Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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

NIFS Nutrition News: Pumpkin isn't just for pie

One of the most versatile and healthy foods out there also happens to be a favorite for most when decorating this time of year.  Pumpkins are not only something that can be used to spruce up your front porch in the fall but is also an excellent addition that should be incorporated into your daily eating routine!pumpkins

Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, which helps with vision.  The carotenoid, beta carotene, in pumpkins is converted to Vitamin A for even more eye protection! This antioxidant has also been found to have a role in cancer prevention.  It is also loaded with fiber (3 grams for 1 cup), which we know is excellent for heart health.   One final perk of pumpkin is the amount of potassium it contains.  Electrolytes, especially potassium, are important after a hard workout, and 1 cup of pumpkin provides more potassium than a banana (564 milligrams vs. 422 milligrams).

Try these recipes to obtain all of the health benefits that pumpkin has to offer!

Pumpkin Pie Dip

Ingredients:

1, 15 oz can of pumpkin
1, 5 oz box of instant vanilla pudding, just the powder
1, 16 oz container of low fat cool whip
1/2 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 Tbsp Cinnamon

Directions:

Mix pumpkin, pudding mix, cool whip, and pumpkin pie spice together by hand in a very large bowl and chill for several hours before serving.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve with fresh apples slices, vanilla wafers or ginger snaps.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 cup pumpkin (canned or freshly cooked)
1/2 frozen banana
3/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
pinch of ground ginger

Directions

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients

1lb ground beef
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling)
1 (15oz) can pinto beans, not drained
1 (15oz) can black beans, not drained
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes, not drained
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil

Instructions

In a large soup pot, brown ground beef with pepper, onion, and a drizzle of olive oil. As the meat and veggies are cooking, sprinkle over chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion, powder, and a healthy pinch of salt and pepper. When the meat is cooked through, and the veggies are tender, add pumpkin puree, undrained beans, and the tomatoes with their juice to the pan. Cover and simmer until ready to eat.

Pumpkin isn’t just for pie!  These recipes can be included anytime during the day. 

For more information on pumpkin or other super foods, please contact Angie Scheetz, RD at ascheetz@nifs.org or 317-274-3432 ext 239.

 

 

Topics: employee health active aging healthy diet nifs nutrition news angie scheetz

Corporate Wellness: Free Workout Friday - Take the Stairs

free workout fridayStairs are a great way to take your same old cardio workout to the next level.  Changing it up by utilizing the stairs might have your muscles twitching like never before!  Take a look at your workout routine, you possibly neglect your lower body more than you think.  Many people consider their cardio activities their lower body workout because they are walking, running, biking, etc.  Exchange your regular cardiovascular exercise for a stair workout and not only will your heart be pumping, your muscles will be telling you that stair workout gave them a run for their money!

Using the incline of the steps helps to improve your balance, coordination and trigger those smaller muscles you generally don’t target with regular machine workouts.  It’s always important to kick off your workout with a warm up to wake those muscles up and get them ready for your workout.  Now print this blog, and head out of your corporate worksite and find some stairs!

Basic Step – use this as a breather between exercises, one foot on each step climbing the flight of stairs.  When you get to the top, turn around and walk or jog back down the stairs. 

Side Squat – turn and face the right, keeping your toes forward place your left foot on the second step.  Lower into a squat maintaining proper form keeping your hips back and knees in line with your ankles.  Push through your left foot and straighten your leg allowing your right foot to come off the ground, slowly lower and repeat for 12-15 repetitions then perform the same with the other leg.

Mountain Climbers – you’ve done this dreaded exercise in your corporate fitness center group exercise class, so let’s throw them in here!  Get in a plank position with hands placed on the second step shoulder width apart.  Just as you would do if on the floor, draw knees toward your chest alternating right and left for 30 – 45 seconds.  Remember, you control the exercise intensity!  Push yourself to go harder.

Lunge – Think of this as skipping steps as you walk up the flight of stairs.  Focus on the movement rather than just running up the stairs.  It will be a small movement due to the incline of the steps, but lower into a lunge and use that front leg to drive your body up.  Be sure to alternate between legs to get an even workout.  Once you reach the top, turn around and walk or jog down the stairs.

