Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Senior Living: Four Tips for Improving Your Resident Exercise Program

Truly, one of the things I love about working in senior living is the passion employees have for serving the residents who live in their communities. Despite variation in the physical spaces’ amenities, decor, and size, the culture of caring about the residents is consistent. The people who work in senior living are genuinely committed to getting to know their residents as a means of helping them live exceptionally well.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but the other half of my career is spent in corporate

wellness, where the bottom line often drives the conversation. And while I think employers do care about their workforce, that’s not their starting point for investing in any wellness initiative. So when I work with senior living communities on improving their programming ThinkstockPhotos-529580019-1.jpgand activities for residents, I’m often surprised at what an afterthought their exercise amenities and services are. The clear appetite to provide residents with the very best options for living just doesn’t square with what’s in place for resident exercise at the community.

 If this disconnect resonates with you and you’re looking to make a change, consider
improving your resident exercise program with the tips below as ways to live up to your commitment to build active living options for your residents.

 

1. Provide staffing in your exercise program.

Residents will not (I repeat, will not) use your exercise equipment and spaces without the right leadership in that area of the community. It’s not sufficient to simply offer exercise classes, nor is it adequate service to have a trainer in the gym a few hours per week to offer assistance on the equipment. You can hire your own manager, or you can work with a fitness management company like ours. For more information on how get exercise leadership right in your community, check out some of the blogs we’ve written on the importance of staffing.

2. Review and update your group exercise equipment when you can.

Fitness equipment isn’t cheap, but the items used for group classes are far less expensive than the capital equipment in the fitness center. For $5,000, you can buy one new treadmill, or you can buy a classroom worth of new resistance chairs. There are a lot of practical tools that group fitness instructors can use in classes to make them more interesting and more effective for the residents, and they aren’t that expensive. In your next budgeting cycle, make room for a few of these options:

  • Small weighted balls: Sets of the 1.1# and 2.2# work well.
  • Airex balance pads: Buy enough for each person in balance class to have one.
  • BOSU: Buy a few to use in stations on a strength or balance class.

3. Establish a cross-referral system between your fitness center and your therapy group.

If you have qualified staff in your fitness center and there is not already a relationship between that individual and your therapy team, building a bridge between the two is low-hanging fruit on the improving-services tree. Check out this quick read to learn why we believe integration of therapy and fitness is important for resident well-being.

4. Take a hard look at all of your senior wellness initiatives and how fitness folds into that set of programming.

It should be woven in seamlessly among other programs and services designed to engage rather than entertain your residents. If all programming is being carried off in silos, it’s time to take a fresh approach. If participation in programs and services is represented by the same handful of residents, it’s time to re-envision your offerings. If the activities calendar looks pretty much the same as it did last month, last quarter, and last year, it’s time to breathe new life into what you’re offering. Download this quick read for a series of questions you can use to evaluate the quality of your wellness programming

Find out how to evaluate your program

Topics: exercise group exercise senior wellness senior living active living senior fitness staffing

Corporate Fitness: Should You Pay Employees for Workouts?

 

ThinkstockPhotos-468984741.jpgThere’s a lot of misinformation out there on what is and is not good for you. The science changes all the time; unfortunately, changes in health information can sometimes depend on who’s funding the provider. So it can be hard to trust the latest press release “proving” the next best strategy for preventing disease and living longer. Despite the confusing messaging, there are a few constants on health you can count on:

  • Tobacco use is bad for you.
  • Moving your body is good for you.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of which is more important to employee health; there are too many complicating and personal factors to establish such a case. Instead, I’ll focus on physical activity because I think it represents a substantial area of opportunity for employers when considering options that fit into the “doing wellness for (or even with) employees” mantra.

Plenty of employers offer some kind of option for exercise at work, whether that be with group exercise classes onsite, workouts in a full-blown corporate fitness center, or walking trails on the property. In most cases those amenities/offerings are a use-at-your-own-risk proposition. There’s very little leadership support or communication about how to get involved, so only those employees who feel most strongly about pursuing regular exercise actually have the motivation to engage. And then employers wonder why participation is so low.

So here we are at this weird crossroads where employers try a few fitness-based options at the worksite for employees, very few employees enjoy the benefits of those programs, and employers are frustrated. What’s a company to do?

