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!

Subscribe to our blog

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

Active Aging: Ten Ways for Seniors to Stay Active in the City

active_in_cityIf you live in a city, then you have your share of challenges when it comes to keeping fit.  Although so many things can be available at your fingertips, how do you successfully stay active?  Here are 10 ways to be fit in multiple wellness dimensions for seniors living in an urban area: 

  1. Stop to smell the flowers by walking around a park or botanical garden.  Research shows that green space and being outside can lower stress.  I’m not saying you have to hug a tree in appreciation…unless you want to.   
  2. Enjoy a cultural experience at a museum while racking up your steps.  Many cities house museums for art, science, history and much more!  This is a great excuse to check out the latest exhibit while stepping your way towards health.    
  3. Walk a pet.  Use a cute pooch as your excuse to get out and about on a regular basis.  Start slowly and increase your pace and/or distance over time!
  4. If you have access to a body of water, then try sailing, canoeing, or kayaking.  This can be a fun option to mix into your routine by getting out on the water.  Don’t forget to take pictures from that different point of view to show all of your friends!
  5. Take the stairs.  Stairs are everywhere throughout the city.  If this is a safe option for you, then challenge yourself with some stair routines.  Walk them, every-other step them, do sidesteps…be creative!  I usually do stairs while listening to Eye of the Tiger…and pretend I’m Rocky Balboa.
  6. Explore your city’s architecture and history.  Whether it’s on foot or on a bike, explore the ins and outs of your city while getting exercise.  More and more cities are offering bike rental services so if you don’t own a bike, then try renting one! 
  7. Participate in an organized race event.  Many cities host races of various lengths, causes and themes for you to participate in throughout the year.  Select a race with a meaningful cause to you and train accordingly.  This can also provide a target end-goal for your exercise regimen. 
  8. Attend festivals or street markets.  This will give you an opportunity to walk around and even pick up a few fresh treats while being social with a few hundred of your closest friends!
  9. Beat traffic by walking instead of driving.  Given the accessibility of many locations, try walking to and from appointments and events such as grocery stores, hair appointments, doctor’s appointments, dentists, and the theaters when appropriate.  This is a healthy option that is also good for the environment. 
  10. Try a Gentle Yoga or Tai Chi class!  Both of these classes are beneficial to seniors since they are gentle on joints, promote range of motion and target on balance improvement.  Some classes will even meet outside on nice days!

What ways have you found to be fit in your city?  Keep in mind these safety recommendations to optimize your overall wellness.  Don’t live in a city?  Watch for my next blog about Ways to Stay Fit in the Country! 

Exercise is important as we age, check out our quick read for more information and share with your loved ones to keep them active, click below!

Download now

Topics: active aging senior living exercise for elderly

Tips to help residents exercise safely in your community fitness center

senior_on_treadmillThis blog was updated on March 22, 2017.

Of course, exercise comes with inherent risks.  Fortunately, the scientifically proven benefits for regular activity far outweight potential risks for injury.  And yet, for older adults, the risk of injury may be more pronounced, as the body is more prone to falls and other injuries from working with machines. So how can staff working with older adults decrease the risk of injury for their clients?

[Related Content: 5 Senior Friendly Equipment Ideas that Won't Break the Bank]

Working with the senior population has taught me a great deal about injury prevention and risk that is important in the clientele. For example, not every piece of equipment is safe for every individual, regardless of skill and ability and safety should be the first consideration when determining the needs of each client.  

Following are tips related to five common pieces of equipment we use with our older adult clients on a regular basis.  

The Treadmill 

One of the most commonly prescribed exercises for seniors is walking. It is an activity that can be done every day, and there is evidence to suggest it helps lower blood pressure, reduces stress, and helps maintain lean body mass. For the senior population, it is especially important to make sure each client is safe from falls and injury.  Teach clients to look forward at all times, keep the arms swinging normally as they would on a walk around the block, and slowly increase treadmill speed with comfort.  For more on treadmill safety, check out this checklist of safety tips for treadmills.