Dips – sit on the second step and place hands on either side of you on the step.  Keeping your knees bent slide yourself off the step with feet hip width apart.   Bend your arms until your upper arm is parallel to the floor or you can’t lower any further and return to the starting position.  Complete 12-15 repetitions.

Get another boost and basic step up the stairs and repeat each exercise for 2-3 rounds, push yourself and challenge your intensity level!  

 

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Topics: exercise at work employee health Free Workout Friday fitness stair workout

Active Aging: Taking the Extra Step Toward Fitness

senior playing with a dogHow many times do you circle a parking lot looking for that perfect spot right in front of the door? It doesn’t matter if I am at the supermarket, a sporting event, a restaurant, or even the gym (sad, but true); I see people circling the lot like they’re in the Indy 500. As I get out of my car and walk to my destination, all I can do is ask myself, “Do they really think they are benefiting from parking in front of the door?”

My reasons for parking in the back of lots have changed over the years, but the end result hasn’t, and that is more steps walked equals more calories burned.

Can You Walk 10,000 Steps Per Day?

If you have ever been in a walking program or used a pedometer, there is a good chance you were advised to hit the 10,000-steps-per-day mark, but what does that mean? Is it attainable? Let’s break it down into numbers we deal with on a regular basis.

The average person’s stride length (the distance between successive points of contact of the same foot) is about 2.5 feet, so one step would be about 16 inches (assuming a normal walking pattern), which means you take about 4,000 steps to walk a mile. So if your goal is 10,000 steps per day, you will walk about 2 miles per day. If you consistently hit that 10,000-step mark, you are considered moderately active.

But what about the people who frequently take less than 5,000 steps per day? People in this group are considered sedentary. A drastic increase in steps can lead to many people quitting shortly after starting. People looking to increase their daily steps should look to add about 500 to 1,000 steps per day and increase at this rate every week until they hit their goal. So if you currently take 5,000 steps a day and you are increasing your steps by 1,000 per day per week, it will take you 5 weeks to hit your 10,000-step goal.

How to Walk More Steps

So where can you find these hidden steps, you ask? Here are a few activities you can adjust to add extra steps:

  • Parking farther back in parking lots: Parking an additional 20 spaces back equals about 200 steps round trip.
  • Getting up to change the channel: Changing channels 6 times per day equals about 60 steps total.
  • Walking to consult a coworker as opposed to calling them: Based on 2 round-trips of 60 feet equals about 200 steps.
  • Take the stairs: Taking the stairs causes more caloric expenditure than walking on a flat surface, and one flight equals about 15 steps.
  • Walk your pet: Walking around the block equals about 1,000 steps.

These are easy ways to add a few hundred steps to your day; pick and choose all, one, or something else. The goal is to go at your pace and to do what you like; anything else will just lead to a decline in program adherence until you ultimately quit. The steps you need are all around you, and if you look hard enough I guarantee you can find the time and energy to take an extra step.

Topics: employee health walking employee wellness fitness healthy habits staying active physical activity counting steps

Corporate Wellness: Free Workout Friday - Interval Workout

free workout fridayWhen you are exercising on an elliptical or stationary bike, it’s easy to go on auto-pilot and stay at the same easy to intermediate level that your body is used to. Next time you find yourself of one of these machines, try adding in some interval training! Intervals will make the heart rate jump, then allow for periods of recovery where the heart rate will fall, thus providing better conditioning for the cardiovascular system and burning more calories than the slower, steady-state cardio.

With both bikes and ellipticals, there are 2 ways to increase the intensity at which you are working. You can ramp up the resistance, making your legs work harder to push each time, and raising the heart rate that way. Or, you can increase the speed at which you are pedaling, giving an immediate boost to the heart rate. Play around with both separately, always allowing for recovery time after each round of high intensity. Then, when you feel ready, try building up both the resistance and the speed for a real challenge!

When you first begin intervals, there should be more minutes of rest than minutes of hard work. Slowly build up to an even ratio of rest to work, then after a few weeks of interval training, try to have most of the minutes be comprised of higher intensity work with smaller rest periods interspersed.

