to be able to complete all 8 rounds.
  • Pick an exercise which works most of your body.
    • I.e. Kettle bell swings, squat jumps, jump lunges, step ups

Tabata Exercise Example 1 – alternate between the following two exercises

  • Round 1,3,5,7 – Squat presses with a medicine ball
  • Round 2,4,6,8 – Burpee with push up

Tabata Exercise Example 2

  • Tabata 1: Round 1-8 Squat jumps
  • Tabata 2: Round 1-8 Plank one-arm dumb bell rows
  • Add on more rounds with different exercises to increase length of workout


  • Tabata training should be intense, always listen to your body and use modified options if necessary
  • Have the proper equipment to complete the exercises, if needed
  • Not all Tabata exercises need equipment, body weight exercises can be done at home with no equipment

Have fun, work hard, be creative, and make the workout yours!  What is your favorite Tabata style workout?

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Topics: corporate wellness nifs fitness management Free Workout Friday employee health and fitness

My Story... NIFS Members Speak - Lasalle Pinnock

My storyLasalle Pinnock joined the corporate wellness center in July when his department moved. Almost immediately he scheduled an exercise prescription with the NIFS Fitness Management staff and has been following that exercise program ever since. He started with a few days of strength training and cardiovascular exercise. After about a month he came to the staff looking to add one more day of activity to his routine. Each week he updates us on his progress not only with weight lost but how he is improving in stamina and strength. Because of his dedication to exercise he has also been motivated to make healthier choices when it comes to his diet and started sharing the things he’s learned with his wife.

LaSalle’s success has come from his commitment to making healthier choices and his consistency with exercise read his journey toward a healthier lifestyle below:

I started working in the Wellness Center when my department moved from the Galleria location because I felt I had no excuse. The gym is right here at work, what more can I ask for? This was the best time and opportunity for me to really focus and make changes in my life. My beautiful wife and kids are who keep me motivated to work out and eat healthily. Having two young daughters, I told myself I want to be alive to see both of them go to college and get married. I knew I had to make changes and they are what keep me going. 

Since starting in the gym and using Penny’s workout routines I have lost a little over 10 pounds in just under month. I have also changed my eating and drinking habits greatly. I was a huge Coca-Cola® drinker and used to drink Cokes daily. I now only drink water throughout the day. I will have the occasional Coke® or Coke Zero® on the weekend. I have cut out Lasalle Pinnockfast food, fried, and greasy foods. If I’m unable to eat a healthy meal I make sure I eat a smaller portion. Instead of getting sodas or chips from the vending machine I grab trail mix or eat some type of fruit. I have noticed since working out I have so much more stamina, energy, and I am less tired during the day. I can really feel and see the difference in my mood and body. Mentally I feel more focused and less stressed, I just feel great. Right now my goal is to stay focused and to keep moving forward. I want to reach my target weight and inspire others.

My advice for others is this, It’s hard and it’s going to take some time but don’t let that stop you because it’s worth it. One of the best quotes I’ve read and that keeps me going is, “Some quit due to slow progress. Never grasping the fact that…slow progress is progress”. 

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

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Topics: corporate wellness employee health and wellness corporate wellness staffing nifs fitness managment NIFS members speak