Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Employee Wellness Programming Beyond the Corporate Fitness Center

I shared a few months ago about our staff following the KISS principle (that’s “keep it super simple” in our world!) on an exercise-based program with one of our clients. (You can find out more about the NIFS150 corporate fitness program here.) I wanted to update you on that program’s outcomes and talk about our latest challenge.

ASAP_blog_image.jpgOne of the outcomes we saw from that program was that a lot of the participants did not exercise in the corporate fitness center during the initiative, and frankly, that was by design. We were mostly interested in supporting and inspiring employees to achieve 150 minutes of activity each week, so we eliminated the “must be accomplished in the corporate fitness center” barrier by allowing participants to log any activity accomplished anywhere. After all, the primary job of our fitness center managers and health fitness specialists is to get employees moving. If it’s activity in the corporate fitness center, even better. But with today’s frantic schedules, we’ll take any movement, anywhere, anytime.

The Active Summer Adventure Program (ASAP)

In another creative effort designed to help employees make healthy choices across the spectrum of health (not just fitness), our staff created the Active Summer Adventure Program (ASAP) challenge. In this unique corporate wellness program built on a theme of exploration, participants have the following weekly challenges to complete:

  • Hydration Lagoon: Drink 64 ounces of water each day of the week.
  • Adventure Park: Try a new outdoor activity.
  • Meditation Meadow: Practice meditation, breathing exercises, or stretches on four days this week.
  • Fitness Fountain: Try a new group exercise class, DVD, or at-home workout.
  • Traveling Trail: Accumulate at least 7,000 to 10,000 steps one day this week.
  • Feel-Good Farm: Pack a healthy lunch three days during the week.
  • Progress Paradise: Complete two fitness center screenings (BMI, circumference, blood pressure, body composition, resting heart rate, or body weight) this week.
  • Journaling Jungle: Keep a food log for three days this week.

As was the case with the NIFS150 program, our goal with the ASAP program was to make it accessible for everyone. It was promoted to all employees, including those who work at home. We ran it over summer months when it can be particularly challenging to attract employees into the corporate fitness center. The online registration and website access for weekly challenges made it simple for all participants to have the information they needed to be successful.

And, in keeping with many of our programs, we offered prize drawings for employees who successfully completed all eight quests. Consistent with the “adventure” theme of the program, most prizes were experience-oriented (such as tickets to theme parks, state park passes, and surfing lessons) rather than stuff-oriented (such as wearable tech, shirts, and gym bags).

ASAP Employee Wellness Results

In a post-program survey we learned that almost 84% of responders believed they adopted a new healthy behavior by participating in ASAP. And that’s consistent with their rating of “accountability to try something new” as their favorite program feature. Participants also reported learning something new about health during this program. Although weight loss was not a focus for this program, 43% of survey respondents reported losing weight or inches during the eight-week offering. Almost 60% reported having more energy, and about one-quarter of participants indicated that they were sleeping better. Through the post-program survey, we also gained valuable insights on how we can improve the program if we offer it again next year.

Looking for more creative corporate fitness programming? Check out our best practice series by clicking the button below.

NIFS Best Practices Corporate

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness employee wellness corporate fitness centers participation program planning program evaluation CORP Programs and Services

Successful Corporate Fitness Program Gets Back to the Basics

Americans are fond of a quick fix, in weight loss in particular. According to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, surgical weight loss procedures increased from 13,000 in 1998 to 220,000 in 2008. A survey in the United Kingdom evaluated public attitudes toward such cosmetic surgery for weight loss and found that 59% of women would choose surgery over changing eating habits and engaging in regular exercise to lose weight or change their body shape. 

Anecdotally, our corporate fitness staff see these stories in the employees they serve as well. As a nation, we haven’t moved the needle on helping adults get more movement in their daily lives, and the numbers inside the corporate fitness center have peaked as well. So, what are we doing wrong?

Certainly, there are work-related and personal-life pressures that the staff in your corporate fitness center cannot impact, and there will always be a cap on how many employees they can reach. But in some ways, we’ve fallen away from basic services and simple program design as tools to draw participants into the programs. Businesses have committed (right or wrong) their focus to outcomes-based wellness offerings, and looked to biometric data and HRA results for those outcomes. Businesses have also turned (in droves) to wearables as a tool to help employees move more; the jury is still out on their long-term effectiveness. 

