Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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

5 Plyos for Cinco de Mayo

ThinkstockPhotos-468435785.jpgWhat’s better than chips and guacamole? Tacos and guacamole? Fajitas and guacamole? Or guacamole and a serving of guacamole with a little dish of guacamole on the side? Point is guacamole is amazing and what better way to celebrate the awesomeness of guacamole than Cinco de Mayo. If you plan on indulging in as much guacamole as I do this Cinco de Mayo then maybe a plyometric workout beforehand will keep your conscience at bay when asking your waiter/waitress for that third serving of guac. Here are my 5 favorite plyometric exercises for Cinco de Mayo:

5 – Squat Jumps

5 – Power Push-Ups

5 – Split Lunge Jumps

5 – Heavy Med Ball Slams

5 – Burpees

*Repeat these 5 times through, if you aren’t sure of how to execute these exercises here is a rundown for you:

Squat Jumps – Start with feet shoulder width apart. Lower body into a squat by bending at hips with your back straight, pushing your glutes back while looking forward.  Allow your arms to naturally swing back and with a quick pause at the bottom, push through your feet into a jumping motion. Swing your arms to straight up in the air, fully extending over your head. When landing, squat back to the lowered position and repeat.

Power Push-Ups – Start in push-up position with arms shoulder width apart. Keeping body straight, perform a push-up. On the way up, in an explosive motion, push your body up so your hands come off the ground. Resistance can be decreased by having knees on the ground.

Split Lunge Jumps – Stand with one foot forward and other foot back with knees bent slightly. Dip body down by bending legs lowering yourself toward the ground. Immediately jump upward quickly switching legs and landing with feet in opposite positions. Keep torso upright and hips straight forward. Repeat sequence with opposite leg movement.

Heavy Med Ball Slams – Hold a medicine ball with both hands and stand with feet at shoulder width apart. Raise the ball above your head fully extending arms overhead. Reverse the motion, slamming the ball into the ground directly in front of you as hard as you can. Receive the ball with both hands on the bounce and repeat the movement.

Burpees – Start standing with feet hip width apart. Squat down placing hands shoulder width apart on the floor. Jump both feet back into a push-up position. Perform a push up and immediately jump feet back into the squat position. Jump up from the squat position extending arms straight up. Land back on the ground and repeat.  For an easier version, eliminate the push up, you can also step your feet out and back to eliminate the explosive movements.

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Topics: employee health exercise fitness healthy choices

3 Tips for Improving Posture for Employee Health

Most of us spend the majority of our lives working and commuting to work. In our spare time we also enjoy activities such as reading, watching television, and spending time with our loved ones. What do most of these activities have in common throughout our lifetime? Sitting!

ThinkstockPhotos-458876835.jpg

The Toll Sitting Takes on Your Health

A large portion of life as an employee requires extended periods of time seated in a chair, driving to work, and spending time with loved ones sitting at the dining room table. As we age, being in the seated position can have negative effects on our posture, which will also have a negative effect on our health.

As human beings we are structured to walk, run, and swim (if you learned) to accomplish tasks on a daily basis. We used to hunt, forage, farm our own food, and use our own feet when traveling from one location to another. This strengthened the muscles we needed when growing up and maintained our muscles as we aged. In our modern society, most professional careers have become sedentary and require less physical activity to get the job done.

Aging Well with Better Posture

One of the most apparent characteristics our body shows as we age is our posture. We remember the days in our youth when we stood tall, our shoulders were back, and we were probably a few inches taller. As we age, we and our loved ones begin to notice a change in posture in most individuals who had a sedentary profession. Even though some individuals remained active with a sedentary profession, other might not have taken the right steps to ensure good posture during the senior years, when it matters most.

The old saying is practice makes perfect; the new saying is perfect practice makes perfect! Even as many of us stay active, we are not performing the right exercises to maintain posture. Older individuals must perform the correct exercises to improve and maintain a healthy posture.

Tips for Improving Posture

Here are three tips for improving posture that you can use right away.

  • Stretch often, and stretch the right muscles! Muscles that become tight from working most desk jobs and commuting in vehicles are our chest muscles, neck muscles, and leg muscles. Being hunched over for several hours a day contributes to muscle tightness in these areas. Bringing your arms out to the side and stretching your chest four to five times a day can stretch the affected chest muscle. Learning how to stretch the leg muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) in both the seated and standing position will give you more flexibility and prevent poor posture as you age. Neck muscles become tight from staring at computer screens, sitting at desks and carrying stress from demanding jobs. Learn stretches that loosen the neck and take the weight off of your shoulders.
  • Stand up every 30 minutes throughout the workday. Many of us get focused on our work and forget to stay active throughout the day. Standing up will stretch tight muscles, increase blood circulation, and give you a mental break before continuing the rest of your work.
  • Strengthen the muscles that improve and maintain your posture. Muscles that support an upright posture need to be activated and stimulated to maintain their strength and endurance throughout a lifetime. Many of these muscles are weak and inactive during working hours, which can lead to being inactive for lifetime. Strength training exercises focusing on posture include TheraBand rows, hip extensions, and lateral shoulder raises, which have been shown to maintain correct posture in senior populations.

