Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

What's Missing From Your Resident Fitness Program and How To Fix It

NIFS | Senior Group Fitness

I hear from a lot of leadership in senior living communities who know that there's more that could be done with their resident exercise program, but they aren't sure how to get their staff to ramp things up. If you find yourself in this situation, check out the list below for common challenges and opportunities to do better for your residents.

Our participation is lower than it should be.

There are a few reasons that participation in your fitness program might run lower than it should.  The first thing to determine is whether you have reliable data about who is participating. When we  start working with a community, we often learn that they may have total (or estimated) counts for group fitness class participation and that's the end of their program data.  

  • Start by tracking participation per resident. You'll have more reliable information about who is participating, how frequently they attend, and what they participate in. You'll also gain knowledge about who isn't coming to the fitness center and/or classes.
  • If your staff can deliver on individual services for residents, add fitness and balance testing along with exercise prescriptions to provide residents who aren't participating with the support they need to feel safe and inspired to begin an exercise program.

[Read More: 4 Strategies to Engage More Residents in Your Exercise Program]

Our group fitness class calendar needs a do-over.

It's common for the group fitness class calendar to get set on autopilot without critical evaluation of what needs to be updated.

  • Start by using the participation data to figure out which classes really deserve a spot on your calendar.
  • The balance classes our staff teach in our client communities are by far the most popular format. If you don't have dedicated balance training classes on the calendar, add them now. It's not enough to have balance training mixed in with a strength class or another blended format.
  • Carefully consider class descriptions; how you word group fitness opportunities for residents can make a big difference in what resonates with a previously inactive audience.

We need to be offering more fun programs.

Creating fun and inspiring programs to invite more participation in the fitness center is one of the best parts of the job! It's really central to how our staff are supporting residents in the client fitness centers we manage. Consider that engaging programs should be more than just fun; they should be built strategically to meet a specific goal. For example, NIFS Fitness Freeze program was a solid solution to combat the traditional fitness center visit decline we see in December each year. Or, think more holistically about Active Aging Week and use National Senior Health and Fitness Day to offer non-traditional options for physical activity.

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If you're committed to keeping your fitness staff in house, then they need some support to start improving what they're offering your residents. Our eBook on how to turn your fitness center from vacant to vibrant is a great next step.

Take your fitness center from vacant to vibrant >

Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness group fitness for seniors fitness for seniors

A Warning About Wellness Data in Senior Living & How We Can Do Better

NIFS | senior living wellness Special thanks to Sara Kyle as a co-author for this piece.  You can read more about her experience in senior living here.

Over the last several months, the senior living industry has seen more published data on wellness offerings. A few examples include this report from Senior Housing News (SHN), and the 2017 ICAA/Promatura Wellness Benchmarks report. I'm thrilled that organizations are taking a stronger and more consistent approach to measuring the impact of wellness for older adults in senior living. We can all benefit by being more informed; but I want to suggest a few cautionary notes about the data. 

As you read the reports, articles, and posts, it's easy to get swept up in the headlines and colorful images. Instant validation seems logical when the numbers back up our own experiences. But just beneath those captivating soundbites are sample size issues, a lack of consistent definition of terms and problematic comparisons between a study population and real world groups. We've seen these research challenges for years in corporate wellness (check out this blog for a consistent digest of how the corporate wellness industry has routinely gotten it wrong). I'd hate to see senior living go down that same path.  

Here are a few examples from the above noted reports that spark additional questions when you dig a little more deeply into the numbers:

Who makes up the sample and how many of them are there?

In the SHN report, authors note that 308 adults age 65 and older were polled using a Google survey. We lack key information about these 308 respondents. For example, we don't know if those surveyed are employed, if they're community-dwelling, if they have health issues, if they're living with government assistance, what their faith background is, etc. And while 308 respondents seems like a significant contribution, it may/may not be enough to declare data from that sample to be statistically significant. These missing elements don't mean the survey findings are unimportant, but it does mean we need to take a measured approach to digesting what's offered.

We also need to ensure that study limitations (like sample size) are included in the write up because those limitations impact how we process the information for validity, reliability, and transferability into other populations. Limitations don't necessarily render the research incorrect or useless, but they do provide important context for the findings as well as how we might move forward to study a similar topic.

