Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Does This Count as Exercise? A Senior Fitness Challenge

Recently we were challenged at our senior community to increase our exercise and record it to send to our corporate office, in hopes of raising awareness of how important exercise is for those who have Alzheimer’s and those hoping to prevent it through senior fitness.

An Exercise Challenge for Alzheimer’s Awareness

The Goal: Each community needed to accumulate around 1,500 hours of exercise in 60 days, which would translate to 100,000 total hours from all communities.

The Prize: The corporate office would donate $10,000 to the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.

The great thing about this challenge is that we already have many group exercise opportunities where hours are easily accumulated, as well as a fitness center that members can utilize. But we wanted to amp up the amount of exercise residents were doing because, after all, it is a challenge to exercise more to bring awareness.  

While explaining this challenge to the residents and fielding questions the following weeks, I found that many residents and members did not know what was considered exercise. I was getting questions left and right, “Is this exercise? Does this count?” 

ThinkstockPhotos-163162703_1What Counts as Exercise?

So here is the thing: exercise doesn’t have to be a hard workout routine only in a fitness center or group fitness setting. Some folks feel as though that is what exercise is, and I am happy to break the news that it is not the only way to get in exercise! Guess what, things that you enjoy as well as activity needed for healing count as exercise!

Here is a list of the “does this count” exercises residents asked me about. 

These are just a handful of the activities residents are participating in that they weren’t sure would count as exercise. The great thing about fitness and activity is that there are many avenues to take in order to reach the level of fitness you are looking for. Exercise does not have to be a boring, long-drawn-out routine. 

If a regimented fitness center routine is what you like for your workout, that is great!  But, if you need something else to hold your interest, whether it is a game like corn toss or working long hours in your garden, it is best to do an activity that you will stick with. And if you want to add intensity or are having a hard time finding what suits your interest, that’s the best time to consult with your fitness specialist to plan out exercises or activity that are best for you!

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC senior fitness senior living community exercise and wellness exercise for elderly Alzheimer's Disease

What If: Health Care Collaborated with Exercise Specialists?

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

fit_scanYou’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” right? The idea is that a child needs a whole village worth of support, influence, education, and diversity to be raised as a healthy and vibrant member of society. If we look at individual wellbeing through a similar lens, I would say that it takes a team to help an individual be well. 

When I think about the generally poor health (admittedly, I tend to focus on physical health) of adults in the U.S., specifically preventable issues, I wonder how much is connected to adults simply not knowing how to choose better health and how much goes back to adults making unhealthy choices even though they know better.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of external players who influence an individual’s health. I can’t get into all of those factors here, but I do want to focus on the potential for a better relationship between health care providers and exercise specialists. What follows are some of the historical challenges, as well as some what if ideas for working better together to take a team approach to individual wellbeing.

When I was working in corporate fitness several years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for me start talking with a new member about her goals for exercise and learn that she came to see me because her physician recommended she start exercising. In further conversation, I would learn that either the doctor provided no guidance on how often, how much, what intensity of exercise would be best; or (sometimes worse) the physician provided recommendations that were not practical for the individual.

It was always so helpful, when working with individuals who had a complicated health history, to get a physician recommendation that took into account that complex health picture. With more information from the doctor, I was able to write a more effective exercise prescription. But more often than not, the physician is hurried, and filling out one more form isn’t top on their list, so I’d get an almost blank form returned with little more than their signature. 

What if physicians had more time for discussion with patients about preventive health?

I think at least some of the barrier, though I’ve never heard anyone actually articulate this, is the image of the personal trainer. The certifications available for personal trainers are many and varied in terms of their rigor, and it leaves a lot of question about credentials. Licensure has been debated for years in the industry, and although the discussion varies by state (currently Louisiana is the only state with licensure requirements for clinical exercise physiologists), I think the reason licensure is even on the table is because requirements for certification are so widely varied, it’s tough for even a well-educated individual to get to the bottom of what “certified personal trainer” really means.

What if all certifications had to meet a specific standard that raised the bar for education and experience?

The American College of Sports Medicine released an Exercise Is Medicine campaign years ago with the goal of having physicians make regular exercise a part of their recommendations for practitioners to their patients. The program includes guidelines for health care providers as well as for exercise specialists to interact in the best interest of the public. While some progress has been made on the partnership between the medical community and exercise professionals, there is much work to be done to bridge that professional relationship for the improved outcomes of the patients.

What if health insurance supported visits with a certified exercise specialist as part of a prescription for better health? (This would not be unlike counseling from a registered dietitian that accompanies a diagnosis of diabetes.)

What if general practitioner offices hired exercise physiologists to counsel patients right in their offices?

What if medical training provided some insight into exercise prescription, and curriculum for exercise physiologists provided insight into what the doctor has to accomplish with a patient in an office visit?

We have a long way to go to build a strong village that contributes positively to individuals’ health, and this health care + exercise practitioner discussion is only one portion of that village. What other areas are you passionate about? Where do we need to build a better village to help individuals make healthier choices?

Read our case study, how partnering with NIFS and putting a qualified fitness professional in their new facility helped jump start this fitness program.

  NextGear case study

 

Topics: health and wellness exercise and wellness what if

NIFS: Women, Take Charge of Your Health

happy womenIt’s about that time of year where the weather is getting warmer and the flowers are blooming. May is a wonderful introduction into the summer months and is also a time we celebrate women. Mother’s Day is not the only day to celebrate women, but there is a whole week dedicated to women’s health. For this year, National Women’s Health Week for the US is May 11 – 17. Women can celebrate the generations of women before them that have pioneered the way and take charge of their health to make it a priority. This week focuses on preventive measures to take to improve their health and avoid disease.