To be fair, we can’t expect everyone to want to exercise. Employers should have realistic expectations about how many people they can draw into these offerings. If you’re looking for ways to tip the scales that make a work-sponsored group fitness class look a little more attractive to your workforce, consider the idea of compensated workout time. Here’s why this is worth your attention:

  • It’s no secret that time, or lack of it, is a primary barrier for your employees participating in regular physical activity. Couple the lack of time with the idea that your employees spend about nine hours per day at the office, and you have yourself a significant potential audience.
  • However, if the workplace culture or departmental mantra is about working harder, producing more, and keeping butts in the seats, then the convenience of a workplace fitness option is a moot point.
  • Alternatively, if we can pay them for 45 minutes of working out three days per week, now we might be onto something that sends a true message about how important the employer feels it is for employees to make healthy choices. And before you read this and exclaim, “We already do that…it’s called a lunch break,” what I’m advocating is 45 minutes beyond the lunch break. For an employee making $25/hour who works out, walks, or takes a group exercise class three days per week during this compensated time, it costs the company about $2,800 a year ($25/hr x 75% of an hour x 3d/wk x 50wk/yr).

Maybe you can’t afford compensated exercise time for your employees. But before you discount it outright, do what my mom always encourages me to do with a big decision. Make a pro/con list. Consider all the health benefits of engaging in regular physical activity compared to the lost work time on your bottom line. Weigh the positive of increased employee loyalty and creativity against the straight dollar cost. Understand the value of really supporting your employees’ quest for better health versus only paying it lip service. If the tick marks in your pro column outweigh those in the con column, you just might have your answer.

Need tips to get your employees moving more?  Download our whitepaper to help you get started with adding exercise to your worksite wellness program.

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Topics: exercise at work employee health group exercise corporate fitness motivation incentives workouts

Why Group Fitness Belongs in Your Corporate Wellness Program

I’ve never been that into group fitness. I’m simply more of a solo exerciser. But starting my career managing corporate fitness centers, it became clear to me very quickly that my personal philosophy about where group classes fit into my routine was counter to a sizable minority of members in the facilities I supported.

There is something about that group dynamic that works for participants. Whether it’s the energy of others, the instructor who tells you what to do, or the music that moves your feet, something draws participants in and keeps them coming back.


Mixed Adherence and Retention Results

Researchers have long been studying variables that can influence exercise adherence; and to date, outcomes from various studies have been in conflict. For example, the S.W.E.A.T. study on women ages 40 to 65 showed that group-based exercise in a “center” setting compared with home-based individual exercise netted better retention. But other research indicates that home-based interventions demonstrated better adherence over time.

We do know that positive social support from both staff and peers directly in the exercise setting is important, and group classes provide a built-in social network. Also, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) polled gym members for their primary areas of participation and found that about 43% of gym members participate in group exercise.

NIFS Poll Shows Benefits of Group Fitness Classes

Anecdotally, I know of several individuals who have been able to dramatically improve their health primarily through group classes. So when we polled our NIFS corporate group fitness class participants about their experiences with our classes, I wasn’t terribly surprised at the results.

We polled all employees at our client locations in Indianapolis, Indiana, where we’re offering group fitness classes. In some cases, we’re providing only classes at a location, whereas in other locations we’re managing the corporate fitness center along with providing classes. Here’s what we learned:

  • Just over one-third of responders indicated that NIFS group fitness classes were their primary source of exercise through the week.
  • Almost 80% indicated that they exercise more often because of the group fitness classes available at their office.
  • Roughly three quarters of responders noted personal health improvements since they started taking group classes with NIFS instructors.
  • A full 96% indicated that the classes at their worksite were a definite employee perk.

The numbers tell us that group fitness is still a fantastic way for employers to create exercise opportunities for their employees. It’s a low-cost (or no-cost if employees pay) option that doesn’t require much equipment or space, and it can net positive health outcomes for employees. It just may earn you loyalty points as well.

If you’re sold on the idea of adding group exercise classes to your corporate wellness offerings but aren’t sure where to start, check out this blog and our quick read.

Download our 3 Keys to Adding Group Fitness Classes at Work!

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Topics: group exercise corporate fitness motivation NIFS corporate fitness managment data

NIFS: The Substitute; Don't Fear an Unknown Group Fitness Instructor

instructorsStand on the street and ask 100 random people their feelings about going to school as a child and you will get 100 different answers. If I were asked my response would have sounded something like this, “I just want to graduate and get a job so I can be done with homework and live the easy life like adults.” I’m shaking my head as I write this, but that is how I truly felt back then. No matter whom you are certain days in school were destined to be fun, and those days were when we had a SUBSTITUTE. Well today I am going to be that sub, except I won’t be in a classroom with books, I will be on a track with kettle bells, plyo boxes, and resistance bands; I’m subbing for an outdoor boot camp class.

