Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Free Workout Friday: Indy 500 Endurance Workout

Free Workout FridayLadies and Gentlemen: Start your engines! As the whole town of Indianapolis gears up for the Indy 500, you can test out your endurance abilities with this 500 workout!

Start by completing the following exercises for the designated amounts of time. At the end, you will have completed 500 seconds of strength exercises! Choose weights that are light to moderately heavy, because you will be doing most of these exercises for a full minute.

  1. Basic squats: 60 seconds
  2. Rows: 60 seconds
  3. Alternating lunges: 60 seconds
  4. Chest press: 60 seconds
  5. Crunches: 60 seconds
  6. Alternating shoulder press: 60 seconds
  7. Hammer curls: 60 seconds
  8. Wall sit: 60 seconds
  9. Plank: 20 seconds

Finish with a 500-second (8 minutes, 20 seconds) run around the track! Take “pit stops” when you need to by walking for 30 seconds or stopping for a quick water break. 

After you’ve made it to the finish line of your workout, make sure to refuel with more water and a healthy snack, like a banana with peanut butter or whole wheat crackers and string cheese!

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Topics: exercise at work healthy workforce exercise Free Workout Friday fitness

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

How to Combat Sitting, a Workplace Health Crisis (Part 1)

sittingWe sit. Frankly, we sit a lot. We sit at home, we sit on our commutes, we sit at work, we sit during our child’s after-school activities. Sit, sit, sit. And it’s not doing us any favors, either. In fact, recent startling statistics indicate that sitting may be a significant threat to our overall wellbeing.

Before you write this off as one of those “it can’t be that bad” indicators, consider these statistics. There are even more (if you need more convincing) in this compelling infographic.

  • Sitting six hours a day increases your risk of death by 40% over someone who sits less than three hours.
  • Between 1980 and 2000, exercise rates remained the same, but sitting time increased 8% and obesity doubled.
  • People with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as people who stand for work.

And to those of you who say that sitting disease is really a problem only for people who don’t work out, think again. Data shows that prolonged sitting can negate some of the benefits you receive from regular exercise. Let me just say it one more time: How often we sit is a problem.

NIFS’s Fit-It-In Gets Results in Combating Sitting

So there it is: sitting is our great nemesis. If you’ve been wracking your brain for strategies that actually combat the gravitational pull to a chair, look no further. Below is an outline for one of NIFS’s award-winning programs, Fit-It-In, with real results that can be implemented in any worksite health setting.

But before I get into program specifics, I need to say that if you don’t have built-in strategies for evaluating your programs, you’ll want to be sure you establish that basic infrastructure in order to determine whether your efforts at combating sitting disease are actually working. For more on how NIFS evaluates our programs, read this blog. After all, without effective evaluation strategies, you can’t get fantastic data like this: Before Fit-It-In started, 100% of associates polled indicated they were sedentary at least four hours per day. By the end of the program, only 8% of associates polled indicated that they were sedentary four or more hours per day.

In the Beginning

This conceptually simple and highly effective program, called Fit-It-In, is the brainchild of one of NIFS’s managers, Kathy Douglas. Kathy manages a corporate fitness center for NIFS at a client where there is a lot of sitting. She, like most of us in worksite health promotion, had been following the news coming out in the last few years about the dangers of sitting and felt compelled to address this for the associates she serves.

She knew that if she could just get them into the fitness center, she could help them, even with small breaks in the day, to feel better and to gradually improve their health. But she was up against (1) individual inertia, and (2) a corporate culture for productivity that kept associates in their seats.

After much research, discussion with leadership at her client location, and careful outlining of the program’s goals and objectives, she launched Fit-It-In. The primary goal of the program was to help improve associate health and engagement by providing them with an efficient and convenient method of fitting in more physical activity throughout their workday.

Fighting Inertia to Improve Employee Health

Kathy knew she had a lot of work to do to reach the 500+ associates at her location with a message about moving more, and she was certain that focusing on getting them into the fitness center was going to be met with significant resistance. So she brought exercise to the associates and incorporated a variety of simple opportunities/events through which associates could engage in movement-oriented activities without having to truly work out.

Program features included the following:

  • Fitness bands to all associates
  • Online workout and stretching documents
  • Indoor and outdoor walking routes
  • Motivational stairwell challenges
  • Fitness band exercise challenge of the month
  • “15-2-Fit” 15-minute workout cards available in the fitness center
  • 5-Minute Flash Mob fitness band exercise events
  • “YES You Can―Fit-It-In” informational kiosk
  • Monthly grand-prize drawing

Pretty great list of services in the initiative, right? Well, here’s the thing: Kathy knew (she’s been with this client for five years) that unless she was able to get support from mid-level managers, this initiative would flop, no matter how creative, relevant, simple, or potentially impactful it was.