The Bike

An indoor bike and outdoor bike are similar in that they require proper adjusting prior to use. For a recumbent bike, remember to adjust the bike in a good position so that your client's feet are not reaching too far forward when pedaling. Make sure to adjust the back seat (if possible) to support good posture during the ride.  Sometimes it's a challenge to maintain good posture due to aching backs or medical procedures.  In that case, make the client as comfortable as possible, shorten the ride, or try another option for cardiovascular exercise.  

The NuStep

Adjusting the NuStep for clients involves similar steps as noted above for adjusting the bike.  Make sure that the client's feet are not reaching too far forward so that while pedaling there is a slight bend in the knee.  In addition to these adjustments, consider talking the client through how to set their time and pace to enjoy an individualized ride.  The NuStep is one of the safest pieces of equipment for seniors, and it can give a great workout for the upper body, lower body, or a combination of both.

The Selectorized Strength Machines

Adjusting the weight machines requires a good attention to detail, especially for the senior population. Some machines require adjusting seats, legs, arms, and back rests, and you will also need to adjust the weight stacks. For any senior starting out on exercise machines, it is best to have an exercise specialist adjust the settings for a customized workout.  Take care to teach the client how to manage the settings when possible so that you're fostering independence in the workout. However, for many older adults working with selectorized strength equipment is a brand new activity and you may need to work with a client over a few fitness center visits in order to help them feel increasingly comfortable with the workout.   

The Biodex Balance System

Adjusting this machine requires primarily knowing where to place your feet each time you step on it. As a critical aspect in senior fitness, balance training will help work on using both the brain and the body to prevent falls. With a correct adjustment on a balance machine such as the Biodex balance training system, clients will be ready to safely explore this aspect of your training to help prevent and reduce falls.

***

If you're preparing to purchase new equipment for your community fitness center, be sure to download our whitepaper on the key questions to ask during the buying process.  Exercise equipment is expense; the whitepaper will help you be a more informed consumer.

Download now: Questions to Ask before buying exercise equipment

 

Topics: balance senior fitness exercise for elderly injury prevention safety

Tips for Starting Balance Training in Senior Fitness

Balanced_older_womanYou might know that some of the basic elements your senior fitness workout program should include are weight training, cardio activities, and as much flexibility as possible. One element that needs special attention among the senior population is balance training. Training for balance has been considered a fourth recommendation from many organizations, and there has been a much bigger emphasis on balance training in senior wellness programs in recent years.

With balance training now a part of a strong recommendation for your daily workout routine, where do you start? What is balance training? These questions are pretty common among seniors, and the perfect place to start is with training. 

Following are some tips for starting and maintaining your new balance program—that is, if you have not already been working on balance.

Start with Assistance

Even if you feel like you are pretty surefooted, start light and use something to assist with your balance activities. Anytime you work balance, you are using muscles in your body that may cause your balance to become shaky. Once you are more acclimated to the balance activities and you are comfortable with progressing, try slowly releasing the assisting device or object to get more challenge from your balance activities.

Be Consistent

Anytime you start an exercise program, consistency will be important. The same rule applies here. When working on your balance, maintaining a three-day-per-week or five-day-per-week schedule will add up in no time. Consistency will train your mind, body, and muscles to improve your balance over time.

Modify and Vary Your Program

Again, when working on balance, be cautious with your modifications. Start with light modifications and progress with different activities. For a good list of modifications and additional balance exercises you can add to your balance program, click here.

Learn to Scale When Needed

Scaling a workout is something that many do, and when working with seniors, scaling is important. When you scale your workout, you are essentially changing something to make it more individualized. In other words, if standing on one foot is too easy for you when holding on to a sturdy chair, you should scale, if appropriate, by trying a single-leg stand without holding on to the chair.

