Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Corporate Fitness: How to make fitness fun with pumpkins


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

Corporate Wellness: Tipping the scale with NIFS Maintain Not Gain program – part 1

MNG_LogoThere is more to maintaining your weight over the year-end holiday season than simply weighing in before Thanksgiving and weighing out after New Year’s Day.  Still, before we go off the deep end with ridiculous claims about holiday or year-end weight gain, let’s get the facts.  Despite common claims that traditional holiday weight gain is seven pounds or more, the research shows that people typically only gain one to two pounds during the holidays.  The problem with that minimal gain is that studies show many people never get those extra few pounds back off and, over the course of an adult lifetime, what once seemed like inconsequential weight gain can become a significant health issue.   It’s also worth nothing that at least one study  found that adults who are already overweight are more likely to gain five pounds or more during the holiday season.

Given that there’s an appetite to maintain weight during the party-going-season that is the holidays, many business have folded holiday weight loss or weight maintenance challenges into their annual programming.  NIFS, in fact, has been offering our Maintain Not Gain program to our clients for more than 12 years.  And we think we’ve gotten pretty good at it, but our offering is done with a few different, but powerful twists. 

The Power of the Team

You see, we understand the impact of social networks on weight gain; we also know that teamwork can impact weight loss.  So rather than leaving participants to fend for themselves against their natural networks who may be inadvertently working against them, we decided to opt for the team approach.  It doesn’t take pounds of scientific papers to understand why we chose teams as the basis for participation in our Maintain Not Gain program.  If you’ve ever been on a team you know that personal responsibility and accountability increase greatly when others are depending on you for the entire team to be successful. (Do you want to let your team down because you claimed an extra slice of pecan pie and didn’t move your body enough?)

The Power of Forgivenessthanksgiving_dinner

The Maintain Not Gain program is for people, not robots.  We know what it’s really tough to make it through Thanksgiving without overeating, not to mention all the office pitch-ins, family gatherings, and sweet treats that show up deliciously wrapped and calling your name.  We also know that body weight is a dynamic number and we aren’t huge fans of putting undue attention on a single number.  So, we’ve built the program with some grace by giving each participant a two-pound variance.

As an added bonus, the program focuses only on the weight of your team.  So a four person team has an eight pound grace.  If one person gains nine pounds and everyone else loses a teeny bit, then the team can still claim success.  (Of course, we think there’s maybe some room to improve that team’s dynamic.)

The Power of Fun

This program has become such a fantastic tradition for our staff and our members.  One of the ways that some of our sites elevate the initiative is by renting a multi-person scale so all four team members can get on at once for a total weight.  In this case, we do public weigh ins and weigh outs.  It creates quite a scene as participants giggle and gasps when they see the weight of four people!

For fun, we also set up a competition where we offer prizes for the most creative team name and let all the participants decide the winner. A few of my favorites from last year were, Thin it to Win it, Jingles over Jiggles, Dreaming of a Lite Christmas, and Mission Slimpossible.

In part 2,  of this blog we’ll cover the “how to’s” of our program so that you can get busy building this promising program for your own network.

Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers


Topics: employee health Corporate Best Practices,

Do office pets decrease stress in the workplace?

office_petThis recent article we shared on Twitter explained the positive effects that a pet can have in a work place, and based on how much traffic we saw from that single posting, it would seem that many of you are pet lovers like me.  What do you think about pets in the workplace?

Most employed people are on a constant search for methods to reduce stress in the workplace, improve their personal health, or maybe even increase productivity at the same time. I mean who has ever heard of not being stressed while getting loads of work done, what??! The article mentioned that employers actually notice a benefit from the having pets around, bringing energy, fun, and companionship. I see pets as great company and comfort. A great example given was the case that pet owners may work longer hours if they are able to bring their pet into work. This would save them from the rush to get home at the end of every day to let their pet out. I know that letting my dog was always a constant thought in the back of my mind. I noticed a higher stress level, worrying about her and how she is holding up at home. Does anyone else have that constant worry?

Randolph Barker, a professor of management in Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business, performed a study in 2013 of dogs in the workplace. The results showed an actual decline in stress among workers, while those who didn’t have pets in workplace showed an increase in stress as the day continued. Among other studies, interaction with pets can lower blood pressure and improve a person’s mood. It is crazy to think the littlest things, like pets (sometimes they are little), can be so beneficial!