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Topics: employee health posture sitting

Show your Support for Employee Health


ThinkstockPhotos-171337565.jpgAs you kick off the New Year in your workplace, you will probably overhear many of your employees talking about being healthier this year, and their New Year’s resolutions. Eating better, participating in more physical activity, stressing less, establishing a better work-life balance… the list goes on. If your workforce is like the majority of people who have the best intentions of improving their health this year, many will be unsuccessful once work and life get back in the way.

The good news is that healthy habits can be created and maintained in the workplace with a little help from leadership (and who doesn’t want healthy employees?). Here are some ideas that you can incorporate at your workplace to help your employees stick to their health resolutions and show your support for employee health.

Allow employees to schedule time for physical activity throughout the day.

Studies show workers who are able to participate in activity throughout the workday are more productive, so this is a win-win for you and the employee! Making it known to your workforce that you support a break to exercise can go a long way toward changing the health culture in your workplace. If there is no access to a fitness center or group fitness classes in your facility, this year could be the time to explore some options that best fit your workplace needs.

Have healthy snacks available.

If you have the budget to purchase healthy snacks for your employees, great! Have a few common areas stocked with healthy options made available to employees. If you are relying on your vending machine, look to ensure that you have a good variety of healthy choices clearly labeled and available.

Provide opportunities to better manage stress.

Work comes with stressors that can trigger negative thoughts and health habits among your employees. This can be as simple as allowing employees to step away from their desk to go for a short walk or allowing them to take a few minutes to watch a cat video to get a good laugh. Other options that come with a price tag but would be very popular include having a massage therapist provide ten-minute chair massages every few months, or a yoga instructor one or two days a week to provide your employees with an opportunity to unwind.

Allow for a power nap.

Who would have thought that we had it right back in preschool? Many are sleep deprived and it is impacting the quality of work that is delivered and increasing chances for other health risks. Allowing your employees to take a 20-minute power nap can result in a more productive day with fewer mistakes than a day with no nap.

Identify your health champions and put them to work!

They will love that you thought of them, and they have been secretly or openly plotting how they could make this happen and probably have great ideas to share. Let your nutrition nut run with the task of having healthy snacks readily available around the office, and let your fitness guru seek out a few fitness opportunities that can be taken advantage of in the conference room (if you do not have an onsite fitness center). They will also be great about rallying the employees to get on board with the new efforts.

Looking to help your employees have the resources they need to be healthy?  Click below to download our whitepaper for tips to add exercise to your wellness program.

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Topics: employee health corporate fitness productivity new year

Employee Health: Why is breakfast the most important meal of the day?

healthy_breakfastHave you ever wondered how some people seem to have energy throughout the day and manage to work out after they get off work?  What’s their secret and how can you steal it?

It’s no secret; you’ll have more energy for physical activity if you are properly fueled and that starts with the most important meal of the day – breakfast.

To get from point “A” to “B” you need to fuel your car with gas or you won’t reach your destination; but if you haven’t checked the oil in a while the engine is going to have issues and your car will be in serious trouble. We put more thought into maintaining our vehicles then we do for caring for ourselves. Think of the food and water you consume as gasoline and oil. If you choose low quality foods and fail to drink enough fluids your performance will be compromised, you’ll become dehydrated, and won’t have any energy.

If you wait until lunch to have your first meal you’re more likely to make poor food choices and cave into eating whatever is most readily available simply because you’re too hungry to make a better choice. If you start your day off with a healthy breakfast you’ll be more likely to make other healthy choices. One good decision will lead to more good choices. You’ll be more likely to pass on tempting leftovers in the break room and instead choose to have a healthy lunch. The bonus is you’ll be able to work out because you’ll have the energy.

Lack of time, choices, and simply not feeling hungry are the common reasons why we skip breakfast. Planning ahead and having some quick no-fuss options in the kitchen or at your desk will save you time. Keep dry cereal, whole wheat bagels, a nut butter, or instant oatmeal on hand. If you still cannot manage eating a whole meal in the morning start with something small like a banana. Stay on track with your eating throughout the day.

See for yourself how eating breakfast can affect your energy level and increase your daily activity and let us know using #NIFS150 and #MoveMore.