Personally I love to cover other instructor’s classes, because I am guaranteed to encounter something different. The something different part is what we should all look for no matter our profession, new experiences break the monotony of our every day schedules and will positively affect our brain function. As I’m preparing for class my mind is racing and I love it, what music should I play, I wonder how many people will come, how fit are they, what if they can’t do an exercise, what if we don’t have enough equipment?  Are just a few of the questions racing through my mind, but instructing the class and facing those questions gives me the opportunity to hone my skills, meet new people, travel to new places, and hopefully become a better instructor for the classes I already have, and for  those I will sub for in the future.

I hope the same benefits I receive from instructing a new class is passed on to the class I am leading. Any fitness professional will tell you to vary your workouts to reduce boredom and to aid physiological changes. Well nothing will change things up for a group fitness program like being led by a different instructor. No matter how similar two instructors are, there will always be some differences, for example a different cadence will require a higher level of mental focus so that you can stay in sync with the instructor. Often people who have been working with the same instructor for long periods of time can go into “auto-pilot” or turn their brain off during class because they are so familiar with the routine that their body just moves without much thought as to what they are doing.

This blog is not meant for just group fitness instructors and exercise class goers, it’s meant for everyone. Break your everyday cycle and try something different. It will affect an area in your life positively. For all my class goers: when that sub does walk through the door, don’t pout, your instructor will be back, but in the mean time act like a kid again, let all that energy out and have a great class, after all it’s only a sub!

Get your groove on with NIFS group fitness classes

Topics: group exercise group fitness for seniors

How to Develop Successful Group Fitness Classes in Senior Living

active aging group fitnessJust as it is important to establish appropriate hiring criteria for Group Fitness Instructors (GFIs) at Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), its equally important to routinely evaluate the performance of GFIs and the group fitness offerings to residents.

The challenge to this evaluation is to establish the community personnel qualified to complete these evaluations. If your community has a qualified fitness professional, it’s a no-brainer that this individual can ensure that GFIs have the appropriate qualifications and can regularly evaluate their instruction. If your community does not have a qualified fitness professional, it can be a challenge to find the right personnel to fill this role. In either case, steps should be taken to ensure the safety of participating residents.

Evaluating the Senior Fitness Instructor

Evaluating an instructor can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Simply observing the class and taking notes on the questions in the following list can be a decent starting point, although a traditional graded model rating the instructor’s performance is ideal. Rating his or her performance is a real challenge for a layperson who doesn’t know what to look for. Even these questions might be too much of a stretch. This may lend significant weight to a community’s decision to hire a qualified fitness professional to oversee its fitness center and group exercise program. If community personnel can’t observe the following qualities in an existing instructor, how can they feel qualified to hire a new GFI? This may be placing your community personnel in a difficult position and not holding your community’s fitness offerings to a high enough standard.

  1. Are they providing a proper warm-up and cool-down for participants?
  2. Are they providing modifications to exercises to better challenge residents who are more advanced or to provide a safe exercise for residents who need an option at a lesser intensity?
  3. Are residents able to follow the cueing the instructor provides? Is the instructor providing additional cueing for residents to correct their form throughout the class?
  4. Is the instructor receptive to the needs of the class (for example, when it’s time to take a break, transition to seated exercises, get a drink of water, etc.)?
  5. Do the participants appear engaged and challenged by what they are doing, or do they need additional stimulation in the class?

Evaluating the Group Fitness Class Offerings

While it’s important to make sure the instructors are meeting resident needs, it’s also important to regularly evaluate the class formats and schedule for your group fitness program. Classes often evolve as participants progress and provide their feedback to instructors on their likes and dislikes. This gradual evolution may result in a completely different type of class from what it was at its inception. Review your current schedule at least once a year and consider the following:

  1. Are there class options for residents of all ability levels spanning from the lower-functioning participants to residents who may need a challenge from a higher-intensity class? (As existing classes evolve and residents progress, make sure that a moderate-level class that welcomes beginners actually hasn’t become too advanced.)
  2. Is there structure provided to the way classes are scheduled? For example, strength and conditioning classes should not be held on back-to-back days, and folding all of the group fitness offerings into a Tuesday-Thursday or Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule will not promote maximum resident engagement.
  3. Do you have cardio, strength training, balance training, flexibility training, and spiritual elements within your class schedule?