Before everyone gets all antsy and starts bringing their pet to work, it is suggested that a written policy be enforced. This can prevent liability and keep a clear policy with all things considered - allergies, cleaning up after pets, and the possibility of aggressive behavior. If this option is not considered, there is always The Take Your Dog to Work Day event sponsored by Pet Sitters International, who set aside a day in June to allow those with pets celebrate pet ownership and bring their pets into the work place. This would be a fun day to see so many pets in the work place! Personally, I know my day would brighten up pretty quick! Think about suggesting this to your employer. Who knows, they might consider the day or year round event!

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Topics: employee health stress

Making Fitness Fun in Corporate Wellness


Your employees may see your corporate wellness offerings as the same thing over and over.  They might even feel pressure to participate which can often lead to them not participating at all.  Consider what might engage employ

ees in a way that makes it fun, a break from work, or even stress relief.  Our corporate fitness staff take client employees back to the days of elementary school RECESS!!!  Recess

Whether it be a single day event, a scheduled group fitness class, or even one day a month throughout the summer consider creating physical activities for your employees that create a fun and welcoming environment for them to be active.  Our staff established recess workout events with a carefree kid-like mentality to engage employees in a full body workout.  Recess events were established to help increase strength and agility while releasing that inner child to get outside and have some fun.

Sample Recess Ideas:

·         Fitness Freeze Tag – a great way to warm up, just like when you were a kid get employees moving with a game of tag.

·         Staff Says – just like Simon says, but insert the leader’s name.  Participants do whatever this individual instructs employees to do, think exercises!  For example, Simon says, do 5 pushups and once a person is out they do a walk/run lap around the area.

·         Red Light, Green Light – get your heart rate up with a game of red light, green light! 

·         RecessDuck, Duck, Goose – add a twist to the old school game, have participants hold a plank or perform sit-ups while one individual walks around deciding who will be goose. 

·         Kickball – get moving by setting up some bases and get a friendly game of kickball going at lunch time.  Nothing says recess like a game of kickball

·         Ultimate Frisbee – split into teams and take it out doors for some ultimate Frisbee.  Add a twist to the game and if they drop the Frisbee they have to complete a designated number of pushups. 

·         Hula hoop - competitions are another great way to take it back to the day of recess fun.  What a great core workout hula hooping can be.  Simply turn it into a contest for a little competition among co-workers.

Plan for Recess Success:

·         Budget and organize in advance – plan activities ahead of time to help outline what you need to purchase and incorporate into your budget.  An investment in hula hoops, a kick ball or Frisbees can be utilized again in the future.

·         Promote accordingly – spread the word to promote your recess event, send an email, post flyers, utilize CCTV if available, announce the event during other organized meetings, group fitness classes, etc.

·         Ask for feedback – connect with participants following the event whether verbally or via a survey.  Collecting feedback, both positive and negative, is one of the best ways to improve your programming in the future.


Not only did the employees like the change in their workout, they had a lot of fun.  Check out what participants had to say about the Recess Program:

“The staff keeps fitness fun and entertaining! ….The RECESS class was the perfect mix of childhood memories, fitness, and fun.  Kickball and musical resistance bands were my favorite!“ – Karen E.

“This was a great break from the routine. The games were creative, but the exercises still demanding.” – David C.

“Thanks for showing us corporate types that we can still have fun at work!” – Don H.

“Both of the Recess classes got me out of bed at 5:30! I was wonderfully surprised how effective and fun the workouts were…. The whole time though, everyone was smiling.” – Jennifer P.

“Absolutely loved it!  Felt good to just be goofy (duck, duck, goose, and tag) and enjoy a fun game of kickball.” – Donna K.

“It is hard to top a day that starts with chasing and throwing water balloons at your coworkers!”  - Irma T.

For more of our best practices, click below and recieve 10 other programming ideas implemented by our corporate fitness staff!

NIFS Best Practices Corporate

Topics: corporate wellness employee health best practice

The Rap on Wraps: Do slimming wraps work?

There’s the old saying, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. As a Health Fitness Professional, I spend a lot of my time sorting through what works and what doesn’t. Usually to find out what works you look at research, studies, personal experience…etc. What doesn’t work usually sorts itself out or they stop airing the infomercials. But what about these “slimming wraps? What are they? Do they work?

Slimming wraps are a not so recent trend of wrapping parts of the body with plastic or cloth and being amazed by the loss of inches afterward. The wrap company I’m using as an example says their product will trim, tone, tighten and help reduce cellulite. To be fair, they have a fairly lengthy disclaimer section stating the wraps are for cosmetic use only and do not help with weight loss.

But is there anything backing up these claims?

No. It may not come as a surprise, but very few studies have been done on the effectiveness of slimming wraps. This also includes almost all home-based treatments for cellulite. Be careful when searching for honest reviews online, as most reviews are essentially paid advertisements.