Select Your Exercises

Starting your program should be slow. Start with about one or two balance exercises and progress as you feel necessary. Starting slow will progress you into a good program, but it will also help you take it slow (just like in other aspects of your training). When you start your balance program, hold your balance activities for about 20 to 30 seconds in each position and aim to complete about two or three sets. For a good amount of exercises and demos, consider the information here to help get you started on new balance training exercises.

***

If you have any additional tips that worked well when you started a balance program, please leave some helpful hints in the comments below. If you found some things to work and others to not, we would like to hear your experiences.

Interested in how we provide balance training for seniors?  Check out our whitepaper, Advanced Balance Training Programs for CCRC Fitness Center by clicking below.

Download Now .

Topics: senior wellness programs balance senior fitness balance training exercise for elderly

Top 10 Reasons Exercise Is Important for Senior Health

seniors_walkingOver the years, it is easy to forget about exercise when it’s not routine. Remaining sedentary over life can lead to metabolic disorders and other diseases associated with physical inactivity. A recent study suggested that about 67 percent of the older population is sedentary for at least 8.5 hours each day, suggesting a need to improve activity levels for senior health.

Exercise for elderly people should be something performed regularly, and making it fun and a routine can help in the long term. Moreover, there are numerous health benefits the older adult can receive from long-term exercise. Following are 10 reasons seniors should continue to exercise.

  1. Arthritis: Exercise is one of the most crucial options for arthritis management. Regular activity helps lubricate the joints and can help reduce overall pain and stiffness that is often present among individuals with arthritis. Moreover, obesity is a risk factor for the disease, and increasing physical activity levels can help better manage the debilitating symptoms of arthritis. (Here’s another NIFS blog post about exercise and arthritis.)
  2. Heart disease: Heart disease is one of the biggest causes of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that about one in every four deaths is attributed to heart disease. More people exercising later in life can help reduce the number of individuals with heart disease through the management of blood pressure and blood glucose, and decreasing LDL cholesterol.
  3. Metabolic Dysfunction (type II diabetes and obesity): Type II diabetes and obesity are two closely related diseases in which the body is in metabolic dysfunction. Exercise can help maintain proper body weight and help regulate blood glucose and insulin levels to make the body more efficient.
  4. Cancer: Exercise has been shown to help improve overall cancer risk among a variety of different forms of cancer. Studies have shown a 30 to 40 percent reduction in breast cancer risk among women who perform moderate to regular exercise.
  5. Hypertension: Exercise can help lower systolic blood pressure significantly through moderate-intensity physical activity. Try breaking up exercise into three bouts throughout the day lasting for at least 10 minutes each to receive blood pressure–lowering effects.
  6. Depression: Exercise can have a beneficial effect on personal mood. Studies suggest that group exercise classes among older adults can help reduce symptoms of depression by 30 percent or more in exercising older adults. The modest improvement in depressive symptoms can help maintain an overall greater vitality later in life and help prevent negative feelings or thoughts that are common with aging.
  7. Dementia: Dementia is a disabling condition affecting many older adults. With a wide range of mental disorders categorized as dementia, there is a great need to understand how to prevent the condition. Exercise is one prevention strategy that can help slow the mental decline. A recent study showed a 37 percent reduced risk and a 66 percent reduction in risk of dementia when older adults performed moderate-intensity exercise, suggesting every adult ought to exercise to help lower the risk of mental decline and to help prevent mental disability later in life.
  8. Quality of life: Maintaining functional independence is something many older adults want. A regular exercise inclusive of strength and balance training can help accomplish this. Aim to be physically active for 30 minutes every day and to strength train at least two non-consecutive days per week.
  9. Insomnia: Certain medications and life events can prevent the body from proper sleep. Higher levels of physical activity can help exhaust the body enough to place it in a position for restful and lasting sleep. Avoid strenuous exercise two hours before bed to obtain these benefits, and aim to meet the daily activity recommendations.
  10. All-cause mortality: Exercise is known to reduce death from all causes. In fact, a recent study showed a 30 to 80 percent reduction in all-cause mortality when individuals exercised at an intensity level greater than 4 METS, suggesting that exercise can help delay premature death from various causes.

