Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

A Simple Way to Boost Participation in Your Corporate Fitness Center

Our staff are routinely focused on how they can drive more participation in the corporate fitness centers they manage. Granted, they don’t have to work that hard at it in January, and maybe into February, but beyond those first two months of the year, the remaining ten months can prove challenging for meeting their participation goals.

ThinkstockPhotos-465140373.jpgOne of the ways they work on achieving specific participation numbers is through successful programming. It’s not rocket science, but you do have to know your members and understand what works with them in order to build effective programs. That’s why our crew is so focused on evaluating their offerings; the results help them better understand how to provide incentive and educational programs tailored to the interests and needs of the audience they’re serving.

One of our managers at a corporate fitness center in New York created a simple St. Patrick’s Day–themed program to help New Year’s resolution makers carry through with their newfound exercise habits into March. For this program, she set specific goals to increase fitness center visits (targeting eight or more monthly visits per member) and to increase participation in group fitness classes.

Each member who signed up for the program was given a small pot (“pot-o-gold”) into which they could place the gold coins they received for coming in to work out on their own or to take a class. She weighted the group class participation by giving two coins for each class. The participant goal was to collect as many gold coins (get as many visits) as possible for the duration of the program. Supplies for the program cost about $30.

Members provided feedback that one of the things they enjoyed about the program was its simplicity. It was both easy to understand and easy to participate. When work and personal lives are so complicated and hectic, it’s refreshing to have the corporate fitness center offer no-brainer incentives as a diversion and stress reliever. Not only was the program easy for the members, but our manager reported that she appreciated the simplicity as well; there were no detailed spreadsheets to manage, no massive uptick in 1:1 appointments to juggle, and no convoluted formulas to compute to determine program winners. In fact, even marketing the program was easy—who doesn’t want to win a pot of gold?

The fitness center manager reported that she saw several new faces engaging in group fitness who have continued taking classes long after the program concluded, and some associates who hadn’t completed their memberships hustled through their remaining steps so that they could participate in the program. Overall, she saw 72 percent of program participants workout out at least eight times during the month-long initiative, substantially higher than her typical frequent visitor percentage. Additionally, group fitness class participation increased by 15 percent.

The gist of this program is easy to adapt, too. With the Olympics coming up, you could have members rack up gold medals or assign one activity to gold medals, another activity to silver medals, and yet a third to bronze medals.

To download more of NIFS’ best practice corporate fitness programs, click on the button below.

NIFS Best Practices Corporate


Topics: corporate fitness motivation corporate fitness centers participation program planning Corporate Best Practices, group fitness incentives

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

Senior Living Activities: Changing the Name or Changing the Notion

I read a blog recently on the Eden Alternative website about the power of language, in which the author quoted Alan A. Watts: “the menu is not the meal.” She was outlining her thoughts about words like “elder,” and “care partner,” and “home”—an important discussion! But the blog also got me thinking (as a good blog should) about lifestyle programming in communities. 

What If the Activities Director Was Called Something Else?

In the last five years, the senior living industry has started to make a title shift away from Activities Director and toward alternatives like Lifestyle Director, Life Enrichment Director, and Program and Events Director. Yet, this subtle shift in position naming, though necessary, is insufficient to make a true paradigm shift in how we support the elders who choose to reside in a senior living community. Changing the name is not the same as changing the notion.

I think the senior living industry as a whole is feeling a nudge (maybe it’s a push) toward doing better for our clientele. Consider the CCRC NameStorm from LeadingAge. The goal was to build a new potential name for Continuing Care Retirement Communities that would resonate with current and future buyers for this kind of product.

The idea about changing your activities department to your life enrichment department is the same: build something that resonates with your market. Still, as the Alan A. Watts quote hits home perfectly, simply changing the name is not enough. You can’t just create new name badges, update the job title on the position descriptions, order new business cards, and call it done. It’s not enough to simply change the name; we have to also (or at least) change the notion, the idea, of what activities can become in senior living. 

In fact, I would posit that you could actually keep the “activities department” if the staff are genuinely focused on building a better lifestyle for each resident. If they understand the personal passions, interests, desires, limitations, and fears of the members and provided “activities” that truly engaged those desires, the name “activities department” works just fine. 