NIFS150 Encourages More Physical ActivityWatchThinkstockPhotos-465631985

In an effort to get back to simple measures designed to help participants (1) understand their fitness level, and (2) move more minutes each day, our staff designed a simple NIFS150 program where participants were encouraged to accomplish 150 minutes of physical activity per week for eight weeks and complete a pre- and post-program fitness assessment. 

Participants were able to earn their 150 minutes anywhere, anytime—we simply wanted them working to achieve the research-backed recommendation from the CDC. We pulled fitness assessments into the mix as a throwback to some older research performed by Dr. Steven Blair and colleagues that was published in the April 1995 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. That research showed that improving fitness level (defined by cardiovascular endurance) can decrease mortality risk. 

Forty percent of the initial 700 participants in the NIFS program completed at least 150 minutes of activity per week all eight weeks, and the staff completed assessments on 198 participants. Almost half of the participants indicated that this was the first NIFS program they’ve tried, so we’re pleased we hit a sweet spot for so many new folks! 

More than 75% of participants reported that the challenge helped them be more active than usual. Still, it’s worth noting that only one third of participants actually used the fitness center more during the program. You might think we were disappointed that more participants didn’t flock to the fitness centers with this client to gain their 150 minutes. After all, the program ran through the first quarter of 2015 in Indiana; it’s not like it was prime weather for exercising outside. Our priority with this initiative was to help employees be more physically active. We definitely keep track of visits, memberships, and other fitness center-related metrics, but we think it’s a win that we drew in so many newbies and that participants were more active than usual during the challenge. 

What We Learned from the Data

In addition to gaining some feedback from all the participants, we also surveyed those who completed fitness assessments as part of the program. We learned that

  • 70% of those who responded to the survey had never participated in a fitness assessment before.
  • 62% are now more likely to be active in their corporate fitness center.
  • 70% intend to continue with a periodic fitness assessment to track their progress on fitness-specific goals.
My read on this basic data is that we have a lot of opportunity to communicate the value of the (free) fitness assessments. We may need to find new language and new avenues for talking about what the testing is and how it might help an employee achieve health-related goals. And we probably have some champions from this initial offering of NIFS150 who could help by sharing their stories. We also have a clear opening to revisit the basic 150 minutes per week recommendation as a tool to draw more employees into moving more each day.  

Our staff continue to provide innovative programming for our clients. But this particular program points to just how simple a science-based offering can be yet still create impact. 

How are you creating impact through corporate fitness programming? Looking for more program ideas to get your creative juices flowing? Check out our Best Practices series—click on the button below to find out more. 

 NIFS Best Practices Corporate

Topics: exercise corporate fitness NIFS corporate fitness centers staying active program evaluation data fitness assessment

What to Do When Traditional Senior Living Activities Fall Short

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed recently and stumbled across a posting for a Life Enrichment Director with a prominent senior living provider. The title was intriguing enough—I’m always curious about what’s happening in the area of wellness and lifestyle in senior living—so I clicked on the link, taking me to the job posting. What I read on the posting was enough to make me hang my head.

senior_ladiesWithout getting into detail, I’ll tell you that a primary responsibility for the position was to “create pleasant days.” Now, that requirement was in quotes on the posting, which makes me think it’s a branded program that’s a hallmark for the organization. And to be clear, the posting was for a Life Enrichment Director in a memory care community. So I can appreciate the need for programming to minimize participants’ agitation and anxiety, and to maximize the enjoyment of their days. Still, the idea of programming around building pleasant days for residents (in any level of care) struck me as wildly patronizing and profoundly off base.

Folks, we are doing an enormous disservice to the adults in our communities (in any area of the community) if our primary focus is to make their days nice. The residents are living, not passing life by sitting in a rocking chair on your porch. Your Life Enrichment Director shouldn’t be facilitating passive and placating activities unless that’s what the participant wants. 

The Need for More Engaging Senior Living Activities and Programs

Most of the amazing older adults I’ve met as I’ve traveled to various communities are full of life, eager to connect, and interested in learning new things. We have got to do lifestyle programming better than building pleasant lives for them. To be fair, a lot of organizations are succeeding at implementing creative, active, and engaging programs for their members. For example, Mather Lifeway’s café concept provides for fabulous connections with peers in the midst of unique and lively programs. 