Looking to improve balance for your residents, or yourself?        Click below to download our content.

fall prevention training NIFS

Topics: senior fitness exercise for elderly

What You Can Do to Keep Your Parents from Falling (Part 2 of 2)

senior_woman_balancingNow that the less obvious tips have been addressed in part 1 of this series, let’s dive into some physical approaches that you can guide your parents through. There are so many exercises that can be practiced in the comfort of their own home to improve stabilization, gain independence, and build confidence. Our last, but certainly not least, tip:

Get your parents active! Talk with your parents about what they are currently doing to stay active, whether it’s a lifestyle activity, like gardening, or an intentional exercise such as strength training. It is important for your parents to stay active through all areas of wellness, but for now, let’s focus on the physical to keep your parents from falling. Here are some exercises that you can coach your parents through to help with fall prevention:

  • One-Leg Stance: Stand  on one leg at a time for 20 seconds and then gradually increase the time as it becomes more comfortable. Start by holding on, and then try to balance with  your eyes closed or without holding on.
  • Tandem Stance (Heel to Toe): Stand on your toes for a count of 5, and then rock back on your heels for a count of 5. When comfortable, progress to a count of 10. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Hip Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands on your hips. Make a big circle to the left with your hips, and then to the right. Repeat 10 times.
  • Abdominal Squeezes: Sit forward on a chair and sit up straight with shoulders back. Tighten your stomach for a count of 2 and relax. Repeat this 30 times, rest for 1 minute, and repeat 2 times.
  • Sit-to-Stand: Start by sitting in a hard, upright chair (like a breakfast or dining room chair) with your feet hip-width apart, ankles right below your knees, and toes pointing straight forward. Reach your hands out in front of you or place your arms across your chest and stand up. Then return to a sitting position. Make sure that you sit slowly and do not “plop down” in the chair. If needed, you can use the arms of the chair but focus on using your lower-body strength to stand upright. Repeat 2 sets of 10 repetitions. 
  • Tandem Walk: First, find a place where you can take forward steps with something next to you that can give touch support, like a countertop or the back of a couch. Start with your feet together with your side to the support surface. Standing tall, take forward heel-to-toe steps as if you were walking on a balance beam. Take 10 steps or walk until the end of your support surface, whichever comes first. Once you feel more comfortable with this, challenge yourself by walking heel-to-toe backward! Repeat 2 times.
  • Balance Stance with Eyes Closed: Stand with your feet together and arms across the chest. Keeping a tall posture, close your eyes and hold this position for about 20 seconds. As this gets easier, progress by increasing the amount of time by 5-second intervals.

If these exercises are too much at once, just pick a few to get your parents started. Once they are comfortable with that, begin introducing more at an appropriate pace. If they need to rely on holding onto a handle or surface to try these exercises, especially in the beginning, that is perfectly fine. Their safety comes first, but remember: falls can be prevented! What are you doing to help prevent your loved ones from falling?

Watch the Video: The Balance Challenge

Topics: senior living balance fall prevention balance training exercise for elderly

What You Can Do to Keep Your Parents from Falling (Part 1 of 2)

senior_balancingHave you noticed your parents sitting more and more? Throughout the aging process we tend to become less physically active, therefore decreasing our overall strength. This can lead to many health issues, including loss of balance and eventually falls. Falls in seniors are the number-one cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries. As we all know, the older we get, the harder it can be to recover from any type of injury, so let’s help mom and dad prevent what could potentially alter, or even take, their lives.

Prevention is the keyword. Take a look at these tips to see whether you can do anything for your parents before an accident occurs and you find yourself saying, “This could have been prevented.”