But if your life enrichment department is still focused on filling the calendar to simply entertain residents, they are functioning the same way they were when you called them “Activities.” When they’re taking orders from a vocal minority of residents to drive largely homogeneous activities each month, they’re doing what they’ve always done, regardless of the name change.

Three Ways to Turn Activities into Life Enrichment

senior_group_ThinkstockPhotos-528133531

So how do we start to make that shift, away from the same old filling-the-calendar senior living activities to facilitating life-enriching opportunities that allow the residents to live the lives they want to live? Here are three ways to start looking beneath the surface of your calendar to cultivate meaningful experiences for your participants.

  1. Get to know your customer. How well do you really know the members of your community? Sure, you know names, and there are “regulars” you know better than most. But how well do you know where they came from and what makes them tick? Can you get information from the sales staff discovery process to start building a profile on each member? What questions do you need answered about each resident that could be folded into the discovery process so that newly moved-in members don’t feel like they’re being poked and prodded to provide you with answers? How can you use the intel you get to start building experiences for each resident?
  2. Get creative with your budget. Budgets are what they are, and changing the name of your department isn’t going to suddenly give you unlimited funds. Yet, if you’re listening to your residents, and understanding how they want to live your in community, you may find that helping them accomplish just that does not require additional FTEs or operating funds. Sometimes pairing folks with common interests can allow an organic opportunity to form without costing the community a thing. For example, suppose, through discovery, you learn that you have four residents who love to play chess and who are passionate about teaching others to play. Once you connect those four members and help them determine times to establish a “club,” or ways to connect with a local after-school program to teach the game they love, you’re on your way to fulfilling a social, intellectual, and vocational pursuit for your members. 
  3. Get familiar with the numbers. If you’re in the business of filling calendars, there’s no reason to gather data. You can see from the calendar that it’s full. But if you are focused on building purposeful programming that allows participants to live more full lives, I suggest you start to get a handle on whether your efforts are making an impact. For example, many of your residents may still be working. How does your 10am group fitness class resonate for them? Does it fit their schedules? I’ve heard a lot of directors say that no one will do activities (except the theatre or related events) after 4pm, so they don’t program anything after 4pm. Do you know that because of what happened historically, or do you know that because you know your members and you know the data?

I’ll be speaking at the 2015 LeadingAge Annual Meeting on this very idea of data from activities programming. If you’re reaching for a way to do better for the members you serve, consider putting my session on your schedule.

Topics: CCRC senior wellness programs data collection senior living communities program planning activities enrichment

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.

Ready to get started?  Click below to find out how we can help you.

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

How to Evaluate the Quality of Your Resident Wellness Program

In this blog, I want to run through a handful of questions that often come up when I have an initial call with a possible client who is interested in doing wellness better at their senior living community. But before I get too far into that information, I thought I should start by offering my definition of wellness so that we’re all on the same page for that terminology. 

When I say wellness, I’m talking about multidimensional, active programming that can span the continuum and that fosters maximal participation throughout the community. It is not just fitness, or activities, or dining, or chaplain-based services, and it certainly isn’t clinic-based or born from a healthcare model. Wellness incorporates a very broad range of program and event types, and it’s built to provide purpose for the participant.

The other element to defining wellness that might be confusing is the distinction I make between wellness and activities. It is my opinion that building a true resident wellness program requires more than simply renaming your traditional activities program. You’ll need to consider existing personnel in your community and whether/how they can collaborate for improved offerings under a different strategy. You will also need to formulate a plan around changing how programs are developed, executed, and evaluated. 

So with that context established, let’s get on to the questions and answers that you can use to benchmark where you are now with resident wellness and how to do wellness better. 

Do you have dedicated staff who plan and execute a variety of activities for residents in the community?

In many communities, it’s common to hear that there is a resident wellness program, when in reality there’s an activities program, a fitness program, chaplain services, etc., all functioning in their own silos with limited collaboration. 

For your wellness program to truly be robust, you need to have a leader at the helm of program/event development. There are a lot of ways to do this; sometimes it’s the activity director who assumes this role; and in other cases, this position is given to the fitness coordinator or social worker. You want to make sure you’re tapping the right person who can effectively lead a team, who has strong capacity for strategic thinking and collaboration, and who has a better-than-high-school understanding of human health. 