Engaging Managers to Support Employee Exercise

Truly, this is what sets this program apart from others. Kathy spent a significant amount of front-end time with managers in the organization talking with them about Fit-It-In: how it would benefit their productivity goals as well as the health of their department members. She also sought buy-in from the executive leadership in her location so that the mid-level managers would know they had the support they needed to get Fit-It-In off the ground in their division.

Easy enough. On to the next steps, right? Unfortunately, it took a lot of effort on Kathy’s part to overcome managers’ resistance to allowing their employees to move for five minutes during a meeting, or at each hourly bell. There were significant concerns in some areas about productivity and department goals being compromised because employees would not be 100% focused on work 100% of the time.

It’s a common hurdle, but it’s not commonly overcome. Kathy was able to gain a lot of traction with these supervisors by presenting Fit-It-In jointly with Human Resources. She engaged the managers in conversation at the end of the presentation to listen to their concerns and other feedback. Kathy added elements to the initiative in response to those discussions and ultimately was able to remove most of the identified barriers to generate a win-win message.

If you want to read about how Kathy was able to go from 100% of associates reporting that they were sedentary for four or more hours to just 8% indicating that they were sedentary for four or more hours each day, you won’t want to miss part 2 of this blog. We’ll dig into the data, as well as offer an overview on how the program was implemented. I’ll also outline some of our key lessons learned.


Employee Engagement
Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work employee health corporate fitness worksite wellness NIFS corporate fitness centers corporate fitness managment corporate fitness centers; return on investement business fitness solutions

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout FridayIt’s easy, when walking and talking with friends or coworkers, to follow their lead and get on the elevator. Time for a change? Try being the leader and lead them toward the stairs instead of the elevator. Not only will you get where you’re going faster by taking the stairs, but you will also burn more calories throughout the day.

February is "Take the Stairs" month, so try to break the habit of using elevators! You have the power to persuade others to take the stairs and become more active.

Not only is it good to take the stairs when you have the choice, but it’s also good to incorporate stairs into your workouts. If you have stairs in your house or at the gym, that is great! But not everyone has that option, so you can resort to a stair climber or stair stepper. Most gyms have a cardio machine that simulates going up stairs.

Incorporating stairs will help to improve your aerobic conditioning and lower-body strength. Try this indoor workout during the winter months and look around for a set of stairs you can use outdoors when it’s nice outside.

  • Jog in place for 3 minutes to warm up
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 3 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 20 squat hops
  • 5 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • Jump rope for 3 minutes
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 20 squat hops
  • 5 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • Jump rope for 3 minutes
  • 5 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • Walk a lap around the fitness center/house to cool down

Legs burning? That’s okay. Your lower body will thank you for trying something new and incorporating more stairs!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness exercise at home Free Workout Friday cardio calories

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout Fridays

Did you know the number one killer of women is heart disease?

Today is National Wear Red Day, encouraging you to show support against heart disease. Too many women are unaware of the deadly disease and how it can be prevented. So, grab a friend, put on your favorite red shirt and hit the treadmill for a good cardiovascular workout.

Cardiovascular exercise (example – treadmill workout) is very important for several reasons, including the prevention of heart disease. Not only will the treadmill help you to lose weight, but it can be a great heart pumping workout. The stronger the heart, the less work it has to do to pump blood throughout your body. Cardiovascular exercise will also help to reduce stress levels and increase confidence. Who doesn’t love leaving the house feeling confident?? Give this treadmill workout a try!

  • 2.6 mph for 3 minutes (warm up)
  • 3.0 mph / 3% incline for 2 minutes
  • 3.4 mph / 4% incline for 2 minutes
  • 3.6 mph / 5% incline for 2 minutes
  • 3.8 mph / 6% incline for 5 minutes
  • 4.0 mph / 8% incline for 8 minutes
  • 3.8 mph / 6% incline for 5 minutes
  • 3.0 mph / 1% incline for 3 minutes (cool down)

This workout is designed to push walkers by adding some incline work to burn more calories and strengthen the lower body. If you feel you are ready to take it up a notch increase the speed so you are jogging rather than walking.

If you feel you are not ready for this workout, take it down a notch and work your way up to 4.0 mph / 8% incline over time. Find a challenging speed you can maintain for at least 10 minutes and increase the incline 1% every two minutes until you can complete the workout above.

What is your favorite treadmill workout?