Do they work?

Yes, but only temporarily. No long term benefits are associated with slimming wraps. Much like spray tans, the “results” will eventually go away. I could go in detail about this and tell you all about the amazing anatomy of the human body. Or we can perform a little experiment.

Are you wearing socks? Yes, good! (no, go find someone who is). Now lift up your pant leg and pull your sock down. Is there an imprint where your sock was? Is your leg slightly smaller in that area? Awesome! That’ll be $19.99 please.

veggies weights water resized 600What does work?

Healthy eating and exercise. Use that $59.99 to buy some personal training or group exercise passes. Slimming down any part of your body with exercise is going to take time and anything that promises “inches in minutes” is trying to sell you something. There is no replacement for clean eating and exercise.

Replace your processed foods with fresh fruit and vegetables along with lean meat.  Your portion sizes could probably use some revamping; try measuring out proper portion sizes for a week to get a better understanding of what you are actually eating.  Start a food log to help track when you are eating and why, maybe you eat when you are bored or tired.  This will help you understand triggers that cause you to eat.

Want to trim down your midsection the old fashion way? Try this beginner workout to get started:

  • .25 mile run/walk

  • 1 minute seated Core Twist

  • 1 minute Plank

  • 30 second Mountain Climbers

  • Repeat 2-3 times

I'm curious to know if you have tried a wrap and if it encouraged you to adapt a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise.  Comment and share what you have found to work for you.

Topics: employee health weight loss fitness trends

High-Touch Versus High-Tech in Corporate Wellness

fit techThere’s been a lot in the media lately about wearable technology having a strong presence in corporate wellness. Employee wellness programs have provided a whole new market for some wearable manufacturers, and one research firm indicates that upwards of 13 million wearables could become part of employee wellness initiatives in the next five years.

The Challenges with  High Tech Wellness

This specific high-tech phenomenon is fairly new and relatively unresearched in terms of long-term effectiveness at helping adults make sustainable health behavior change. But technology in corporate wellness has been around for years and it has evolved to keep up with perceived wants and needs. Years (and I mean years) ago, we used to take health risk assessments (HRA) on paper. Then those moved to this thing called the internet. Eventually, we got “smart” feedback on those HRAs and our fingerstick data was integrated with our self-report HRA responses to create a profile.

Now we have web capacity to integrate with pedometers and other higher-tech wearables like Up® by Jawbone® and various products by Fitbit. The data syncs up to a company site where we can compete with our peers, and it links with our own tracking tools on our phones. We have access to a lot of information about our movement. Still, I wonder if data is really king when it comes to health behavior change. Are high-tech solutions enough to help someone move their own needle?

You probably have anecdotes where someone’s health was profoundly changed with the help of a wearable, an app, or some combination. You, like me, may also know stories where a wearable began an obsession with data and quickly sucked all the fun out of measuring the movement. So effectiveness may very well be in the arm of the wearer (so to speak). Still, there are definite limits to today’s tech solutions. Maybe someone will solve them down the line, but right now, as I see it, there are barriers on tech that limit potential impact on improving health. There’s a great outline of these limits in this Forbes article.

There are other issues with a high-tech-only solution that have come to light recently, as well. For example, while more and more boomers (who are still in your workforce) are adopting technology solutions in various areas of their lives, they still lag behind Gen X and Millennials in their rate of adoption. This article makes the case that boomers may be the demographic most likely to benefit from, and most willing to pay for health-related technology, but the market isn’t designing for them.

And while the technology certainly supports what seems to be the unquenchable thirst for data, there is still the tricky math involved in determining whether your employee wellness device translates to actual company savings on health care.

How High Touch Wellness Helps

When you look at the challenges identified in the Forbes article, many (dare I say all) of them can be worked through or even remedied by a human being with a brain and some capacity for nuance. And here’s where high-touch in corporate wellness steps up.

The right people powering your corporate wellness program should be

  • Both capable of and passionate about helping your employees establish healthy goals and effective plans to achieve those goals.
  • Compassionate motivators who have the right skills to nudge participants toward finding their own intrinsic motivation.
  • Nuanced enough to know when to step in to provide a course correction when your employees stop engaging or when their efforts aren’t achieving the carefully crafted goals.
  • Savvy at helping participants understand their data in a way that’s meaningful and impactful.

Using people in a high-touch capacity to bolster and back up your high-tech tools can be an effective way to help your employees achieve better health. 