Within this week, there is a day designated that women encouraged to visit their health care provider while getting recommended check-ups, vaccinations, and screenings. The National Women’s Health Check-up Day is May 12, 2014. Maintaining annual screenings and check-ups is one important way women can take control of their health and create a healthy lifestyle. Other healthy habits include getting regular physical activity, adapting a healthy nutrition routine, avoiding smoking, and following other general safety rules.

Sometimes it can seem like a lot to take in regarding our health. It’s do this, don’t do that. Follow this guideline, avoid this. Even though our health can be challenging, it’s important to know what we can control and what we can’t. One part of taking charge of your health involves understanding your risk factors. Some risk factors are beyond your control which includes family history of disease, your sex, age, or having an existing health problem. Ones you can control are diet, fitness, use of tobacco and drugs, alcohol intake, and even wearing your seatbelt to name a few. In the US, there are about 35% of early deaths that could be avoided by quitting smoking, having healthy diet and increasing physical activity. Make yourself more aware of how you can prevent early death.

To celebrate women’s health week, make time for yourself to schedule your appointments to take care of you.  I encourage you to take time this week to try the following activities:

  • Schedule your annual appointments: physical/dental/eye exam
  • Sign up for a 5K walk/run
  • Try a new healthy recipe
  • Attend a group fitness class, try something new like Zumba© or yoga
  • Get outside and do some yard work
  • Read a book or do a puzzle for brain health
Topics: active aging exercise and wellness women's health healthy living

NIFS: Seven things we can learn from Olympic Athletes

cross country skiingOlympic athletes are viewed as superheroes and celebrities; strong, brave individuals at the peak of their career. The words unrealistic or unattainable may have just come into your thoughts; mine too.  After taking a step back and thinking about these superstars, there are many lessons we can learn from them. Years and years of preparation go into becoming an Olympic athlete and it is a full time job. What can we learn from these elite athletes, how can we train like them, how can they be role models to us on a wellness journey?  Think about the qualities an Olympian possesses and how you can translate these into your life.
  1. They have a purpose- LoLo Jones will make history as one of 10 athletes to compete in both the Winter and Summer games. Meryl Davis and Charlie White made history by becoming the first American team to win an Olympic medal in ice dancing. These athletes have a PURPOSE coming into the games; they want to make history. Purpose drives people to do great things. What is your purpose? A goal to work towards is crucial to succeeding.
  2. They don’t allow distractions- Coming out of retirement to compete in these games is women’s skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace. Not only is she racing down the icy chute at 80 mph, she is also juggling her busy life as a mother of two small children. Time, family, work and a personal life can all be distractions and excuses for not working toward your goals. We all have these “excuses”; it is up to us not to use them as an “excuse.” Olympians have these same outside pressures, but stay focused because they prioritize what is important to them. If health/fitness is a priority in your life, you will find time, and your “good excuse” will not be so “good” anymore.
  3. View food as fuel- Food is used for these athletes as a training tool. The food they eat before/after their workout dictates their performance each day, and how they react to their training. I know it can be hard to think of food in this way; our culture has trained us to think the exact opposite. Food is for enjoyment, even therapy, right? We have to face the facts whether we like it or not what we put into our bodies influences how we feel throughout the day. It stays with us much longer than it takes for us to consume it.
  4. Track their progress- The journey to the Olympics takes years and years. How do these athletes stay motivated and not lose sight of their goal? They track their progress. They know their purpose; have a plan, and a goal they are working towards. Progress pictures, exercise and diet logs, performing a fitness assessment or health screening may seem tedious at times, but trust me, you won’t regret them! How will you know how far you have come if you don’t remember where you started?
  5. Don’t let injury derail them- Training for hours each day and the nature of the winter Olympic sports being very dangerous, injuries are part of the process. Yes, this puts a setback in the athletes’ original training plans, but they do not let it become a barrier. These athletes work around their injury and become creative with their training. Hannah Kearney, two time Olympic gold medalist in moguls skiing, lacerated her liver, broke two ribs, and punctured a lung during training in 2012, won gold at the 2013 world championships and is one to watch at these Olympics. Injuries, physical limitations, or illness can feel like a setback in our fitness journey. Working with a variety of clients in corporate fitness, I have found and I think most fitness professionals would agree, there are few if ANY injuries that should prevent a person from not exercising. Don’t think of an injury as a setback, think of it as a challenge to be creative.
  6. They get professional help- If you are scratching your head after the last point, it’s ok; that’s why there are professionals in the health/fitness industry. Olympians may seem like experts in their sport, which is true, but they have a lot of help. This can be a hard one to swallow. As a fitness professional I have learned that I need help with what is my “expertise.”  Just as a physician needs their own physician, a personal trainer can benefit from having their own trainer. Olympians have a team of people helping them. If you are struggling to find balance or with one particular aspect of your well-being, ask a professional. The best of the best need help, and most importantly aren’t afraid to ask for it!
  7. Have passion- Love what you are doing! At age 37, Todd Lodwick is the first American athlete to participate in six Winter Games. He has made his sport a lifestyle. There are realistically times when these athletes feel overwhelmed or burnt out throughout their journey, but they don’t let this derail them because they have passion for what they do. These athletes have to love the sport to dedicate so much of their lives to it. Find activities and healthy habits that you enjoy that will be sustainable through your whole life. 

If you were an Olympic athlete what would be your sport?

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Topics: active living exercise and wellness goals success