What do we mean by engagement?

It's common to see terms like engagement and participation when reviewing data related to wellness in senior living, but those terms often aren't clearly defined. In one case, I found (after some digging and discussion with the publishing organization) that participation was defined as residents choosing at least one activity per month. When NIFS staff report to communities about participation rates in the fitness program, we're providing data on resident who visit 1x, 5x, and 8x per month. It's easy to see how a lack of standard definition for participation could skew a comparison between the two different data sets. 

You might think participation is fairly cut and dry. And I suppose if our single focus is measuring the number of behinds in the seats, then participation is clear. But, we also know that headcounts don't always mean the individuals are involved in the activity. I would argue that sleeping through a stretching class requires a very generous view of participation to assume that the resident received the intended benefit from the class. And that's where engagement comes in; it's definitely a moving target. It's highly subjective and very individual. But the individual who is engaged in the stretching class is moving his body, making eye contact with the instructor, and is responsive to feedback or changes in the activity. While some people use engagement and participation synonymously, they are not the same thing. 

Is selection-bias an issue?

It might be. Here are a few ways I saw it play out in the two reports I've mentioned:

  • The ICAA notes that 89% of older adults living in Life Plan communities who are tracked through their bench marking tool, self-rate their health as good or excellent while only 68% of age-matched older adults who are non-community dwelling, rate themselves the same. That's a huge boon for housing operators, but this data suffers from a self-selection bias where a variety of factors well beyond the community's control may contribute to the higher scores for residents and the lower scores for non-residents.
  • The SHN report profiles a fall prevention program where the program operators note the baseline data showed that 38% of residents in the community had suffered one or more falls.  One year following the implementation of their initiative targeted at reducing falls, they noted that the incidence rate had gone down 10%. What wasn't noted in the report was a listing of potential reasons for the decreased rate of falls that are completely unrelated to the initiative such as variations in the pre and post-sample, and the increased likelihood for residents to not report falls (particularly when they know they're being watched for falls). The program providers indicate that they've saved the community $500,000 with this fall prevention initiative, but that savings would indicate that we can assign value to that which we prevented. I'm not aware of a concrete way to value prevention; it's one of the great shortcomings of preventive health strategies.

How can we do better?

While there are some holes in the data that has been coming out on wellness in senior living, I think the research should continue, and below are a few areas where we could all improve the quality of what we're releasing for the greater benefit of the residents we're serving.

  1. Let's ’s get industry clarity about how we define wellness because right now we see it as the “wellness gym”, the “wellness nurse”, the “wellness staff” who are really fitness center staff, the “resident wellness committee” who plans activities that may or may not be tied to purposeful living. Gaining a more clear and shared definition of what we mean when we say resident wellness gets us all started on the same page. 
  2. Let’s get clarity about how we define engagement and participation. To me, defining participation as 1x per month to seems kind of low, but if we’re going to agree to that baseline, then at least it's a starting point.
  3. Let's find value beyond hard numbers. The ICAA does a great job of profiling and recognizing fantastic programming provided by 3rd party providers as well as directly by housing operators. There are similarly interesting initiatives throughout the SHN report.  Continuing to share meaningful lifestyle offerings is a win for everyone.
  4. Let’s use data where it’s significant and less subjective. For example, one of the programs outlined in the SHN report showed where one operator demonstrated a 50% improvement on average for residents who did baseline fitness testing and repeat testing. In-between their testing periods, participants engaged in exercise prescribed for them by a trained fitness professional. This isn't a complicated initiative, our staff offer something similar in our client communities, and the data is hard to dispute.

When you're paying to download a report that promises reliable numbers, and meaningful information, it's okay to ask questions about what's being offered and whether it will translate to your environment. It's also okay to question the study design to better understand definitions inherent to the outcomes. 

We have a long way to go as an industry to tighten up research so that our evidence-based practices are better. Do you have other areas in senior living research or in wellness specifically where you think we can all do a little better? Comment below to keep the discussion going. 

Topics: senior fitness senior living community senior living wellness programs wellness for seniors older adult wellness

Should We Still Use BMI and Body Composition in Corporate Fitness?