Topics: exercise at work exercise walking Wellness in the Workplace worksite wellness exercise at home NIFS employee wellness Free Workout Friday

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout FridayIt’s been a long week, it is cold outside and you don’t feel like doing much of anything, right?  Join the club.  You don’t have to stress about your workout. At the end of the week maybe you just need a good stretch!

Stretching Tips:

  • Improved flexibility occurs when the muscles are warm, never stretch a cold muscle.  March in place and step side to side to get your blood pumping to warm the muscles.
  • Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.  Only stretch until you feel mild tension, you don’t want to over stretch.
  • Breathe while stretching.  Taking deep breaths will assist in relaxation.
  • You should stretch 2-3 times per week.

group stretchingComplete the following stretches to de-stress and relax your muscles.  Worksite wellness can be easy by simply taking a moment to stretch at your desk!

Chin to Chest: Seated or standing, look straight ahead and slowly drop chin to chest.  Hold, and return to starting position.

Ear to Shoulder: Seated or standing, look straight ahead and slowly drop your head to one side toward the shoulder.  Hold and slowly move to the other side.

Upper Back and Rotator Cuff: Raise arms out in front of the body at shoulder height, place hands together.  With your palms out, push away from your body until you feel the stretch across your shoulder blades.

Tricep and Shoulder:  Stand with arms overhead.  Bend one arm at the elbow reaching behind your head toward the middle of your back.  With the opposite hand, gently pull the elbow to the point of tension.  Switch arms.

Inner Thigh:  Sit on the floor with soles of feet together.  Sitting straight up, keep your shoulders back with chest and chin up.  Press knees towards the floor to the point of tension.

Hips and Glutes:  Lie on your back with both knees bent.  Cross one leg over the opposite thigh, grasp the back the thigh and gently pull the leg towards you.  The stretch should be felt on the outside of your hip and glute.  Switch legs.

Lying Quadricep:  Lie face down on the floor and bring your right foot up towards your glute. Grasp the foot with the right hand and gently push your foot into your hand to feel the stretch in the back of your leg.  Slowly release and repeat on the left side.

When it comes to relaxation and stretching, what do you prefer... simple stretches or an organized class such as Yoga?

Topics: exercise at work healthy workforce stress employee wellness Free Workout Friday fitness exercies at your desk stretching

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout FridaySome exercise is better than none!

We all know how difficult it can be to make time for exercise when you have a million things to do in the day. Sometimes making it to the gym (or even the on site fitness center) just does not make the cut, even though you know it should be a priority. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get some exercise in on days that the gym is just out of the question.

Changing your daily routine to fit in 30 minutes of exercise can put you in a better mood and takes away the guilt of missing a workout. These are some great alternatives for exercise to help you burn some calories throughout the day.

Park farther away. Whether at work or at the grocery store, park in the back of the parking lot so you have to walk a little farther. It will take some extra time to get inside, but those few extra feet you need to walk will add up by the end of the week.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Taking the stairs is a great way to get your heart pumping and burn some extra calories while at work. This is also something that you could do for 10 minutes in between meetings. Instead of grabbing some coffee, hit the stairs and climb up and down for 10 minutes.

Exercise on your lunch break. There are several ways for you to get in 15 to 30 minutes of exercise on your lunch break depending on how long you have. A few great ideas are walking around the building; climbing stairs; or doing jumping jacks, push ups, or crunches.

Grab the basket at the grocery store. When you carry the basket, you’re using your upper-body much more than you do when pushing a cart.

Simple and easy, take the next few minutes to rotate through these simple exercises three times, 10-15 reps each:

1. Chair Dips - stand in front of a stable chair, place your hands on the seat of the chair and walk your feet out in front of you.  The further out you place your feet, the harder the exercise.  Now slowly lower your body, bending at the elbows until they reach 90 degrees and then straighten your arms to the starting position.

2.  Squats - with your feet hip width apart, keeping your chest up slowly sit back as if you were to sit in a chair.  As you lower your body keep your knees in line with your ankles, do not allow your knees to go out past your toes.  Once your thigh is parallel to the ground, drive through your heels to stand up.

3.  Push ups - place your hands shoulder width apart on the floor, either remaining on your knees or up on your toes, walk your hands out until your body forms a straight line.  Avoid letting your hips drop or raise up, do your best to maintain proper form.  Slowly bend your elbows lowing your chest and body to the floor maintaining that straight line.  Once you are about a fist width from the floor push through your hands, chest and shoulders to the starting position.

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Topics: exercise at work exercise corporate fitness worksite wellness Free Workout Friday fitness calories

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout FridayPeople everywhere are always searching for the best, most modern training device that will produce great results in the least amount of time. It is likely that you’ve tried the latest craze, yet you’re still searching for something more. Ironically, you may already own one of the most inexpensive yet effective training devices: the jump rope.