Try this sample 20 minute interval workout for the bike or elliptical. Use an intensity scale of levels 1-5, with 1 being very light, and 5 being very challenging.

0:00-3:00: Warm-up

3:00-3:30: Increase speed to level 2

3:30-4:00: Recovery

4:00-4:30: Increase speed to level 3

4:30-5:00: Recovery

5:00-5:30: Increase speed to level 4

5:30-6:00: Recovery

6:00-6:30: Increase resistance to level 2

6:30-7:00: Recovery

7:00-7:30: Increase resistance to level 3

7:30-8:00: Recovery

8:00-8:30: Increase resistance to level 4

8:30-10:00: Recovery

10:00-10:30: Increase speed to level 5

10:30-12:00: Recovery

12:00-12:30: Increase resistance to level 5

12:30-14:00: Recovery

14:00-14:30: Increase both speed and resistance to level 4

14:30-16:00: Recovery

16:00-16:30: Increase both speed and resistance to level 4

16:30-18:00: Recovery

18:00-18:30: Increase both speed and resistance to level 5

18:30-20:00: Cool-down

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Topics: employee health exercise nifs fitness management Free Workout Friday interval workout

Corporate Wellness: Free Workout Friday - Elliptical Routine

free workout fridayAre you one of those people that only use the elliptical machine when told to lie off of exercise due to a lower body injury? Even though most studies have found that the treadmill may burn a few more calories, it’s still important to mix up your workouts. If you are a runner I’m sure you have heard about the importance of cross training your muscles to prevent injuries. The elliptical is a good way to cross train and can be just as challenging!

The elliptical mocks a running motion but does not have a high impact on the joints and spine. Most ellipticals are now made with a movable upper body too, so you get the upper and lower body moving together. I prefer the ones with the adjustable incline too, but not all come with that option. Moving forward and backward helps to target different muscles, and prevent boredom.

Have fun with the elliptical and try this workout! I have you playing around with it enough that time should fly by!!

Forward on the elliptical

  • 2 minutes – resistance level 4
  • 3 minutes – level 5 (if ramp can be adjusted, take it all the way down – similar to cross country skiing)
  • 3 minutes – level 8
  • 2 minutes – level 5 (if possible adjust the incline all the way up – similar to climbing stairs)
  • 3 minutes – level 10
  • 2 minutes – level 12

Backward on the elliptical

  • 3 minutes – level 8 (if possible adjust the incline at the half way mark)
  • 3 minutes – level 10 (if possible adjust the incline all the way down)
  • 2 minutes – level 12
  • 5 minutes – level 6 (if possible raise the incline all the way up)
  • 2 minutes – level 10

 

 

 

Topics: corporate wellness employee health exercise nifs fitness management Free Workout Friday elliptical training

Corporate Wellness: Free Workout Friday - Cardio Circuit

free workout fridayCardiovascular exercise…..people either love it or hate it! I’m sure by now you’ve heard that cardio alone is not the answer to reaching your fitness goals. It is important to add a strength and flexibility component too. Although, cardio and physical activity in general have many health benefits, but they have even more when you “mix it up”!

Changing up your activities can help to get you over that plateau, improve your mood, prevent boredom, fight against high blood pressure and cholesterol, and increase your energy levels. You don’t always need to be on a cardio machine for an extended period of time to get a good cardio workout.

Try some of these cardio exercises in short intervals to get a great 30 minute workout, rest for about 10 seconds in between if need be. Check out the demonstration video links for each set and get to your corporate wellness center to try them out.

Set 1:

  • Squat Jacks – 30 seconds
  • Lateral Squat Hops – 30 seconds
  • Plank Hop Overs – 30 seconds
  • Traveling Burpies – 1 minute
  •  Rest – 1 minute

Set 2:

  • Hop Throughs – 30 seconds
  • Skater Lunges – 1 minute
  • Bottom Down Hops – 30 seconds
  • Rest – 1 minute

Set 3:

  • Twist Box Jumps – 30 seconds each side
  • Gliding Discs Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds
  • Gliding Discs Floor Jacks – 30 seconds
  • Repeat (work your way up to repeating 2 – 3 times for added intensity)

*Don’t have access to gliding discs? Use paper plates or towels.