GettyImages-844045822.jpgFor years, fitness professionals have been trained to use Body Mass Index (BMI) as a prescreening tool when individuals join a fitness program. It was part of the recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for evaluating health risks; tobacco use, cholesterol profile, and family history for cardiovascular disease were also part of that process. In 2015, the ACSM updated their guidelines, and guess what? No BMI screening was included.

(Find out more about the changes to exercise prescreening in this FAQ.)

Why Is BMI No Longer a Screening Tool?

The changes to the ACSM guidelines were positioned largely around decreasing barriers for individuals to start an exercise program. After years of research, what they found was that BMI was not a driver of cardiovascular events during exercise. Anecdotally, I can say from experience that I had a lot of (sometimes angry) individuals wanting to join the corporate fitness center who needed a medical release because their BMI was "too high" and they had one other risk factor, such as not knowing their cholesterol or current tobacco use. So for our staff and their members in corporate fitness environments across the country, I thought this was a positive change.

But it leaves me wondering if we should be looking at BMI at all. There's a lot of back and forth in the wellness community about the "value" of BMI. The screening tool was always meant to be a field test to determine appropriateness of weight for a given height. And truly, it's an easy measure to determine; there are BMI calculators all over the internet. But that may be the end of its utility as a screening tool. There are a lot of questions about how meaningful the information really is to either the individual being assessed or the practitioner with whom they're working.

If We Don't Use BMI, What Should We Use?

This is something of a loaded question and points to our cultural obsession with "healthy" body weight. Do we need to screen for fatness? What's the value in those figures? Certainly measuring percent body fat or circumference might provide more meaningful ways to track an individual's desire to lose weight. But there are caveats on providing that information, too. Our staff members are providing those measures as field tests in our clients' corporate fitness centers, and the accuracy can be questionable, particularly for body fat assessed by skinfold testing.

We have a responsibility in our clients' fitness center environments to help the members live well in the ways that are meaningful to each individual. That might mean helping someone work on gradual, healthy weight loss. It might also mean working with someone to help them learn to appreciate the difference between feeling good when they move their body and feeling bad when they step on the scale.

The goal for our staff is to help the members they serve improve their health in all the ways that are articulated. When tools like BMI are so limiting (and potentially harmful to the psyche), we have to take a hard look at whether those tools are helping us achieve that goal. With so many other fantastic programs in our books to help people move more, try new areas of healthy living, and even remember what it felt like to play at recess, I think we have just what we need to create positive, successful, healthy environments for our corporate and senior living clients.

Check out our creative and effective programming to help keep your members active.

Improve your programs >

Topics: weight loss BMI body composition senior fitness healthy living prescreening tools corporate fitness center risk factors

Running in retirement

It's more common than you think - folks well into their 70's and 80's still running for exercise. (I hope it's my story when I'm 80 years old!) Below are accounts from two resident who live in a community where NIFS provides fitness center management services. We were so impressed with these two residents, we asked to spotlight their stories:

Judy Carlson

She was born in New Jersey, but lived in Honolulu, Hawaii with her husband RJudy Carlson Marathon Quilt.jpguss, for almost 50 years before becoming a Timber Ridge resident. 

Throughout her running career (she started at age 35), she's competed in 42 marathons, all across Hawaii. Although she says she's run her last full marathon, she continues to run races and has a group of friends with whom she runs the Hawaii Pacific Health’s Women’s 10k every year. She has also picked up races local to Seattle and she plans to complete the Seattle Half Marathon this Thanksgiving weekend.

Judy loves running because it brings people together and creates a sense of community.

I used to meet with a running a group and it was nice because there was no age discrimination; you just show up and run, nobody cared how old you were.

She told us that despite all of her long distance running, she's never seriously trained; she's in it for the enjoyment.  You can see Judy pictured next to a quilt she made from some of the t-shirts she received during marathons she's completed.