However, in many cases, what I see in communities is a calendar full of activities where 90 percent of what’s listed are recurring events like cards, exercise classes, arts/crafts groups, religious services, shopping trips, and coffee or happy hours. The remaining 10 percent are unique to the month and are typically grouped into musical offerings, lectures, and excursions to the theatre or opera. From a maintaining status quo standpoint, there is nothing wrong with that calendar. Just don’t confuse it with one that is built to engage more than the 20 percent of your residents who participate in existing programs. And don’t consider that calendar creative and interesting simply because there’s no white space left to pack in more activities. 

Building a Better Activities Calendar

If you’re interested in building a better activities (or life enrichment, or wellness…) calendar and program, here are some starting points for consideration:

  • Evaluate what needs to change about your current mentality on programming for your members. If your job is to provide lots of opportunities to keep residents busy, it’s time to rethink the job. Residents don’t want to be kept busy; toddlers need to be kept busy. Building a successful and person-centered programming schedule is about inviting residents to engage in the lifestyle they want—the lifestyle that’s driven by their passions and interests.
  • Ask what success looks like for any given program. (Hint: the answer is quantifiable and isn’t measured by how satisfied the residents look.) Then establish your programming goals and figure out how to measure them. Take what you learn from that evaluation and do better with the next program.
  • Understand what drives your residents, and keep track of that information. Ask them what they’re passionate about and what makes them get out of bed in the morning. If you don’t have programming that speaks to those interests, figure out how to support them anyway (for example, see how one community supported an interest in golf). When you have an inventory on all the members, you have a tool to inform what types of programs you should start building and which residents you need to tap to be champions for the newest offering.

It’s time to stop busying yourself and your residents with filled-to-the-brim calendars that lack intention and invitation. Start actually building Life Enrichment by getting to know what motivates your members and build your creative and strategic (and dare I say “edgy”) program around your people, not their pleasant days.

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Topics: senior wellness programs engagement senior living community program planning program evaluation

Evaluating Your Retirement Community Fitness Program

active seniorYou likely receive feedback from residents on how much they enjoy certain group fitness classes or instructors, or perhaps the NuStep in the fitness center. You hear it in passing comments like, “Don’t get rid of the yoga instructor,” or “We need another NuStep.” Those comments provide great feedback as part of your overall assessment of the fitness program. But beyond those individual preferences, how do you measure the true value of your community fitness program and what it lends to your resident population as well as to your community’s marketing potential?

Cater to the All Potential Participants

Your lifelong exercisers will likely find opportunities that they enjoy no matter how much or how little your community is able to offer. Positive feedback from these select participants doesn’t mean that your program is making the grade for your resident population as a whole. There is likely an untapped audience in your community and creative programming plus personal touches can help draw those less active residents into the fitness center and/or classes. This is definitely an area of strength for us. Our clients quickly see the benefits of a partnership with NIFS when we can show them exactly who is participating in our programming.  

Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Fitness Program

So that begs the question: Do you know what percentage of your residents participate in group fitness classes or uses the fitness center from month to month? Which classes are the most popular or which pieces of equipment are most frequently used? Have your residents shared why this is the case? If you can’t answer all or some of these questions, that likely means your community fitness offerings could benefit from a more solid foundation to evaluate participation and resident interests.

Consider these simple steps your community can take to begin measuring the effectiveness of your program:

  1. Utilization of your fitness center and participation in group fitness classes should be tracked daily and reported on a regular basis. Communities can determine the information they would like to evaluate and implement tracking methods for their fitness staff and residents. We find that residents take to simple sign-in sheets fairly easily and fitness staff and group fitness instructors can provide friendly reminders to residents to sign in. Providing a structured memberhsip process is a good starting point to clearly track who is and is not participating.
  2. Conduct annual surveys to gather direct resident feedback to rate the overall quality of existing classes, instructors, programs, and services. Learn from the resident population as a whole (don’t just send the survey to active participants) about additional programs that they would like to see or ask them to share why they aren’t currently participating. After processing the results, develop an action plan to follow up with individual residents or on general program improvements to continually evolve the program and hopefully engage more participants.
  3. Your fit and active crowd will likely be the most vocal about the types of equipment they would like to see or group classes they would like to try. However, it is important to regularly evaluate the full scope of programing including balance in class offerings, available equipment, and scheduled programs focused on fitness. Residents of all ability levels should have exercise options in the fitness center as well as group exercise classes for their specific needs. It’s fine for instructors to provide modifications for residents of all ability levels in classes, but it’s important for lower-functioning participants to feel like they have options all their own and that they aren’t simply being condescended to in a group of more able-bodied residents.

