Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Active Aging: Why should I consume probiotics?

senior eating yogurt resized 600We see probiotics all over the nutritional world now. So many foods, especially yogurts, are offering probiotics and making sure they are on the front label. But you may be wondering what these probiotics are and why they are so important.

We're glad you asked!  Here are 3 of the best explanations as to how they help and why we should consider taking them.

  1. Replace what we kill – We hear about bacteria in the body and automatically think that it is all bad, but we rely on an average of 500 different species in our intestines to digest our foods and process our nutrients. There is so much in our food today that helps kill these bacteria. It has been shown too that even one round of antibiotics can drastically decrease the amount of good bacteria in our body. The top four bacteria to look for are: Lactobacillus bulgaricus,  Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacteria.
  2. Digestive Health – So now we know we need to replace the bacteria that we kill and we know where it lives.  It’s time to see just what they do for us. These bacteria help break down and work through all the foods that we eat. This helps our body to use less energy while breaking down the foods and increases the absorption rate of all the nutrients that we eat. Both the Vitamin B’s and Vitamin K are processing are greatly increased by these bacteria. And don’t forget these are two vitamins that are responsible for giving us energy. When you think about it these bacteria are great energy boosters for us! We use less energy processing food and gain more energy from our foods. Finally all this bacterial helps regulate our digestive system. It is amazing the effect these tiny things have on our bowels. Once everything is in balance there is no more constipation or diarrhea or the bouncing back and forth between the two.
  3. Infection Prevention – Wait doesn’t bacteria cause infections? The answer is yes and no and to be even more confusing some of the good bacteria start with the name of bad bacteria as well. At first look what came to mind when you read Streptococcus thermophilus? Probably strep throat right? Well believe it or not this is a good bacteria and it does not cause strep throat. It actually helps with lactose intolerance and other irritations of the digestive track. Yeast infections are caused by the lack of good bacteria in our bodies. The yeast grows rapidly in warm moist areas and the bacteria are there to consume it. Lack of these bacteria has also been linked to urinary tract infections, bladder infections and kidney infection.

As you can see these little bugs are very important to our ability to digest, receive energy and stay overall healthy. These bacteria are found in many of the yogurts such as Activia®, Oikos® and Kefir. If you are lactose intolerant don’t worry there are soy and coconut based yogurts and drinks for you too. 

Subscribe to NIFS blog

Topics: nutrition active aging health and wellness

NIFS: Strive for Sleep

sleep at desk resized 600Feeling drowsy throughout your day? Always need that cup of coffee first thing in the morning and possibly in the afternoon? Well, you’re not alone. Getting enough sleep every day is essential for proper functioning and well-being, but many people do not get the recommended amount of sleep that they should per night. The average adult should sleep 7 to 9 hours every night. Depriving your body of just an hour of sleep per night can have a cumulative sleep deprivation effect.  Sleep deprivation can decrease short term memory as well as increase your chances for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression. So, what can you do to prevent sleep deprivation and keep your body and mind sharp? Follow the guidelines below to help you kick start your new healthy sleeping schedule.

  1. Make sleep a routine…and not just one you follow on work nights. The best way to continue to get good rest is to put your body on a cycle. Try going to bed around the same time every night and waking up the same time every day. A good way to tell if you are getting enough sleep is if you naturally get tired and wake up around the same time every day.
  2. Exercise daily. A daily exercise routine of just as little as 30 minutes can help you fall asleep easier and get better quality sleep. In just 3-10 minute exercise bouts throughout your day you can improve your quality of sleep. If exercise is new to your routine, try not to work out too close to bedtime. While exercise can help you sleep at night, it can also stimulate your body so give yourself a few hours at the end of the night to wind down.
  3. Keep your bedroom calm, cool and comfortable. Create an environment that is made for sleep by making the room a cool temperature and keeping stimulants like TV, and electronic devices off. If you need noise to help you fall asleep consider a white noise machine. If reading on a tablet relaxes you, use the night reading feature to not over stimulate your brain. The key is to keep lights dim to get your brain to sleep mode.
  4. Watch what you eat….and drink. Certain foods and drinks that contain alcohol and caffeine can be enemies of sleep. While alcohol may make you feel tired it can actually block you from getting quality sleep. Caffeine will not make you feel tired and it can also hide in common drinks and foods. Chocolate, for instance, has caffeine as well as decaf coffee and soda. Make sure to read labels and know if caffeine is hiding in your food and drink.
  5. Help yourself to some stress management. Try different relaxation techniques such as stretching, listening to calm music or getting organized. If you still have a cluttered mind, write down your thoughts and what needs to be taken care of. Put it aside before bed and pick it up tomorrow. Feeling good before bed and clearing your mind makes for a restful night’s sleep.