Using these questions as a starting point will help you evaluate your group fitness instructors and programs to ensure that they are offering the best experience to your residents.

Quick Tip to Strengthen Your Community Exercise Program

 

 

Topics: group exercise senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior fitness

3 Must-Haves in Group Fitness Instructors for CCRCs

considerations for hiring group fitness instructorsMany Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) offer a variety of group fitness classes to their residents. The community personnel who hire the group fitness instructors (GFIs) may benefit from a few pointers on hiring standards beyond someone’s personality alone. Don’t get me wrong, the right personality and ability to build relationships with residents is crucial for making a class successful. However, a narrow focus on personality alone may not provide your residents with the maximum benefits of participating in the activity and could create a dangerous environment.

Certifications and Insurance

To protect participants in group exercise classes (whether in commercial gym, church, school, or CCRC settings), fitness industry standards require that GFIs maintain current instruction certifications and CPR/AED certifications. Contracted GFIs should also carry proof of personal liability insurance. Well-qualified GFIs are aware of these standards and likely would not be in the practice of instructing without maintaining those certifications. For community personnel hiring these individuals, that may be your first sign. If someone applies for the position and cannot provide proof of current certifications and liability insurance, they likely aren’t the best fit for meeting the fitness program standards for your community.

Furthermore, communities should make sure that they are maintaining current copies of certifications from their existing GFI staff. If you find that existing instructors do not have current certifications, it’s likely time to establish a timeline within which your GFIs can obtain a certification to continue with their instruction.

Experience in Senior Fitness

It’s also important to make sure that GFIs have experience teaching an older-adult population. When looking for an instructor, you might contact local senior centers, churches, or YMCAs and share information about your opening and provide the requirements and qualifications you are looking for in a GFI. This may provide you with a better candidate pool than having to sift through GFIs who teach boot camp, kettlebell, or kickboxing-type classes.

Personality

Looking at certifications and experience instructing older adults is the best starting point when looking for a GFI. However, as previously mentioned, the personality of the GFI is also critical for the overall enjoyment of the participants. When replacing an instructor or recruiting an instructor for a new class format, you might consider surveying your residents on their desired qualities in an instructor and in a class.

For example, if you are searching for a yoga instructor, residents may have feedback on enjoying the relaxation benefits of the class. This could allow you to question candidates on elements of relaxation they build into their class. While you may not have the expertise to recognize the specific details on the relaxation elements they are discussing, you should be able to gather feedback on their style of instruction: Is it soothing, focusing on breathing and guided imagery and providing a sense of calming for participants? Or does the instructor focus on deep stretching or strengthening throughout the class?

Establishing standards for GFIs in your group fitness program can benefit more than just your residents. Sharing these standards with prospective residents can be a great marketing tool to promote the dedication and focus your community places on its wellness programming.  

  Watch Resident Testimonials

Topics: group exercise senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior fitness yoga

NIFS: January Class of the Month - Bodycombat

Written by Tara Deal, NIFS Group Fitness Instructor.

Les Mills Body CombatIf you are new to group fitness, or new to the Les Mills program, then the term “Bodycombat” may sound a bit intimidating.  If you have attended even just one Bodycombat class, then you know that this intense cardio workout focuses on utilizing mixed martial arts moves such as punches and kicks to strengthen the entire body.

 

NIFS Body CombatThis past Tuesday, January 8, NIFS hosted an Intro to Bodycombat class for newcomers, beginners, and anyone who wanted to understand a little bit more about what was going on behind the punch.  There was a wide variety of people attending the class, and everyone walked of off the court with a better understanding of how to properly execute the various punches, kicks, blocks and other mixed martial arts moves.  

The class began with a group warm-up to get everyone moving and comfortable with the space on the gym floor.  We then broke down the Bodycombat workout into smaller manageable pieces of just upper body exercises and then lower body exercises.  We were able to learn the proper technique for all of the basic punches and kicks, and then apply the new and perfected techniques we learned to actual Bodycombat tracks in a shortened class.

NIFS Body CombatBodycombat is for everyone at a moderate-intermediate fitness level, and the moves are simple so little coordination is required!  When you attend a regular Bodycombat class, you should expect to be led by your instructor through the martial arts moves drawn from various disciplines such as karate, taekwondo, tai chi, and muy thai while moving to the beat of heart pounding music.   At the end of the class, you will feel strong, empowered, and slightly invincible.  