CORP Initiatives


Topics: corporate wellness employee health technology corporate wellness staffing counting steps

NIFS: How to face your fears

face your fearsMy earliest memory of my biggest fear was around age seven or eight. I was playing in my backyard with my childhood best friend on the swing set. We were running around it trying to catch each other when I slipped and fell, cutting my arm. I didn’t even realize I was bleeding until my friend pointed it out to me. Immediately my heart started to race, palms began to sweat, and I quickly lost all the color in my face. The next thing I remember is my Mom and friend standing over me as I lay on the ground after passing out. Every encounter with blood after this episode only amplified this fear, often resulting in avoiding certain situations such as routine blood draws or even jobs that required me to be able to perform a finger stick cholesterol test to fitness center members. Finally, after living with this fear for over twenty years, I finally made up my mind that it was time to face it. What is the one big fear you have in your life? Are you ready to face it? 

4 Tips to Facing Your Fears

1. Start small: Break down your fear and anxiety into smaller, more manageable pieces. I even listed the out in order from 1-10. (10 giving you the highest amount of anxiety and 1 just a small amount) Slowly work your way up the list as your anxiety reduces overtime.

2. Celebrate small victories: Are you afraid of heights and climbed a high amount of stairs, reaching a high elevation? Celebrate that! Have you wanted to take a group fitness class and finally worked up the courage to try one? Way to go! These small victories overtime will help you conquer your fear.

3. Ask for help: When I knew I wanted to overcome my fear, I asked for professional help. I know there are plenty of physiatrists that specialize in overcoming fear and anxiety. There are lots of resources online or by checking with your primary care physician.

4. Take action: Whether you are afraid of heights, spiders, or needles, you must physically face this fear. I overcame my fear of needles and blood with a standard blood draw. I may have looked like the man below, but I did it!  (And didn’t pass out!) 

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Topics: employee health worksite wellness nifs fitness management

Free Workout Friday - Maintain Not Gain

Free Workout FridayOur staff is kicking off our annual Maintain Not Gain program at our client sites.  This program is structured to help individuals maintain their weight through those months filled with tasty food and delicious treats that surround the holidays.  As you gear up for the holiday parties and events stay on track by following our Free Workout Friday blog postings to keep your workouts on track.  We aren’t saying you can’t enjoy the food, we just suggest proper portion sizes and that you don’t skip out on your workouts! 

If you aren’t a member at one of our client sites and would like help staying on track, “like” NIFS Fitness Management on Facebook and join our Facebook edition of Maintain Not Gain.  Watch for the links to submit your initial weight November 16 – 22.  Watch your newsfeed for tips to stay on track and submit your final weight in January.  If you maintain and not gain through the holidays you will be eligible for a prize drawing! 

Now let’s get started with a great, easy workout to keep you on track! 

WARM UP with a 5 minute walk or anything to get your muscles warm!

10 squatsMNG logo

15 pushups

20 alternating lunges

25 bicep curls

30 jumping jacks

35 bicycles

STRETCH, you never want to stretch a cold muscle, so always do so once the muscles are warm!

Beginner: Repeat 3-5 times, with short or minimal breaks.

Intermediate-Advanced: Complete as many times as possible in 25 minutes. 

Topics: employee health exercise nifs fitness management maintain not gain

Corporate Wellness: Free Workout Friday - Turkey Trot Training

free workout fridayThanksgiving is almost here! That means it’s time to sign up for your local Turkey Trot, Drumstick Dash or your own personal Thanksgiving Day 5K! Studies have proven that your metabolism increases for several hours post-workout, so make a priority to squeeze in some exercise and boost your body’s calorie burning abilities before the big feast. If you do happen to be training for a 5K on Thanksgiving Day, see below for a sample training program that starts on Monday, 11/11.  So today, we want you to go for a brisk walk because you need to pick up the pace on Monday!

Note: This an aggressive running plan, as Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. It is highly recommended that you have done some running prior to starting this program, and that you are comfortable running 1+ miles. If you are a beginner runner, make a goal of finishing the 5K through a combination of walking and running.  You can easily just walk through this schedule to help prepare for your event of choice.

11/11: Run 1 mile

11/13: Run 1.25 miles

11/15: Run 1.5 miles

11/18: Run 1.75 miles

11/20: Run 2 miles

11/22: Run 2.25 miles

11/25: Run 2.5 miles

11/27: Run 0.5-1 mile

11/28: Race day! Run 3.1 miles!

On days in between runs, focus on cross-training, for example weight-lifting or non-impact cardio (elliptical, biking, swimming, etc.) Allow for 1-2 days of rest each week.  Check out past Free Workout Friday videos for cross training options.

Happy turkey trotting and drumstick dashing!

Topics: employee health exercise active aging nifs fitness management fitness

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