Dan Anderson

Dan Anderson Marathon.jpgShortly after Dan graduated from MIT, he married the love of his life, Portia, and they moved to Southern California where he began taking classes at USC and started work at the Hughes Research Laboratory.  He's had quite a career - not only did he play a large role in the development of the modern day laser, he later went on to serve as the Chief Patent Counselor at Boeing. Now, at the age of 89, Dan resides with his wife Timber Ridge.

When Dan wasn't in school, developing lasers, or working through patent law, he was running.  He finished his first marathon, the Palos Verdes Marathon, at the age of 24, and he went on to run marathons in Boston, Tri Cities, Culver City, Northern California’s “Avenue of the Giants” (his favorite), Vancouver, Memphis, Austin, Los Angeles, Athens, among others.  

In his earlier years, Dan enjoyed training others using his 6x6 training method that helped his trainees go from walking to running a 10k at the end of six months. He trained his colleagues from Boeing, including the President of Boeing at the time.

All told, he completed 116 marathons.  He ran his last marathon at 80 years old, but he's not done running; he's led and participates in the running group at Timber Ridge.

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Topics: fitness programs for seniors senior fitness older adult running

How to make the most out of your community fitness center

I talked with a lot of folks at the 2017 LeadingAge Expo last week about how they can make the most out of their senior living community fitness center. In case you and I didn't connect at that event, here are 3 tips on how to make the most out of your community fitness center programs.

water aerobics for seniors

Start with the staff

Upgrading what you're offering in your fitness program is a great way to stand out from the competition (if you do it well), but offering a trainer a few hours per week likely isn't enough to truly draw residents into the fitness program. 

If you have no staff - start there. Let's talk about how you can start providing expert staff in a cost effective manner with the greatest impact for your community.

If you have staff - evaluate how effective they are for your residents. There's a nuance here that's worth mentioning: how well-liked the staff are is not the same thing as how effective they are. Your residents deserve both an affable fitness team and effective, fun, engaging programs and services. So when you're thinking about how well your fitness staff are performing, start by addressing how well-received they are, but don't stop there. Ask how they spend their time in service to the residents and how are they measuring the success of the community fitness program. For example, are they providing services, like exercise prescriptions, equipment orientations, and assessments that help residents understand how to exercise safely while working positively toward their goals? Do you have data on how those services are used? 

[Read More: How NIFS managers spend their time in senior living fitness centers]
 

Consider the programming

Fitness programming in the community goes well beyond fee-based personal training and group fitness classes.  Many communities do robust programming exceptionally well.  If your struggling with ideas, here are a few blogs that spotlight NIFS work with our clients in this area:

As a leader in the community, you should be getting data about how effective the programming is, how many residents are participating, and what the fitness staff will do differently next time to achieve their goals.  If you aren't getting that kind of information from your program, it might be time to look at ways you can improve your program. 

Seek opportunities to improve

I talked with a number of community leaders who noted that they have fantastic staff in their fitness center and were thus certain that we wouldn't have services that would benefit their community. The truth is, there are always ways to do better; what we're really talking about here is whether there's an appetite to pursue improvement. 

If you don't want to turnover staff, but you recognize your fitness team is only as good as the silo they're in, consider bringing in a consultant to evaluate the programming. There are most likely areas where your program could improve. Bringing in a consultant with an extensive background in the field and blissful ignorance about your services is a great way to uncover those opportunities that aren't apparent to those who are working in that environment.  

Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.

Topics: fitness programs for seniors senior fitness resident wellness programs LeadingAge LeadingAge 2017 resident engagement senior living status quo

Improve your senior living fitness program by outsourcing the staff

If you believe it's time to offer more to current residents and prospects through your exercise program, but you're not quite sure what that "more" entails or how to get there, outsourcing might make a lot of sense for your community.

Outsourcing isn't just for therapy

The primary benefit to looking at a partner for management of any area of your community is the value of the depth and breadth of the firm's experience. Communities don't think twice about outsourcing therapy but when it comes to taking a closer look at the reasons to outsource management of the fitness center and related programming, I sometimes get blank stares from leadership. And I can't explain it. Certainly, how we provide service, the nature of our contracts with our clients, and the credentials of the staff we provide for community fitness is different from therapy groups, but the overall concept is the same. If you want an expert-run fitness program, you have to work with the experts. 