Do you have dedicated fitness personnel who manage your exercise programming?

Even in 2015, the fitness “room” (if you will) still comes in all shapes and sizes. It is consistent to see some space dedicated to exercise equipment within most communities, and typically group exercise classes are held in other areas of the building. Pools are still very hit-or-miss in established senior living communities. 

Best-in-class services for your residents demand a dedicated fitness professional (or team, depending on the size of your community and the desired scope of services) who can manage the exercise program for your community. That individual should have at least a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field with strong expertise in prescribing exercise for seniors. He or she should also be quite skilled at teaching a variety of basic group exercise classes. And that fitness manager absolutely needs an outgoing, approachable personality to go along with the technical expertise.

In most cases, we see a hodgepodge of group fitness instructors and personal trainers floating in and out of the community to support exercise activities for residents. While this approach will allow you to have some staff support in your exercise room as well as maintain your class schedule, you are failing to build a strong service that includes 1:1 attention for the residents as well as community-wide programming and data that can inform how the exercise program should evolve. 

activeaagingWhat percentage of your community events/program are active (up, moving, interacting with others, learning, growing, doing) as compared to passive (sit-and-listen)?

Just because the residents are retired from their careers does not mean that they are retired from life. Providing opportunities for participants to learn new things, meet new people, discuss new concepts, and see new places builds a purpose-oriented lifestyle in your community. If more than 50% of your activities calendar includes routine programs like cards and sit-and-listen offerings, it’s time to take a fresh look at how you can build more person-centered offerings on a regular basis.

What percentage of your residents participate in the activities offered at your community?

In most cases, activities for senior living fall into the Pareto principle, where 20% of the residents are engaging in 80% of the activities. Often, we see this phenomenon in place because your activities and events planners have slipped into an order-taker role. Their ears are tuned to the vocal minority and they fill the calendar with ideas offered by the residents who are already participating. To get out of this order-taking mode and to start moving toward programming that attracts more than the same 20% who have been participating for years, you’ll have to try something different with your team and your expectations. This is where a strategic, multidisciplinary plan steps in.

How is programming developed and executed at your community?

When I talked about personnel in one of the earlier questions, I mentioned the individuals working in silos so that events happen independent of each other throughout the community. A more strategic approach to programming is warranted if communities are committed to engaging more residents in lifestyle on their campuses and appearing more attractive to hesitant consumers. This type of practice requires planning activities well in advance with input from a team of experts. It requires thinking that moves away from the one-and-done offerings and toward layered, multidimensional, inviting programs that have the members talking, connecting, participating, and learning. 

It also requires a thoughtful approach to gathering data for the programs. Each offering should be created with an intended purpose that is measurable. Program plans should be built with that goal in mind, and tactics designed to help achieve that goal should be identified. When the program is complete, the team should evaluate whether and how they achieved their goal, as well as identify what they learned in the process that can be used for more effective programming in the future.  

So, now that you’ve finished all the questions and answers, where does your community stand? If you’re ready to do wellness better, we have some tools that might be helpful. See the list below for those additional resources:

NIFS Best Practice Programs for Senior Living

NIFS Build Vitality Webinar Series

NIFS Slideshare: 3 Keys to Improving Resident Engagement in Wellness

Not sure how to start evaluating your resident wellness program?  Contact us below.

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Topics: senior wellness programs corporate wellness staffing program planning nifs fitness center management

Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs (Part 2)

FitnessFreezeLogoIn part 1 of this blog, I wrote about a program we offered that helped us address an area of opportunity for resident participation in our senior living fitness programs. One of the core messages from that blog was how important tracking participation data is, over time, for sustaining a truly successful program. There is so much more to a robust fitness program in senior living than hosting classes, offering assessments, and teaching residents how to use the equipment.

Part 2: Kickstart or Fine-Tune Your Fitness Program

Tracking participation data in your fitness services is crucial for any new or long-established program. In new programs, you need to simply start by keeping an eye on growth in membership and making sure participation steadily increases as you launch the offerings. In this blog, I’ll touch on some key numbers and trends you should be watching. 