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

Corporate Wellness: Free Workout Friday - Sprint Workout

free workout fridayI woke up one morning and my obliques were really sore and tender to the touch. I couldn’t figure it out because I hadn’t taught or taken a core class the day before at my corporate wellness site. Then it hit me that the only thing different I had done was sprints. I hadn’t done sprints since track practice, which was a long time ago, but I had no idea how much I use my core! I loved the feeling of my obliques being that sore, so I decided to start incorporating more sprints into my workouts.

Don’t consider yourself a sprinter? That’s ok, I’m not either! Athletes may laugh at my speed but for me it’s a “sprint”. I push myself to run as fast as I can for short periods of time. First, let’s talk about form. Use your arms and core to help pick up the speed. Control your arms and keep them tucked close to your body, elbows at 90 degree angles. Keep your toes straight and lift your knees. Be sure to keep your head/eyes up and slightly lean your upper body forward. The faster you pump your arms, the faster your legs will go! Add some variety to your life and try this sprint workout. 

  • Warm up with a slow jog for 3-5 minutes
  • Pick it up for a faster run (75%) for 1 minute
  • Sprint (100%) for 45 seconds
  • Jog (60%) for 2 minutes
  • Sprint (100%) for 1 minute
  • Go back & forth with the jog for 2 minutes and sprint for 45 seconds or 1 minute at a time for 20-30 minutes.
  • You can also take breaks to add some pushups or planks in for 1 minute intervals.

This can be done anywhere….treadmill, in your neighborhood, on an actual track, or anywhere else that you have an open space and is a safe environment.

 

Topics: corporate wellness employee health exercise exercise at home Free Workout Friday

Yoga in the Workplace for Employee Health and Productivity

workplace yogaTwenty years ago, would you have ever thought you would be checking out the break-room bulletin board and coming across a yoga class being offered in the office or onsite gym? Chances are it would have been highly unlikely, not to mention overlooked because it did not have the buzz or trendy reputation it does now.

Hopefully, most of us now know that the benefits of yoga practice in a chair, studio, or corporate fitness center go beyond meditation, headstands, flameless candles, thin sticky mats, and soothing music. I have seen yoga become an increasingly positive influence in workplaces all over the country with a melting pot of populations. You might even see children and pets taking advantage of the yoga inspiration.

The interest in increasing productivity and improving employee health has weighed heavily on corporate America. Long hours at a desk, aching back, neck pain, burnout, and emotional discontent are all repetitive stressors corporate employees face each day. Did you know that this, in turn, amounts to less productivity? What is your company doing about it?

Think about this, as an employee: What would you do with an extra 15-minute mandatory stress break built into your day?

Offering free stress-relief options such as yoga is a simple and convenient way to help employees find stress relief in the office. True, it’s up to each individual to start their practice, but I promise once you start you won’t stop. The great thing about yoga at work is that it’s a time to take a break from your desk and relieve stress. It’s convenient, and it feels good!

Chair yoga is becoming popular among executives as a boardroom break; this is a great alternative to unit meetings or exercising at your own desk. That’s the greatest benefit of yoga: it can be done anywhere and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time!

Yoga won’t cure all, nor will it be chosen by all. But it sure has shown to be a great addition to corporate wellness offerings. Many of the yogis tell me they love doing yoga at work because they can practice in a noncompetitive and nonjudgmental atmosphere and experience it with coworkers. Many of the participants enjoy the multiple benefits. After final relaxation, it helps guide them to a calmer state of being as they return to work. It also helps improve core stability and balance, and helps increase total body strength. We try to make sure all energy is left at the door. Each person is focused on their own practice of the day.

Get your groove on with NIFS group fitness classes

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work employee health stress productivity yoga stress relief

How to Combat Sitting, a Workplace Health Crisis (Part 2)

woman using exercise bandIn part 1 of this blog, I went on a bit about the dangers of sitting and then began to describe NIFS’s Fit-It-In program offered by Kathy, one of our managers at a client site. We’re proud to share that Kathy’s initiative, a collaboration with her client, was a large part of the reason her client was able to win the American Heart Association’s Fit-Friendly Company Platinum Designation and the Workplace Innovation Award in 2013.