I’ve had the opportunity to work with NIFS for many years with multiple communities and I can say without exception that they have taken the wellness program in our communities to a new level. They are the best in the industry at what they do, and I would not hesitate bringing them in to any senior housing community that I am affiliated with. Our communities are stronger with NIFS on their team.  ~Mick Feauto, COO, LifeSpire of Virginia

NIFS math | LeadingAge | Senior Living

NIFS Math

NIFS staff in your community are backed by an our organization that is uniquely focused on the specific work of elevating your fitness program. We're regularly supporting continuing education for our team and we have a proven model for effectively sharing resources so our clients get far more than the one NIFS manager on the ground. We like to call it "NIFS math" where 1 + 1 = 3.

 

What to expect from your fitness program

4399_KF_3163.jpgYou need your fitness center to be a hallmark, a standout for the community. For your current residents, it should be one of the most praised offerings both because the staff are well-loved and because they are effective at keeping residents engaged with new, consistent, well-done offerings. The fitness program should also be on the list of reasons prospective residents choose your community. But if the group fitness calendar and the personal training services look the same as all the competition, and if you don't have the necessary data to tell key stories about how resident's lives have been improved by participating, then you're missing out on an opportunity.

NIFS clients see a lot of value in their partnerships because they gain much more than "just a trainer" for their gym. Check out some of the services we provide that aren't common to most community fitness programs:

  • Balance Redefined includes rich programming and services focused specifically on balance training and fall prevention; our Balance Redefined offerings were built from, and regularly evolve because of our experience with dozens of communities over the last 15 years.
  • Key data points for the fitness program are regularly reported and smartly used to continuously improve what we're offering in each client setting. From tracking participation per resident to evaluating outcomes and goals on our programs, we are constantly checking in on and reporting our progress.
  • Reaching residents in assisted living and memory care environments with quality fitness services can be a real challenge. Our staff provide that outreach through strong relationships with community lifestyle coordinators. Modified balance assessments, group classes, personal training, and hybrid health-related programming are all tailored for the unique needs of residents in those settings.

[Related Content: 4 Keys to Getting Data You Can Actually Use]

Find out how you can put NIFS math to work in your community. Contact us or stop by and see us at the LeadingAge Expo.  We'll be hanging out with our calculators doing NIFS math in booth #1261.

Topics: senior fitness management CCRC fitness center senior living communities senior fitness group fitness for seniors fitness center for seniors leading age LeadingAge

Modifying Senior Fitness Programs for Assisted Living

Maintaining a well-run, popular senior fitness program in a CCRC can be tough. Often just managing the independent living fitness center is a full-time job for someone. Then, as residents move through the continuums in a community, they often start to miss out on the robust programming that was offered to them in independent living. So, what happens when a manager wants to extend programming into assisted living without adding a huge burden on themselves?


One answer could be to simply modify existing programs to better fit the assisted living population. This way, managers save some time with planning and can use many of the same program materials (which means saving money, too).

Here are a variety of tips for modifying senior fitness programs for assisted living: 

1. Make it a team effort.

One of the simplest ways to change an incentive program is to take it from an individual effort challenge to a team goal. For example, if the goal of the program in IL is to have a resident achieve 15 group fitness class visits over the course of a month, maybe the goal for AL would be to have the entire group achieve 35 group fitness classes over the month. Obviously, the goal numbers will depend on availability of classes and residents who want to participate, but you get the idea. Take it one step further and create a tracking poster to keep in the assisted living fitness area so residents can keep up on their progress.

2. Get volunteers involved.ThinkstockPhotos-533552808.jpg

Another way to make sure your assisted living program is successful is to involve some volunteers. Let’s say you’re doing a one-mile walking event for IL and you want to run the same event in assisted living. For IL, you can probably just market the event, promise some water and granola bars at the “finish line,” and residents will come out to participate. You could try the same thing in AL, but it certainly wouldn’t go over as well.

Instead, try recruiting volunteers (either staff or residents) and pair up with people while they walk. This way, your walk becomes not only about physical health, but also about social wellness and emotional wellness. Plus, most people would think of this event as an activity rather than just exercise, and so they are more likely to attend.