An established fitness program you might consider “good” can become GREAT by tracking and strategically using participation data for continuous improvement. There is not an end date at which you cut off these practices no matter how old your program is. In addition to talking about data practices for new fitness programs, I’ll offer tips below from NIFS data trends over the past couple of years to show how you can use these practices to fine-tune an established fitness program.

FFparticipantKickstart Your New Community Fitness Program

New members: Part 1 of this series covered NIFS Fitness Freeze and how the membership drive component recruited new participants to join the fitness center. NIFS has a new client in Lakewood, New Jersey, that began staffing with us in August 2014. Since our launch, we witnessed an initial surge in residents enrolling, and then the normal steady trickle of participants in the months thereafter. And then we ran the Fitness Freeze and it generated a record-setting surge in new members in a month to finish off the year. If you are tracking your new members from month to month, you can keep an eye on when membership or participation starts to trickle off or plateau and run a targeted campaign to rebuild your momentum. 

Participation frequency: We have another client in Mystic, Connecticut, that launched with us in May 2014. In addition to tracking their steadily increasing membership rates, we’re also following the percentage of residents who visit the fitness center 8+ times in a month. For this relatively new client, that percentage is steadily climbing as the membership percentage increases. This tells us that more residents are joining, and more importantly, they are adopting a consistent routine once they become members. 

Fine-Tune Your Established Fitness Program

Group fitness participation: We have a client in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that has had a fitness program and staffing since they opened their doors in 2004. NIFS started managing their fitness program in October 2011. Over the past couple of years, we’ve had a lot of success with participation growth in group fitness classes, and because our data offered proof of that growth, we were able to garner budgetary support for more instructors. In 2014, we added 11 new classes per month to the schedule, and the average number of participants per class each month stayed the same. In short, we brought the residents more classes, and they took full advantage!

Personal training participation: Another client in Phoenix, Arizona, is showing steady growth in their personal training program. In 2013, there were 302 personal training sessions conducted, and in 2014 there were 707 personal training sessions conducted. We’ve added personal training as a program option in their health center, and we are currently hiring another personal trainer to help keep up with the demand for that growing service.

Membership rates: Lastly, three different communities that have been up and running with us for over five years all showed an increase of at least 4% or more in membership in 2014 compared to 2013, with little change in occupancy at those communities. Steady programming efforts targeted to spark different resident interests over time can help your membership continue to grow. Diversity in program offerings is what really drives that continual increase in membership, especially at our well-established communities. 

There are countless ways that you can track and evaluate participation data in your fitness program, and half the battle is just getting started. Determine what you want to track, how you need to track it, and then how you can effectively report that data over time so that it is usable and easy to evaluate. We aren’t statisticians with intricate spreadsheets spending hours crunching data each month. We do, however, have sound reporting methods so that our staff can gather this valuable data to continually build and evolve best-in-class fitness programs at the senior living communities we serve.

 If you’d like to talk about how NIFS can support the development of tracking tools and a program evaluation framework for your community’s programming, find out more about NIFS' wellness consulting service

If you want to learn more about some of NIFS’ most successful and creative programs for senior living communities, click the Best Practices button below.

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Topics: senior fitness management participation data collection nifs best practices senior living fitness center program planning

Increasing Participation in Senior Living Fitness Programs (Part 1)

I’ve written in the past about how consistent tracking of participation data in your community fitness center can help improve and evolve your senior living fitness program over time. Here is a two-part follow up series on what you are missing if you aren’t tracking data from your program. These observations are built entirely on NIFS’ experience doing this work for our senior living client communities.

FitnessFreezeLogoPart 1: Prevent the Dip During the Holidays

Did your community fitness program experience a dip in participation during the busy holiday season? You’re in good company—we used to see that as well. But in 2014, we were able to reverse the trend thanks to a custom program designed to motivate residents to move more when exercise often takes the backseat to holiday parties and family gatherings. 

It all starts with collecting the right data. For example, we knew from our 2013 reporting that there was a marked decline in participation from November to December in exercise program participation. We saw this as an opportunity to do better, so we built a program called Fitness Freeze to prevent that specific dip in participation we see over those two months. Following the program, we evaluated the effectiveness of the program design against our desired outcomes. Here’s what we found:

Total visits: An 11% increase in total visits to the fitness center and group exercise classes from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

New members: An 8% increase in new members signing up to participate in the fitness center from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

Appointment volume: A 26% increase in the number of appointments conducted from November to December 2014 compared to the same months in 2013.