A good night’s sleep is an important process to start any day with a productive and sharp mind. Using these helpful tips, you can be naturally energized and on your way to healthier living.

If you continue to be frequently tired, consult with your physician. There may be underlying causes for fatigue and sleeplessness. Sleep well and prosper!

On average, how many hours of sleep do you get per night?

Topics: productivity health and wellness sleep habits

NIFS Nutrition News: Get back on track!

healthy eating woman resized 600Have you fallen off track from your New Year’s resolutions and need a kick start back in the right direction? Since it's National Nutrition Month® it is the perfect time to regain focus on healthy eating behaviors! Getting back into a healthy routine does not mean seeking out the next fad diet, but learning to enjoy healthy and nutritious food. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ team of top nutrition and food professionals develop a once a year campaign to promote healthy eating behaviors with many different resources, games, and reading lists.  This year the Academy is focusing on ways to help you create healthy, enjoyable meals following the Dietary Guidelines!

First, start by replacing empty snacks with nutrient dense foods such as these, under 200-calorie, snacks:

  • Small baked potato topped with salsa and 1 ounce low-fat cheese.
  • Toaster waffle topped with ½ cup blueberries and 2 tablespoons low-fat yogurt.
  • Six whole-wheat crackers and one slice low-fat Colby cheese.
  • Fruit smoothie: Blend 1 cup fat-free milk, ½ cup frozen strawberries and ½ banana.
  • One 6-inch flour tortilla with ¼ cup black beans and 2 tablespoons fresh salsa.
  • Quick-to-fix salad: 2 cups mixed greens with ½ cup mandarin oranges, 1 tablespoon sliced almonds and 2 tablespoons reduced-fat dressing.

Next, make a few small lifestyle changes to your day from the following tips below:

  • Never skip breakfastA cup of coffee should not be the only thing you consume for breakfast! Instead, your breakfast should include some lean protein such as turkey or chicken as well as whole grains and fruit.  These small changes will help increase your morning energy level!
  • Control your portion sizesMeasure out a cup of your favorite food to see how much you are eating compared to the recommended serving size. This will help you understand how much you are eating in one sitting!
  • Be more active throughout the day - This does not mean you need to go to the gym, or set an hour of your time aside to work out in order to increase your physical activity. It is as simple as parking in the back of the parking lot, always taking the stairs, or taking a walk with your family after dinner. Increasing your steps per day can result in an increase in positive health benefits-aim for 10,000 steps a day!

Finally, consider making other small modifications to your eating behavior. In order to begin creating healthy meals following the Dietary Guidelines!  Click here for healthy recipes provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Interested in speaking with a NIFS Registered Dietitian, contact Angie Scheetz at NIFS.

Topics: nifs fitness management health and wellness diet and exercise portion control

NIFS: Fitness Apps for your Smart Phone

smartphone exercise resized 600Are you looking for fitness tips, a little extra motivation or some exercise accountability?  There’s an app for that!  Over the past few years, health and fitness apps have grown and can provide information such as, distance and pace, strength, circuit and flexibility routines, estimate calorie expenditure, and some can measure your heart rate.  Some apps will send daily fitness tips or motivational statements to help keep you on track with your exercise routine.  But, if you’ve ever tried to search for health and fitness apps on your phone, you know how overwhelming it can be.

There are hundreds and hundreds of fitness apps out there for your smart phone.  I have narrowed them down by choosing a few!  Upgrades are available for some, but the free versions work well by themselves as well. 