3. Recognize participants.

This isn’t actually a modification because it works equally well in both levels of care, but it’s still a great way to make the program a success. People love a recognition for their work. In assisted living, this can mean getting a little creative. Yes, you can stick with the typical throw-a-party-for-participants-at-the-end-of-the-program reward. Or you can try something a little different.

One of the simplest but most effective examples of this was during our Fitness Freeze last year. During this program, residents earn snowflakes for visits during the month of December. Instead of hanging them in the fitness center, one manager hung the snowflakes earned by assisted living residents on their doors. This resulted in two major positives:

  • When family and friends visited, residents could brag about their fitness center participation.
  • It brought more attention to the program and other residents started asking about how they could earn snowflakes.

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What other ways can you think of to modify existing independent living programming for other areas of the community?

Interesting in knowing how our staff can impact your fitness program?  Download our quick read, simply click below.

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Topics: senior fitness assisted living programming independent living

3 Video Game Systems for Senior Living Communities

WP_20130424_016.jpgTwenty years ago, if someone had suggested purchasing video games for a retirement community, they would have been laughed at. “Those are for kids,” would have been the response. “No one over 60 is ever going to be interested in that.” I’m here to tell you times have changed! Now, everywhere you look people of all ages are getting in on the action and testing their skills in the virtual world.

Here are just three of the systems popping up in communities all over the country.

Nintendo Wii

This is probably the most popular one for communities because it’s been around for quite a while now and it’s fairly easy to use. The Nintendo Wii is a low-cost, commercially available interactive gaming system that gives immediate visual feedback in balance training. For most Wii games, players hold a remote and use it as the golf putter, baseball bat, bowling arm, etc. to play.

An optional add-on is the balance board for the Wii Fit game, which enables a user to test his or her center of balance with a visual display onscreen that shows what percentage of their body weight they carry over each foot. Those with an uneven center of balance will unnaturally compensate for their imbalance, which can cause their posture to become misaligned, increasing the level of stress on their bodies. The game allows users to learn about their balance and provides them with tips for improving an uneven center of balance with several different training modes, including yoga, strength training, balance games, and aerobics.

Xbox Kinect

The Kinect has been around for a few years as well, but it’s certainly newer technology than the Wii. There is no remote to hold or board to stand on. There is simply a camera that points at the general space where you’re playing and then your body is the “remote.” The Kinect generally requires a bigger space than the Wii and it’s more expensive, but the games are also more advanced. If you are working with a more active community, this may be the way to go. There is a lot more foot movement required for most of the Kinect games, so be sure to educate residents on safety before really getting into the action.

PlayStation Move

The idea of the PlayStation Move is very similar to the Wii. Each person has a remote and their motion is captured by a camera that’s plugged into the gaming system. I don’t have personal experience with this system, but from the reviews it looks like the movements and reaction time of the sensors/camera are much better on the Move than on the other two systems. Of course, that’s coming with a higher price tag, so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons yourself. The Move offers a wide array of game options, from the mostly sedentary to the action-packed.

All three systems are great options for your senior living community. They do range in price, but you can often find a refurbished/used version of the system online or at your local GameStop store. Each system has a range of exercise options, from the traditional fitness games, to dance games, to more of the recreational pastimes. No matter which console you choose, they all encourage more physical activity in the community, and isn’t that the goal at the end of the day?

Also, there’s an added perk of having these systems available at your community. When grandkids come to visit, these consoles provide a great activity that spans generations. Think of how impressed that 10-year-old will be when grandpa shows them how to score big at the Home Run Derby on Wii!

How have you used gaming systems to improve your senior fitness program’s physical activity?

Download: Why is exercise important for seniors? >

Topics: balance senior fitness senior living community technology video games

Weight-shifting exercises are key to fall prevention for residents

ThinkstockPhotos-590277470.jpgThe numbers are clear: about one-third of adults, ages 65 years and older, will sustain a fall this year. And the statistics that relate to the cost of falls are equally concerning. Because falls are a substantial risk in senior living communities, we focus a lot of attention on asking why residents fall and what can we do to prevent them. The results from a recent study provides us with some answers.