We know that residents are already busy and preoccupied in December, so we wanted to make the program as simple as possible for them to be successful. Here are just a few of the design elements that contributed to Fitness Freeze’s success:

No elaborate tracking logs or point system: Residents don’t need one more thing on their “to-do” list, so keep it simple! Residents had to sign-in as they normally do to the fitness center and we took care of the rest. Our goal was to help residents be consistent in visits, even if their workout time was shorter than normal. If a resident exercised for at least 10 minutes, three times a week, they earned a snowflake that hung in the fitness center with their name on it.

FFdecorMake it visual: The individual snowflakes were a great way to decorate the fitness center with some seasonal cheer and residents LOVED being able to show off to visiting family and friends how many snowflakes they earned. It was eye catching, provided an easy avenue for discussion, and offered a constant reminder to the participants to stay on track. 

Recruit, recruit, recruit: As resident talk about the snowflakes on display in the fitness center spread throughout the community, residents who weren’t fitness center members yet learned that they could earn a snowflake just by joining in December. It created a fun and easy way for residents who might be on the fence about joining to take the final step and feel included among the ranks of our regulars. 

The Fitness Freeze was born out of our constant efforts to do better, which include a strong focus on data as well as routine evaluation of program effectiveness. Once we identified holiday-time as an opportunity for improvement, we built a tool to address that challenge. It’s a tangible and practical example of a targeted campaign to boost the participation in a given month. 

Watch for part 2 of this blog to learn about the value of evaluating data trends in brand-new fitness programs as well as in well-established programs from year to year.

Checkout more great programming from NIFS Fitness Management with our Best Practice Series.

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Topics: senior fitness management participation data collection senior living fitness center program planning

12 Days of Fitness: Keep Participants Active During the Holidays

When it comes to the holidays, everyone seems to be short on everything: time, money, patience, you name it. We are, however, enjoying longer lines and longer wait times! With all of this in mind, fitness can easily be put on the back burner. There are parties to attend, various people to shop for, and light shows to see, so it’s safe to say that spending hours at the gym is not something most people are doing this time of year. Now come January, that’s a different story!

snowmanPutting a Fitness Spin on a Holiday Tradition

Our staff have found various ways of putting a fitness spin on an old holiday tradition. It’s a program called the 12 Days of Fitness, and it works really well to get people moving during this busy season. When you think of 12 days, it doesn’t seem like a long time—and frankly, that’s exactly the point! Yet, 12 days of burning calories, educating people, and having some fun can have a positive impact for the participants.

We’ve had several sites record a 100% completion rate for this program, and we think the key to success is making each day count with simple but impactful activities and including something that is truly encouraging for the participants.

12 Tips for Creating a Holiday Fitness Program

 Below are our 12 best tips for how you can create your own fun and effective 12 Days of Fitness program.