Fit-It-In was conceived to help her associates combat sitting disease. While the program itself is creative and well thought out, the most compelling element (and probably the single biggest contributor to the program’s success) was Kathy’s effective outreach to mid-level managers for their support of the initiative.  

We knew Kathy was successful at achieving supervisor support when we got this data back from a participant survey: The pre-program survey revealed that 70% of associates felt they had the support of their immediate supervisor to participate in programs that would improve their health; however, by the end of the program that number had improved to 96%.

Below I outline some of the key elements of Fit-It-In as well as some important lessons learned. I also share the compelling data that screams “effective employee health program.”

Bringing Fit-It-In to the Masses

After Kathy garnered the support she needed from executive leadership and mid-level managers at her client location, she set about launching Fit-It-In. With the help of the wellness team at her site, she was able to purchase a fitness band with handles for each associate in that office. Then she started educating the masses on how to use their new band. Through one-on-one meetings in the fitness center, speaking at department meetings, hosting exercise breaks (“flash mobs”), and providing handouts and other literature (which was regularly changed and updated throughout the program) in strategic areas of the building, she was able to reach most of the associate audience more than one time.

Following an educational blitz, Kathy continued her efforts to be routinely visible for the associates both in the client’s onsite fitness center promoting short, 15-minute workouts, and at department meetings. She facilitated stretch breaks, walking groups, and other simple opportunities for associates to infuse some physical activity into their otherwise sedentary day.

Capturing Health Promotion Success in Numbers

If you read part 1 of this blog, you’ll recall that I described this program as “conceptually simple.” It is. The elements I’ve mentioned are the types of services being offered by corporate health professionals all over the country on a regular basis. What is unique about Fit-It-In is the level of managerial support Kathy garnered as well as the rigorous data she kept throughout the program.

Kathy started with a pre-program survey that captured information such as this:

  • How many hours per day are you sedentary?
  • Have you maintained consistent workouts in the past month?
  • Do you feel that you have the support of your manager to maintain your health through amenities and services available at work?

As the program progressed, she surveyed associates monthly to find out if they were participating in Fit-It-In activities, and if so, how often they were engaging in specific elements of the program. Here’s what we learned:

  • Within the first four months of launching Fit-It-In, the percentage of associates participating in any activity over the course of the month increased 34%.
  • The percentage of associates who completed the Fit-It-In band exercises at their desks three to four days per week increased 42%.
  • In the first four months of the program, 33% more associates were walking at work at least five times per week.

The data goes on, and on, and on. As I said, Kathy surveys participants monthly to track progress and to continually evaluate opportunities to fine-tune and improve the program.

Program Costs and Lessons Learned

It’s important to note that while this was an uncomplicated program, it wasn’t free. I’ve outlined basic program costs here:

  • Fitness band for 600 associates @ $5/band = $3,000
  • Monthly prize @ $200 per prize = $2,400
  • Monthly stairwell challenge @ $50 per month = $300
  • Presentation board, prepping walking routes, and other miscellaneous supplies = $200
  • Estimated 12-month total = $5,900

Every well-executed program comes with some lessons learned. When I talked to Kathy about this, here’s what she told me:

  • Providing associates with multiple quick exercise/activities, not just one option, was integral to reaching the needs of a varied workforce. Some activities, like the fitness band use and stairwell challenges, worked well for call center associates, while outdoor and indoor walking routes were popular for those who could take more time.
  • We can’t say it enough: middle management buy-in is essential to changing culture. Without the rally meeting sponsored by human resources where management could hear Kathy make the case for the importance of this initiative and provide their feedback, she would not have had the success we saw with the year-long offering.
  • One key subtle difference between this program and others like it is that Kathy incentivized associates reporting their activity instead of offering prizes for completing the activity. Ongoing self reporting required associates to log into a survey tool and answer questions. By doing so each month, they were eligible for a valuable (typically around $200) monthly prize drawing.

Contact us to learn more about this program or the other services NIFS provides to our clients. If you’re looking for key strategies to engage your workforce, check out our whitepaper on the topic.

 

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work employee health corporate fitness worksite wellness corporate fitness managment corporate fitness centers; return on investement