Fitness Apps


  • Tabata Trainer (iOS and Android) – provides an easy way to keep time during your Tabata or HIIT interval workouts; uses intense interval training as its guide for a 20 seconds of workout followed by 10 seconds rest; clean, basic and easy to use
  • Gym Goal ABC (Android) – has 280 exercises (with animation and written instruction), 52 different workouts (adjustable for four levels of expertise), cannot log daily workouts, but you can calculate BMI, THR, BMR and body fat percentage, can choose parts of the body to concentrate on
  • Workout Trainer (iOS and Android) – after completing the free virtual fitness consultation for a more customized workout; users can easily create and edit workouts; exercise instruction provided via photos and videos; progress cues can be provided during workouts
  • Daily Workouts (iOS and Android) – provides 5-10 minute targeted workouts or 10-30 minute full body workouts; has a database of 50 different exercises; workouts are different each day
  • Human (iOS) – encourages participants to get outside for 30 minutes a day and run, walk or bike; tracks progress and can share accomplishments on a social network

Run/Walk Trackers


  • RunKeeper (Android) – produces statistics around pace, distance, speed, time and calories burned; users can also listen to and control music during a workout
  • Nike+ Runner (iOS and Android) – records distance, speed and time, also can provide audio feedback each mile, ½ mile or time increment (set by the user); users can set up play lists to help boost motivation, music can be controlled during workouts
  • iRunner (iOS and Android) – maps run, walk, bike, hike, etc. with GPS; records time, distance, calories and pace; now integrates with FitBit, MyFitnessPal, Facebook, Twitter and more
  • Map My Run / Walk / Ride / Hike, etc. (iOS and Android) – tracks running/walking, biking, and 6000 other activities; tracks pace, distance, time, calories and elevations, gives real-time stats
  • Couch to 5K (iOS and Android) – provides a step-by-step program to get your running a 5K in nine weeks; gradually increases workouts from a walk/light-jog to a run in three workouts a week
  • Endomondo Sports Tracker (iOS, Android, Blackberry) – designed for runners, walkers, bikers, etc.; uses GPS to track routes; get pep talks, motivation and notifications each time you break a mile

You can find more detailed descriptions and reviews online and decide for yourself which apps will help you the most.  What is your favorite fitness app? Comment below and share or jump over to our NIFS Fitness Management Facebook page and tell us your favorite!

Topics: exercise fitness apps health and wellness

Under Fire: Exercise Pre-Screening Tool Being Questioned

I’ll be honest – I’m a little bit in shock from an article I read the other day on Medscape (you may be required to create a log in to view the article) that summarized a report from the January 13, 2014 issue of Circulation.  The article called into question one of those foundational truths in our industry that has been integral to how NIFS does business. 

Authors of this report, from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), are questioning the effectiveness of (and therefore the need for) a prescreening tool – a medical clearance form for individuals before they begin an exercise program.  Their position is based on two concerns:

  1. Prescreening tools are sending 90% of individuals to see their physician before they being an exercise regimen.  And,
  2. The demand on the health care system seems to be an undue burden for a relatively safe undertaking such as exercise. 

I take issue with both of these so-named concerns. 

Prescreening tools “catch” too many people. 

From the angle that the extra step of needing to get physician clearance limits an individual’s likelihood of engaging in exercise at all, I see their point.  Additional barriers are not needed.  We don’t have enough people meeting minimum exercise requirements as it is.  Why would we establish an additional barrier?  But I’m unconvinced that eliminating this tool is the answer.

overweight businessman BP resized 600Honestly, our staff run into this all the time.  Anyone who has ever managed a fitness program with a policy in place that requires a medical release for individuals with specific health risks before they can participate knows how many would-be exercisers get disgusted with that policy and thus never return to join your program.  I get it, it’s frustrating. 

But that screening tool is there for a reason.

If you need the clearance before you can participate, as identified by American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) risk stratification criteria, there’s a good chance you have multiple risk factors that indicate your treating physician should know about your plans to engage in exercise before you start a program.  Exercise is a powerful tool to improve an individual’s health and embarking on a training regimen should be taken no less seriously than changing your medication.  Medication carries health risks, and so does exercise. 

The ACSM risk stratification criteria aren’t just pulled from some random list of health circumstances that the ACSM didn’t like.  The criteria are grounded in science that tells us if an individual presents with risk X and risk Y, they are in a precarious enough position health-wise, that it’s best if they get clearance from their physician before they start an exercise program. 

I would argue that in most instances, if the individual is really at risk, they should be in regular communication with a physician anyway, and getting the clearance from that doctor should not be a barrier.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of adults living under gigantic rocks assuming that just because they don’t feel bad, they must not have health risks. 