Taking these simple steps can help improve resident satisfaction in your community fitness offerings. It will also provide more concrete talking points for your marketing department when speaking with prospective residents. Important program metrics coupled with powerful and personal success stories speak volumes to prospects who are trying to gain an understanding of what their lives can be like if they move into your community.  

CCRC Fitness Center Marketing

Topics: senior center solutions senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior fitness marketing program evaluation

4 Keys to Getting Wellness Program Data You Can Actually Use, Part 2

set goalsPart 2: Your Program Is Set Up... Now What?

In the first part of this blog, we talked about key strategies to set your program up for success. Remember “begin at the beginning” and “map out the ‘how’”? If you’re still intent on getting data you can actually use from your wellness program, keep reading to learn what do to now that you’re ready to run the initiative.

#3: Stick to the Plan

This seems so obvious, so I won’t spend much time on it. Here’s the thing: you spend a lot of time mapping out the goals and the objectives to achieve those goals, and then you design your program around that outline. For heaven’s sake, stick to the plan. Implement the program as close to the original design as possible. If you get into the offering and you find a fatal flaw in the plan, change what you must, but in order for your evaluation to be true, educational, and actionable, you need to stick to the plan.

#4: Evaluate and Report

Drum roll, please. We’re about to get to the goods, so stick with me here. So, you set up your goals, you map out how you will accomplish the goals, you craft your program accordingly, you bravely stick with the plan, and then when it’s all over, you evaluate how you did.

We think about your post-program evaluation in two ways:

  1. Overall effectiveness of the program: We calculate how we communicated the program, how many people we reached, how accurately we ran the initiative, how many people completed the program, etc. All of that gets folded together into a program-impact score. The numbers that feed into the impact score and the score itself allow for year-over-year (or program-over-program) comparisons for effectiveness over time.
  2. Achievement of our goals: If we set up the goals correctly so that they were measureable, and we ran the program knowing the data we needed, we should be able to figure out whether we reached our goals.

In addition to crunching some basic numbers, our staff members are responsible for reporting their program results to their supervisor, who then works with the manager on developing strategies for future program improvements. The supervisor also makes sure that best practice information is shared among other staff so that important lessons learned can be used by everyone. After all, if you hit on some brilliant technique for communicating with the audience you need to reach, shouldn’t the entire community working with that audience benefit from your success?

We’ve been following The Wellness Challenge program as an example throughout these two blogs. So let me wrap up with some of the juicy data Reggie, the manager responsible for this initiative, was able to gather based on pre- and post-program evaluation.

Straight from Reggie’s report, here are his proposed changes for the next The Wellness Challenge offering, as well as his quick summary of his goals:

Goal Report:

  • Goal 1: Have at least 80 participants with approximately 1/4 of them being staff. Did not fully meet: Had only 72 participants, but 29% were employees.
  • Goal 2: Increase class participation totals by 15% and increase fitness center visits by 250 per month throughout the challenge. Goal met: Increased class size by 65% over prior 2 months and increased FC visits by 435 compared to prior 2 months.
  • Goal 3: Increase fitness center membership by 10 members (5 residents and 5 staff) during the challenge. Did not meet: Increased staff membership by 3 and resident membership by 2.

For next year to improve overall program impact:

  • Make the teams smaller.
  • Give 1 point/minute walked.
  • Establish a volunteer limit.
  • Hold an orientation/team meet-and-greet before the challenge starts.
  • Reconsider food point system to possibly include fruit.
  • Reconsider prizes. Try giving away less money.

So Reggie learned he’s got some work to do if he folds those same unmet goals into next year’s offering. He’ll need to revamp his strategies. He’s already well on his way to crafting that plan because he has this complete outline on which to build an improved The Wellness Challenge.

How Are You Evaluating Your Programs?