Like all of the Les Mills classes, a new release of music and exercises is released every three months to keep your body guessing, keep the workout interesting, and keep your body in top-notch condition.

No equipment is needed for this class, just the warrior within, a towel for your sweat, and a water bottle. 

Make sure to join Tasha and Emily for Bodycombat classes on Mondays at 5:30pm and Wednesdays at 6:35pm on the auxiliary court at NIFS Fitness Center in Indianapolis.

 

Topics: group exercise NIFS fitness cardio les mills martial arts

Employee Health: How Do I Get My Family to Exercise?

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

active family, exercise, healthy livingFor you: Take care of yourself as well as your family by carving out time to exercise and limiting sedentary behavior, which will give you energy to keep up with your family’s busy schedule. It’s always important to lead by example.

For your spouse: Once again, lead by example, and that may be enough to get your significant other off the couch and into an exercise program. Plan enjoyable activities that you can do together, such as biking, walking, and playing tennis. If you’re a gym rat, say that you need him or her for motivation, a spot, or even just the company, or plan to take a group fitness class together.

For your kids: Encourage any activity that keeps them moving, like sports (team or individual, such as martial arts, dance, rock climbing, skateboarding, or swimming), outside play, and play dates with friends. If you have video games in the house, make them active ones. Encourage friendly competitions among siblings, such as who can perform the most push-ups or sit-ups. Making exercise fun is the key!

For the entire family: When it comes to family exercise, the more, the merrier! Staying active as a family is not only good for everyone’s health, but it helps build strong relationships. Skiing, sledding, ice skating, and bowling are great for cold weather, and walking, biking, tennis, basketball, touch football, putt-putt golf, and swimming are all ideal for warmer-weather months.

Topics: employee health group exercise winter fitness exercise at home New Year's Resolutions in Action

Hula Hoop for Weight Loss

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

corporate fitness center management, hula hoop, weight lossThere is truly something for everyone in the world of fitness. Case in point, hula hooping is starting to make its mark in group fitness settings. A study found this activity to use the same amount of energy as walking at a speed of 4 to 4.5 miles per hour—which is a pretty quick pace!

Hula hooping for fitness is not as brand new as you might think. When I attended the 2007 National Wellness Conference in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, one session featured hula hoops, where participants were encouraged to try them out and see that they aren’t just for those under the age of 10.

While many of your corporate wellness members may not gain the same fitness benefits from hula hooping as with a higher-impact activity like running or cardio intervals, this can be a good activity to draw in seniors, children, or even those who dread the idea of traditional exercise machines.

Here are a few ideas of how to use hula hoops in your corporate fitness center:

  • During a group fitness class, set up an obstacle course (outdoors is better, if facilities are available). Many of the stations can be standard workouts, but make one a hula hoop station where participants must keep the hoop up for 10 spins before moving on to the next one!
  • Host a family fun night where corporate fitness center members can bring their spouses and children for a night of recreational activities, including hula hoop, jump rope, football toss, etc.
  • Hold a hula hoop contest to see who can hoop the longest. Sometimes all it takes is friendly competition to encourage people to try new activities!
Topics: group exercise weight loss

Senior Wellness: Tai Chi Helps Fight Depression in Seniors

This blog was written by Samantha Whiteside. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

senior fitness, tai chi, exercise, retirement communitiesWith the elderly population only increasing, many senior living fitness centers are looking outside the box for ways to keep their residents moving and their spirits high. Tai chi could be part of the answer.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that is practiced for health benefits. It has long been known to reduce stress, but researchers at UCLA recently found that the ancient martial art, in conjunction with a prescribed medication, can decrease depression in seniors.

Over a four-week period, 112 seniors aged 60 or older with major depression were given Lexapro. From those studied, 73 who showed only partial gains in their battle with depression were additionally prescribed 10 weeks of tai chi classes or health education classes for two hours per week.

Although both groups showed a decrease in depression, the group participating in tai chi displayed the greatest reduction. An additional 14 percent, compared to those not partaking in tai chi, were actually placed into a “remission” category. Thus, UCLA’s study shows that mind-body exercise can fight depression in older adults.

What ailments can exercise help your senior wellness program clients overcome?

Topics: group exercise senior wellness programs senior fitness management