  1. Offer quick yet challenging workouts since time is of the essence during the holidays. Short 10 to 20-minute classes or challenges will get people in and out. Tis the season to be efficient and effective!
  2. Let’s face it: prizes both pull people in and keep them coming back. Have a daily drawing or a daily competition where one prize is offered on each day of the program. Keep the prizes health and fitness related to further emphasize a healthy outlook.
  3. Hosting lunchtime classes or activities gives associates an alternative to those not-so-healthy holiday luncheons or parties. The potential for binging is everywhere; why not create your 12 Days of Fitness as a respite for employees looking for a healthier escape? 
  4. Get creative with classes or activities that you offer. Provide the participants with exercises they can easily do at home, or offer new and exciting ones to keep them out of an exercise rut. You might try dance-style classes or incorporate an exercise scavenger hunt in your facility.
  5. Use the program as a learning experience. Show participants healthy recipes or even host a healthy holiday party offering samples of modified or low-calorie snacks, appetizers, main dishes, and drinks.
  6. Make participants accountable. Post the exercise or activity of the day and require that the staff sign off when it has been completed. 
  7. Encourage associates who work at home to participate. Send them emails with exercise pictures or video demonstrations. It’s important for people to know they always have time to squeeze some activity into their day no matter where they are located.
  8. If you’re focused on getting employees into your corporate fitness center, require that some of the exercises and activities be performed in the facility. This also gives you a chance to see and speak with the participants.
  9. Incorporate stress reduction and relaxation into the program. You can do this by offering educational materials on these topics, or more interactive things like hosting a free yoga class or 10-minute chair massages.
  10. Add a personal touch. Send out emails or make phone calls to check in with participants who have missed a day or one of the required activities or exercises.
  11. Incorporate teamwork into the program. Similar to our Maintain Not Gain program, working with a partner can increase the chances of success. You can do this in the classes you offer; you can require a partner for certain exercises, or even add a referral component where participants encourage nonmembers to join and participate.
  12. Celebrate their accomplishment! Being successful is key, but everyone can feel a sense of accomplishment if managed correctly. Besides the daily drawings, offer all successful participants something at the end of the program. This can be a prize, but it can also be wrapping the successful participants’ names around some lights and words of encouragement for all to see. Make your participants feel proud of sticking to a healthy routine during the holidays. They’ll surely thank you later, and might even ask for more programs like

If you’re not offering a holiday program, this just might be your key to keeping participation numbers up and the pounds and stress levels down. Use some of the above ideas for developing your own 12 Days of Fitness and see what kind of difference you can make this season.

Corporate Fitness Services

Topics: engagement best practice program planning

3 Programming Twists to Boost Fitness Center Participation

presentation groupRecruiting residents to participate in your community fitness offerings can be a challenge. Most communities offer a variety of standard services, classes, and programs to try to regularly engage their residents. Whether you are wanting to recruit new residents or spark some enthusiasm for your regulars, read on to learn about three nontraditional programming ideas that can help boost participation in your community fitness offerings.

Fashion Show – Yes that’s right, I said a fashion show. Many residents show up to exercise in their normal clothes (dress slacks, button-down shirts and all)! While this is OK for some modes of activity, educating residents on the importance of exercising in appropriate active wear, including proper footwear, can be inspiring and quite helpful for some individuals. Contact a local boutique with active wear apparel and host a fashion show at your community while providing residents with an option to purchase what they are seeing. You could work with the boutique to allow your residents to be the models so residents can see firsthand that exercise apparel can be fashionable, comfortable, and appropriate for older adults. Don’t forget about swimwear! Many older adults shy away from participating in pool programming because of not having purchased a swimsuit in perhaps decades. Bring the suits, water shoes, etc., to your fashion show and remove this barrier for your residents!

Philanthropic Program – Let’s face it, it can be a challenge to come up with prize ideas for residents to recognize their efforts in incentive programs that will truly get them excited. While older adults recognize the importance of physical activity for their own vitality, finding ways to ignite enthusiasm into their workout is still important to keep things fresh and fun. Connect a fitness program with a philanthropic approach instead of a traditional prizes like water bottles, t-shirts, or pedometers. Establish a community goal that if residents come together to achieve X minutes of walking or attend X number of group exercise classes in a month, the community will make a monetary donation to a local charitable organization. You could even include a canned food donation requirement as an entry fee to your group exercise classes for the month. Chart the residents’ progress through the month so they can see how they are doing and they can recruit their friends and neighbors to participate.

Educational Lectures – Well qualified fitness staff with an educational background in health and fitness can contribute more to resident wellness than exercise instruction alone. Tap into this educational background and recruit your fitness staff to share their expertise and educate residents on a variety of health and wellness topics on a regular basis. This can help some residents begin engaging with the fitness staff in a way they may otherwise never do if avoiding the fitness center. When your fitness staff can demonstrate that they are knowledgeable about various health conditions or other resident interests, they can begin building trust and relationships that will hopefully translate into engaging that resident in the appropriate fitness services for their needs.

Find out more about how NIFS provides these ideas and others through wellness consulting at senior living communities.  Or, check out how one client uses NIFS wellness consulting for better marketing outcomes in her communities.

VIDEO: How one client puts NIFS consulting to work

Topics: active aging nifs fitness management senior center solutions program planning