Getting Fit with a Jump Rope

It sounds old-fashioned, and it is. However, the jump rope is making a comeback in gyms and fitness centers everywhere. What began as a schoolyard game has progressed to recreational use and is now evolving into competitive sports training for all levels. Whether used as a warm-up or training, there is room for jumping rope in every workout. Benefits include upper- and lower-body coordination, muscular endurance, balance, and agility.

Jumping rope tones muscles, improves cardiovascular fitness, and burns calories all at the same time. Jim Zielinski, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Illinois, endorses jump rope in the September 2011 issue of Training and Conditioning magazine. “The activity can achieve a “burn rate” of up to 1,000 calories per hour. That means jumping rope for 10 minutes is roughly equivalent, calorie-wise, to running an eight-minute mile.”

How to Start a Jump-Rope Workout

The best way to begin a jump-rope workout, like any new program, is with correct form. Grasp the handles and start by swinging the rope to your side without jumping. Next, without the rope, practice small jumping movements, barely lifting off the ground. Finally, put the two movements together. When done correctly, jumping rope while staying high on your toes can involve less pounding on knee and ankle joints than jogging.

H  Images jump rope resized 600There is never a better time to start than now. Pick up a jump rope and try this FREE workout.

Complete 5 rounds of the below exercises for a total of 15 minutes.

Basic Jump: 1 minute

Rest: 30 seconds

Alt. High Knees: 1 minute

Rest  30 seconds

Challenge: How long will it take you to complete 500 total jumps?! (Count to 500 and time yourself and record)


Topics: exercise at work exercise corporate fitness exercise at home Free Workout Friday cardio balance

Corporate Fitness: Four Ways to Relieve Sore Muscles

This blog was written by Lisa Larkin. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

elderly woman stretching resized 600When starting a new exercise program, you may get sore. Muscle soreness comes from the breakdown of muscle fibers. But don’t let that drive you away from the corporate fitness center. Here are four good ways to ease the pain.

  • Rest from lifting and go for a light walk. More than likely, you are sore from strength training or lifting weights. Your body may need a rest day from the weights, but go for a light walk to get some blood flow to the sore muscles. Sitting around could make the soreness worse.
  • Take a hot bath. Soaking in a hot bath will help your circulation and soreness.
  • Use foam rollers or massage. Rolling out your muscles on foam rollers will help to work the soreness out, although it may hurt a little at first, just like with massaging the muscles. Start out gently rubbing or rolling the muscles, and then as you work the soreness out you can target the muscles more aggressively.
  • Stretch after you work out. Don’t skip the stretching component of fitness! Spend about 20 minutes stretching after your workouts.

 If you are just getting back into working out, always start out slow. If you start with long, intense workouts and then cannot move the next day due to such painful muscle soreness, you will be more likely to skip the next few days. Don’t skip days; just focus on areas of the body that are not sore.

Next time you overdo it in the corporate fitness center, remember these tips for relieving your pain and keeping up your workouts.

Topics: exercise at work exercise corporate fitness centers weight training

Tackling Workplace Fitness at Lunchtime

This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

workout at work, lunchtime yogaDo you find it difficult to make exercise part of your daily routine? You may be surprised at just how easy it is to squeeze in bouts of activity. Lunchtime is one such opportunity. Not only will you torch a few calories, you’ll tackle your afternoon tasks with a clear mind and increased energy levels.

Hit the Corporate Fitness Center

Consider visiting a local or corporate fitness center to complete your own workout or take a class. Just be sure to increase the intensity (think circuit training) to compensate for the fact that you may be performing a shorter workout than normal. Leaving your office for a walk or a run is also an appealing option to many people. Don’t want to do it alone? Organize a walking group! On days like these, it’s probably a good idea to bring your lunch from home to ensure you have enough time to eat.

Exercise in Your Office

No time to get away from your home or office? Mix bodyweight strength-training exercises such as pushups, squats, lunges, and sit-ups with cardiovascular exercises like marching, jumping jacks, stationary jogging, or jumping rope. Small hand weights or resistance bands can be tucked away in a drawer for a workout at a moment’s notice.

Just Get Moving at Lunch

At the very least, get up and get moving on your lunch break. At work, walk a few flights of stairs or do some laps around the building. If you need to purchase your lunch, skip the company cafeteria and walk to a restaurant (a healthy one!) that’s farther away.

Topics: exercise at work worksite wellness corporate fitness centers exercies at your desk