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Topics: employee health wellness nifs nutrition news

Employee Health: Five Tips for Sun Safety

outdoors2Sunshine and summertime is heading our way. With the weather temperatures rising and sunshine beaming down it’s easy to overlook the damaging effects too much sun can have on our health.  You should worry about your sun exposure all year long, not just in the summer months.  Be proactive in your sun protection as the weather warms up and you and your family start spending more time outdoors.  Overlooking the importance of protecting healthy skin can have devastating and lasting effects on not only one’s appearance, but also overall health.  Treat your skin with the care it deserves and stay safe from burns, blisters, and over-exposure with these five simple tips for sun safety.

  1. A shot a day! Always apply 1 oz of sunscreen when heading outside for extended periods of time.  Use “broad-spectrum” lotion with a sun protection factor or SPF of 30 or greater. 
  2. Apply & Repeat. Be sure to apply sun screen at least 15 minutes prior to heading out in the sun and remember to reapply every 2 hours.  Consider your activities while in the sun.  If you are enjoying some time in the water or dripping from sweat after a hot summer run reapply more frequently.
  3. Protect your Eyes.  Sun glasses are to eyes as sun block is to skin.  Don’t just lather up with lotion and be done with it.  Investing in a pair of UV protection sun glasses is vital to your eye health.  Plus, it’s the best way to guarantee optimal vision while playing, riding, running, or relaxing in the sun.
  4. Get Dressed to go out in the Sun. So what if its 70 degrees outside, you still need to put some clothes on.  Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats when expecting to spend a day in the sun.  Unlike sunscreen that wears off in a couple hours, fabric doesn’t just evaporate in the sun.  Dress accordingly to protect your skin!
  5. Seek Shade.  Sitting under the shade of a tree or umbrella helps to significantly decrease direct sun exposure.  Although this is one alternative, it is not the only precautionary technique for limiting UV exposure. 

For optimal safety when out in the sun it is best to follow all five tips.  These simple proactive steps could determine how pleasant or miserable your future outdoor adventures are.  Keep that in mind the next time you step outside without adequate skin protection. 

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Topics: employee health health and wellness sun safety

NIFS Member Speaks: Tami Feaster turns her resolution into a lifestyle

members_speakTami is a determined woman.  She began as a secret exerciser doing her own thing.  She is now a bold woman with confidence willing to try everything she can.  She actively recruits co-workers to join her for exercise sessions at the onsite corporate fitness center in their workplace and is always game to try new exercises.  It has been fantastic to be able to get to know Tami during the past few years.

Turning a Resolution into a Lifestyle

It was the end of December 2011 when I saw a picture of myself from Christmas that year and I was horrified. I couldn’t believe that I had let myself get so out of control with my weight gain, eating habits, and lack of exercise. My face was round and my stomach was larger than it had ever been. At that moment, I decided that I was going to make a lifestyle change, I had to. I just prayed that I would have the desire to stick with it as many past New Year’s resolutions had not been successful.

That Christmas, my daughter had received a Wii console system and I decided this was going to be my mode of getting fit. I started by weighing in and found myself to be 225 lbs. at a height of 5’5 and according to the console, I was obese. That was not going to do it for me, a change had to happen!

TamiFeasterMy exercise routine started out by playing the activity games, step aerobics, yoga, stretching, “running”/jumping in place, etc. for approximately 5 days a week for 45 minutes or more. I also had access to a gym, which after a month or so of the Wii, was my next mode of exercise. I would wake up at 3:50 in the morning in order to make it to the gym, make it back home in time to wake my daughter up for school, and get to work by 7:30 am. It was hard at first, but the weight was starting to really come off and I loved seeing the results and feeling good. By April, I was jogging on the treadmill with a 12 minute mile. Wow! I couldn’t believe I was “running”! At that point I was hooked….I loved running!

Not only did my exercise habits changed, but so did my eating habits. We read so many articles about eating a healthy breakfast, 2 small snacks a day, portion control, low carbs, good carbs, fruits and veggies, well, I put it into practice. And it worked. I was starting to really know my body and what worked, what made me feel good, and how to get results. Education is key in obtaining a healthy weight loss goal.

I can’t really say that I’ve had any setbacks, which is amazing since it’s been over 3 years since I’ve started this lifestyle change. It’s a decision that I made back then and have not wanted to turn back. Since 2012, I’ve lost 63 lbs and have dropped 5 pant sizes. I’ve recently completed my first ½ marathon, although I didn’t finish in my goal time, I finished a measly 13 minutes over my goal. That just means I need to train a little bit harder next time. By no means am I finished with my goals that I keep setting for myself. Once I set a goal and meet it, I set a new goal for myself and keep going!

My advice to you….make the decision to make a better you! Strive to be healthy and you will succeed!

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

 

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Topics: employee health corporate fitness NIFS members speak member testimonials testimonials

Corporate Wellness: Learn what you can do to prevent heart disease

Let’s begin by asking a generalized question - How familiar are you with your heart and its functionality? February is Heart Disease Awareness month, but spreading awareness about the disease is not only limited to this specific month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., which is an umbrella term that includes atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems. Heart disease can affect a person of any age, so learning about prevention tips and implementing them into your life can be beneficial.