Certainly there’s more than one way to skin this evaluation cat. How are you doing it? What are you learning? Program evaluation is only one element of a first-rate wellness strategy. Communicating a strong wellness brand, having quality physical spaces for where your initiatives can occur, and cultivating amazing wellness staff are all central to a fabulous program.

Improve your programs >

 

 

Topics: NIFS senior wellness programs senior fitness management program evaluation data

4 Keys to Getting Wellness Program Data You Can Actually Use

NIFS | Wellness DataPart 1: Setting Your Program Up for Success

I think our staff members roll their eyes every time they hear me start talking about gathering data from our programs. That might be because I talk about it a lot; it might also be because I’m a little bit of a geek about data. Regardless, they can eye-roll all they want, because when the data gathering and program evaluation is done right, well, it’s a beautiful thing! 

Let me explain by using an example from a program that recently wrapped up at one of our senior living client locations. “The Wellness Challenge” has been offered for two years at the community. It’s a good wellness survey type of program that encourages residents to dig into all dimensions of wellness. There are several positive and important elements to The Wellness Challenge:

  • It’s a team challenge, so there’s potential for socialization built into the fabric of the program.
  • The program is open to residents and employees, so there is a very real buzz at the community, with individuals across the campus engaged in the challenge.
  • It capitalizes on the healthy resolution wave that follows the indulgence that is the end-of-the-year holiday time.
  • The challenge runs that perfect, sweet-spot length of seven weeks. (We find that most programs of this type are ideally suited to run somewhere between six to eight weeks.)

Now, to be fair, this program was not the brainchild of the current NIFS manager, Reggie. However, he was able to take the original offering from his predecessor, which involved no evaluation strategy, and transform it so that we have both a rich offering for the client, and actionable data that will inform future offerings of both this program and others like it.

What, you ask, is actionable data? Good question! In this two-part blog, we’ll look at four tips for getting the data you want from your wellness program. Part 1 focuses on the before-you-launch-the-program elements (tips #1 and #2). Part 2 will focus on during-the-program and post-program components (tips #3 and #4).

#1: Begin at the Beginning

The whole evaluation and data thing starts by being strategic with the program on the front end. That’s right; we are moving away from running fun programs just to run them (shocking, I know). The staff members actually set program goals before they run the program and then they make sure that the program they’re offering is set up in a way to allow for evaluation of those goals.

  • You can’t assess your progress on the goals if they aren’t actually measureable. This sounds intuitive, but people miss the boat on it all the time. Establish goals that are S.M.A.R.T. For more on this concept, check out this blog.
  • Create goals that tie back to your overall program goals. For example, if you’re trying to increase visits to your group exercise classes, establish a goal to increase overall class attendance, or maybe focus on how many new people you can get into class with this program. (If you’re lacking focus for your overall wellness program, you probably should start there before you dig too deeply into meaningless goals for programs that don’t connect back to a larger strategy.)
  • Keep the list fairly short. This isn’t a research study with all kinds of grant money and data heads behind it. Stick to what you know, and keep the goals manageable in terms of volume; two to three goals per program has worked for us.
  • Before you get too far ahead of yourself with lofty, complicated goals that make you sound really smart, you also need to be sure you have the tools to measure the goals. In truth, most of our staff are operating with fairly traditional supports. We use a lot of spreadsheets (though not infinitely complex ones), and in some cases we have software that helps with visit reporting, etc.

#2: Map Out the “How”

You’ve established these two to three program goals. They are succinct; they tie back to your overall wellness program focus; they are written on a scale you can support. Great job! Now it’s time to map out your plan to actually achieve those goals.

No, it’s not enough to outline the goals and then just run the program. That’s like pulling up to the shooting range and saying, “Ready…Fire!” Forgetting to aim means you will most likely miss your target―unless you are extremely lucky.

For example, if you set a goal to increase group fitness class attendance by 15% for the duration of the program, you need to outline the steps you will take to achieve that goal. In the case of The Wellness Challenge, Reggie built the program so that participation in group classes was weighted more heavily than some other activities, and he gave more points for participating in cardiovascular exercise (which, he emphasized, could be achieved by taking classes). In short, he incentivized what he was trying to drive people to do. (Genius, I know!)

You won’t want to miss part 2 of this blog, where we look into how to run the program and what to do when it’s over.

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Topics: NIFS senior wellness programs senior fitness management program evaluation data