Perhaps the health care system could help us address this with a more preventive and less reactive approach to patient care.

There’s a crystal clear line here that is not to be crossed in my opinion.  If an individual wants to start exercising, there is a really strong chance that a basic walking and stretching regimen will be safe, and, if adhered to, potentially effective at improving the individual’s health.  No medical clearance needed.  But, if the individual wants advice from an exercise specialist about a customized exercise program that’s tailored around his needs and goals, that specialist has every right and in fact, a professional responsibility, to require medical clearance if certain health risks are present. 

Some of that is about managing risk and establishing quality practices that adhere to industry standards.  But it’s also about making sure that the exercise specialist has all the information she can get about the member before she crafts an individual exercise program for that person.  The program is more tailored and likely to be more successful when all of the information is available.

The authors in the report are ready to throw out that layer of information and protection for an exercise specialist so that the health care system can be unburdened. Interesting.

Prescreening tools place an undue burden on the health care system.

At the practitioner level, we’ve heard this loud and clear for years. 

Countless times we’ve sent willing individuals in pursuit of medical clearance only to be told they must make an appointment with the office before the doctor will fill out the form.  One co-pay and eight weeks later, we might get the individual back with a medical release that states nothing specific and that fully releases the individual to exercise with no restrictions.  Seems like a wasted eight weeks and $25.00.

On the high risk end of the spectrum, I’ve had individuals with complicated heart conditions including multiple medications, recent surgeries, and other health concerns return to me with a “no restrictions” signature from their treating physician.  Either the form was forged or the doctor didn’t pause to thoughtfully engage the patient in a brief discussion about forging ahead with an exercise program.  Can you say missed opportunity?

I can think of some ways to ‘unburden’ the system:

  • How about in the truly uncomplicated cases, the chart gets reviewed without the office visit and the form gets signed without the office visit.  If the MD isn’t going to put thought into the recommendations anyway, then why require the office visit?
  • What if the MD sat down beside her patient with a complicated medical history who wanted to exercise, and had a good discussion with him, about risks, rewards, limits related to exercise?  She could thoughtfully (although briefly…I do want to be sensitive to the substantial case load of patients who need to be treated reactively) fill out the medical clearance form, and if the conversation with the patient was meaningful, and the form was well completed, there’s a strong chance that the exercise specialist working with that patient will play an important role in un-complicating that individual’s health.  Thus, fewer office visits, less medication, less complicated care to manage, and poof! Healthcare system unburdened.

This isn’t an easy issue to unpack – there are complicating factors and nuances that dictate specific circumstances.  But a recommendation to take away a tool that is central to an exercise specialist’s work with an individual is short-sighted and incomplete. 

 Subscribe to NIFS blog

Topics: exercise health and wellness prescreening tools

NIFS Fitness Management: Fitness Tricks and Treats

Fitness Tricks and Treats

Curious how many steps you need to take to burn off that Halloween candy?

Check out this Halloween Treat Calorie Counter

Like what you just read? Click here to subscribe to the blog.



Topics: corporate fitness nifs fitness management NIFS corporate fitness managment health and wellness

Corporate Fitness Center: The Other Side

young couple working outGenerally speaking, there are 3 “sections” to each fitness center. On one side, you have the cardio area. On the other side is the resistance area. And somewhere in the corporate fitness center is usually a group exercise room. The latter can be used for just about anything so we’ll leave that alone for the time being. That leaves us with the cardio and resistance areas.

When you walk into the fitness center, who do you see in these areas? Women jogging on the treadmills (cardio) and men lifting weights (resistance), right? But why? It makes no sense! If you get a general consensus of the various goals of each gender, you’ll come up with a list that probably resembles something similar to this:

Female Goals                                               Male Goals

Lose Weight                                                  Get Stronger

Tone Up                                                        Get Ripped

So now you’re thinking, “What’s the problem? That looks about right to me. Why wouldn’t they be in their respective areas if these are their goals?”

This is why.