  • Speak with your parents about their overall health. Discuss medications and their side effects, as well as health conditions that could cause falls, such as eye or ear disorders. Some medications alone can cause dizziness, while others may have negative interactions when combined, and visual and vestibular impairments and disorders can be large culprits when it comes to falls. It is also important to keep open communication about previous or current falls. This can be embarrassing for the parent, so it is important that they understand that it is not a burden to you, nor should it be an embarrassment to them. Do not take any fall lightly, because not all injuries are obvious or can even be seen without medical testing.
  • Make an appointment or two. Encourage your parents to make an appointment with their doctor to discuss their overall health and risk of falls. If possible, ask to sit in on the appointment to help yourself better understand what you can do to motivate your parents to work on fall prevention.
  • Help your parents with a home safety checklist. This is as simple as checking your parents’ home for possible hazards that could cause a fall. For example, ditch the throw rug, remove electrical or phone cords from walkways, or add night lights in their bedroom, bathroom, and hallways. Refer to this CDC link for a comprehensive checklist.
  • Discuss possible upgrades to existing amenities in their home. Oftentimes, the bathroom can be an easy place to take a tumble, so find out how you can help prevent these types of falls. Speak with your parents about raised toilets, grab bars, and shower or tub seats. Refer here for a more complete list of safety care product suggestions for the bathroom.
  • Chat about whether their home is the best place for them. Is downsizing realistically a safer and more convenient environment? This can be a very hard and sensitive topic to discuss but could prevent issues down the road. Consider alternatives, such as smaller homes, condominiums, retirement communities, assisted living communities, etc. Making the decision may be difficult, but it is critical, and the change becomes much easier once they have adjusted. Check out this blog to read about the “Someday Syndrome” that keeps some seniors from making the move.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where I give another important tip that can singlehandedly make a significant change in fall risks.  Check out our Balance Training Whitepaper for the importance of balance training for seniors.

Download Balance Training Whitepaper

Topics: senior living balance fall prevention balance training exercise for elderly

Active Aging: Beginning Exercise Program for Seniors

senior woman on ballEveryone needs a starting point.  Anyone who has ever tried to begin a new exercise program knows that the first few weeks often determine whether you stick with the program or not.  I often have residents ask me where to begin and while different considerations have to be made for each individual’s situation, I’ve found that this is usually a good starting point.

1. Try not to overwhelm them

A few times per week is plenty for an older adult who is new to exercise.  We’re trying to build a habit and that takes a little time.  For someone who was previously sedentary, doing structured exercises 3 times per week is plenty.  I do try to encourage people to take a short walk every day so they are getting up and moving around more than they’re used to.  (And walking down to the dining room doesn’t count!)

2. Include a little cardio, a little strength, and a little flexibility

Barring any special circumstances or directions from their physician, it’s safe for older adults to include a large variety of exercises in their routine.  Aim to be well-rounded.  It’s good for the body and it helps to keep them interested as well.  Cardio exercises could include things like walking, riding a bike, or just working out on the Nu-Step or elliptical.  Start out for 10 minutes at a time and work up from there.  Strength exercises should be functional and safe for the older adult.  Using variable resistance machines is usually a good place to start and it can help to build the confidence of your new exerciser.  Always include flexibility exercises as well.  You’ve all heard “use it or lose it” and this applies to mobility and flexibility just as much as any other area.

3. Always include balance exercises

My most successful residents are the ones who do balance exercises most days of the week.  Practicing those tasks not only makes them more stable, but also really boosts their confidence.  It’s an area where a lot of them feel unsure of themselves and a little fearful so showing them that they can do something to change that feeling can really help.

4. Modify, modify, modify

It’s easy to try a “one size fits all” model for older adults.  Many people just assume that they can’t do the same things as someone who is younger, but this isn’t true!  As our population ages, there are many circumstances where people have been exercising their whole lives and are still very capable of difficult exercises.  Don’t be afraid to challenge people a little bit.  On the flip side, many people are just beginning an exercise program with the goal of maintaining their independence a little longer so don’t be afraid to modify exercises down to their abilities as well.

Do you have tips and tricks that work for beginners in your community?

Download Balance Training Whitepaper

Topics: active aging nifs fitness management senior fitness exercise for elderly