Although we lack the power to change some risk factors, we can start by making small life choices like a healthy eating plan and being more physically active. The American Heart Association breaks down prevention tips by age groups.  See where you fall and what you need to being doing to help reduce your risk for heart disease.

heart_healthIn your 20’s:

  • Have regular wellness exams
  • Be physically active
  • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke

In your 30’s:

  • Make heart healthy living a family affair
  • Know your family history
  • Tame your stress

In your 40’s:

  • Watch your weight
  • Have your blood pressure checked
  • Don’t brush off snoring (sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke)

In your 50’s:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Learn the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke
  • Follow your treatment plan

In your 60’s and beyond:

  • Have an ankle-brachial test
  • Watch your weight
  • Learn the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke

The bottom line is to change your unhealthy behaviors - clean up your dietary patterns, get active, and don’t put off your necessary doctor appointments. The risk of heart disease increases as you age, so the earlier you are aware, the better.

The staff in your corporate fitness center would be more than happy to help you get started with an exercise routine and are available for consultations. They are there to help and guide you, as well as get you familiarized with what is offered in your fitness center. These are just the basic guidelines to a happy and healthy heart!

The first Friday in the month of February is National Wear Red Day. Help bring awareness by wearing red to show your support.

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Topics: employee health heart disease heart healthy

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

Corporate Fitness: How to make fitness fun with pumpkins

anna_cherelle

We are always looking for ways to keep workouts fresh and members engaged. Holidays are a great time to play off of the holiday theme and create unique workouts. Although some may think of them as cheesy, once they get into the workout they realize we haven’t forgotten what they came for – a challenge! Each year around Halloween we plan a pumpkin workout for our corporate fitness members. Why pumpkins? They are everywhere this time of year; why not include them in a workout? The pumpkins act as weights and props. They are less expensive than most gym equipment and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, allowing for a variety of fitness levels to participate.

Around this time each year we start brainstorming how/when we will do our annual pumpkin workout. Once a date and time are picked, we send out a registration link to our members as a “special invitation” to join us. The link also helps us keep track of how many people we will have participating, so we know how many pumpkins to purchase. Through word of mouth, a few flyers, and emails, we’ll typically have a group of 20-30 people!

Planning the workout is where our creativity is put to the test. We try to incorporate the pumpkin as much as possible while making sure the exercises are safe and effective. A few things to consider:

  1. Weight - Each of the pumpkins will be a different weight, so make sure the exercises can be performed with a variety of weights. (Medicine or Dynamax ball are good to have on hand for a quick swap when the pumpkin is not the appropriate weight.)
  2. Shape - All of the pumpkins will have a different shape (some round, some more oval). Take this into consideration when incorporating certain exercises.  

cherelleThere are endless exercises that can be performed with the pumpkin. Start by thinking of go-to exercises that you would incorporate into one of your group fitness classes (pushups, squats, lunges, etc.). Now, think about how a “weight” or pumpkin can be added. For example, hold the pumpkin at your chest while performing a squat, put one hand on the pumpkin for an added challenge during a set of pushups, or push the pumpkin overhead after performing a lunge. Structure your workout so every major muscle group is targeted by the end. Also, throw in some cardio bursts, such as running with the pumpkin, bear crawling while rolling the pumpkin along at your side, or performing mountain climbers with your hands grasping the pumpkin. Add some core exercises as well (planks with a pumpkin roll, Russian twists, sit-up with a press, single leg v-ups).  Think about the amount of space that you have and plan accordingly.

AnnaSo, now you’ve secured participants and planned the exercises; don’t forget about one of the most important parts – pumpkin preparation! In the past, we’ve purchased our pumpkins a few different ways. A visit to the local supermarket allowed us to hand-pick the pumpkins sizes, but you’ll need some muscle power and a large car.  We’ve also gotten our pumpkins from a distributor – this proved to require less hassle as the pumpkins were delivered right to our door, but also resulted in less variety in sizes.

Depending on the condition of your pumpkins, they may need a quick cleaning to remove dirt and in most cases will need their stems cut so that no sharp edges remain.  A basic saw or knife works well for this – just don’t wait until the last minute to make sure your pumpkins are ready to go! We advertise that pumpkin selection for the participants is first come, first served, but as mentioned above, we have extra medicine balls on hand if someone needs to switch out. 

Now, you’re ready to give your participants a SPOOK-tacular experience with a souvenir pumpkin to remember it by! Looking for other ways to make fitness festive this October?  Check out NIFS Fitness Management's Best Practice: SKELETONE!

NIFS Best Practices Corporate

Topics: employee health corporate fitness