Women: Chances are you are probably already relatively thin. You may only need to lose another 10 lbs. or so. Well guess what, you’re not going to tone any trouble spots (i.e. that muffin top or bingo arm) by walking on the treadmill for 2 hours. You have to put those things to work! Get over on the resistance side and do some squats and work those triceps with some pushups. (And yes, you can do squats and pushups.) Cardio is, in fact, good for burning fat and you should continue doing it. But at this point you need to get the majority of your cardio through resistance training.

Men: You’ve been doing the bench press and bicep curls for 20+ years now. Let’s give it a rest. The strength is there, it’s just that fat is hiding it. Your fat is selfish. It wants to keep those muscles to itself. Well I say NO! It’s time to unleash your muscles to the world. Jump on the treadmill for a half hour. Go for a bike ride. Get that cardio in b/c yes, we can tell you’re strong, but we can also tell you like a good beer. I’m pretty sure you want people thinking your wife is pregnant, not you. Continue your resistance training, but get your heart rate up already and do some cardio.

So the next time you go to the gym ladies and gentleman, give the other side a try. You’ll be amazed.

 Like what you just read? Click here to subscribe to the blog.

Topics: cardio health and wellness goal setting Fitness Center muscle endurance

NIFS Nutrition News: How to burn those calories consumed at the fair

midway at the fairIt only comes around once per year, so why not indulge with dinner at the fair?  Well some of your favorite fair foods might only be consumed once per year, but if you aren’t increasing the amount of exercise to go along with them, the extra weight gained can stick around for longer!  Here are some of the more popular fair food items and how far the average person would need to walk around to burn it off!

Top 5 State Fair Foods

  1. Elephant Ear –Average is 310 calories and 15 grams of fat – 3 miles / Funnel cake(6”) – 276 calories & 14 grams of fat – 3 miles
  2. Lemon shake up  - 254 calories – 2 ½ miles
  3. Deep fried everything (fried snickers – 444 calories & 29 gram so fat)(fried twinkie – 420 calories & 34 grams of fat) (one oreo – 98 calories – 1 mile) – 4.5 miles
  4. Corn on the cob – 250 calories & 12 grams of fat - 2.5 miles
  5. Corn dog - – 200 calories & grams of fat & 10 grams of fat – 2 miles

Ways  to save calories:

  • Think your drink – bottled water or sugar free lemon shake ups
  • Don’t arrive starving so you want to purchase everything in sight.  Have a balanced snack before you head to the fair.
  • Share with friends and family
  • Sit down and eat vs. walking and grazing
  • Wear comfy shoes to maximize your walking

Check out all booths and choose your absolute favorite….plus you will walk more scoping out the best booths! So enjoy your dinner at the fair and then get back to balanced eating tomorrow morning!Like what you just read? Click here to subscribe to the blog.

Topics: exercise nutrition walking nifs fitness management health and wellness fair food

Corporate Wellness: Exercising Outdoors in the Heat of July

man swimmingIt's the Fourth of July and many of you are probably gearing up to enjoy the outdoors at family gatherings and pool parties.  Start your day off right with a workout.  During the summer months, exercise is seen as a daunting task by many, however it can be enjoyable if you follow these suggestions for exercising in warm weather. 

It is important for individuals of all exercise levels to take it easy when exercising in the heat.  Start off slow allowing the body to adapt to the heat.  Length and intensity of your workouts should increase gradually in order to avoid heat related illnesses.  Try completing your workouts in the morning or evening when the temperature is cooler.  When possible, find an area with plenty of shade to help keep your body cool on a hot summer day. 

Drinking adequate amounts of fluid while exercising will help keep your body temperature regulated.  Steer clear of drinks containing alcohol and caffeine before, during, and after your workouts.  When exercising outdoors for longer than one hour, rehydrate with sports drinks in order to replace electrolytes lost through sweat.

Proper attire is key to staying cool in warm weather.  Loose fitting, light-weight clothing allows your body to breath and stay cooler, longer.  Dark colors absorb heat, keep cool with light colored clothes.  In addition to protecting your body temperature, protect your skin as well by applying a high SPF sports sunscreen a minimum of 30 minutes before sun exposure. 

Hot, humid weather puts added stress on the body, be prepared with a back up plan.  For example, take your workout to the pool.  Depending on gender, height, and weight, swimming laps can burn more than 500 calories per hour.  Plus, what is more refreshing than jumping in a pool on a hot and humid summer day?!


Topics: corporate wellness exercise nifs fitness management health and wellness