Study Shows What Causes Senior Falls

A 2014 observational study determined how and why falls occur in the aging population by actually videotaping falls in two long-term-care facilities between 2007 and 2010. The video cameras were placed in the common areas such as the dining rooms, hallways, and lounges. When a fall occurred it was reviewed with a focus on the actual cause of imbalance and the activity at the time of falling. The study captured 227 falls from 130 individuals. The researchers concluded that the most common cause of falls (41 percent) was incorrect weight shifting: basically, how an individual moves or transfers from one position to another.

Specifically, researchers noted that the majority of falls they recorded occurred in a position change from standing to walking. You see, staying balanced is about more than maintaining steady footing when in motion. The results of this study show that how we start moving can be much more crucial to staying in balance.

Read Now: Basics for Effective Fall Prevention

Weight-Shifting Exercises are Key to Fall Prevention

If the researchers are right, then we need to make sure our senior living fitness programs incorporate weight-shifting exercises for participants. Not only do these activities teach residents about how to understand their center of gravity, but they also help with coordination and provide opportunities for modest strength and endurance gains in the lower body muscles. When taught carefully, implementing weight-shifting exercise into a balance program can provide intentional focus on more precise movement which helps overall motor control.

Ideally, your community's fitness program is run by a qualified fitness professional who can provide a range of fitness services for seniors including customized exercises in group and individual settings for each resident's needs.

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

Fitness professionals can administer balance-training and weight-shifting exercises through one-on-one personal training sessions, group exercise classes, or with simple recommendations of exercises for a resident to include in her typical morning stretches. Trained staff can also provide field testing to help residents understand how they score on balance and other fitness tests so that they can work toward improvement with their tailored exercise regimen.

In case you don't have qualified staff on board, here are some examples of simple weight-shifting exercises for active older adults that can be taught by anyone in your community:

  • Side Sways: While seated in a chair or standing, place the feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Leading with the upper body, lean the body gently to the right while keeping both feet in contact with the floor. Repeat 10 to 15 times in both directions. Watch a demo of the exercise.
  • Forward Steps: Standing with the feet together near a chair back or counter top to hold onto, take an exaggerated step forward with the right foot. Then take the necessary amount of steps to recover to a normal standing position. Repeat 8 to 10 times and then perform on the left leg. Watch a demo of the exercise.

For more great content like this, download our whitepaper on balance and subscribe to our blog:

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Topics: senior living senior fitness fall prevention balance training

Tips for Starting an Exercise Program at an Older Age

According to an article in Psychology Today, one of the major reasons people tend to stop exercising after recently starting an exercise routine is that they do not want to experience discomfort. After reading this article, it made me wonder whether this is the reason some residents are more hesitant than others to incorporate exercise into their everyday lives. Investigating further into this, I had conversations with several residents about this. Some of them mentioned that they have the feeling they might be doing too much, too soon.

[Getting started: What Exercises Should I do?]

ThinkstockPhotos-72459386.jpgWith exercise showing benefits such as improved balance, increased total-body strength, improved cognition, and reduction of chronic illness, it is difficult to understand why people would not exercise. However, there are two reasons why I think this “too much, too soon” judgment could arise in senior fitness: 

  • Your body has not become neuromuscularly adapted to exercise and you are engaging muscle groups that are not commonly utilized in everyday life.
  • The exercise is too strenuous from overtraining, either causing strains in de-conditioned muscle groups, or potential re-injury. You can use this article from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a guide to determine whether you are experiencing overtraining. 

Following are four tips for starting an exercise program at an older age that I provide to residents in my senior living community.  Combat that “too much, too soon” feeling, and ease into the process of adding exercise to their everyday lives without overdoing it.

Monitor How You Are Feeling

A great way of measuring this is to use an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) Scale to measure how hard you feel your body is working. On a scale of 0–10 (with a 0 being at complete rest, and 10 being at highest possible intensity), you should exercise within a 3 or a 4 intensity (at a moderate intensity).

Recording your heart rate after exercise is also an effective measurement of exertion. If you notice after several minutes that your heart rate is not decreasing after exercise, your body is not recovering properly.

Stop exercise if you are experiencing severe bone/joint pain, or sudden pressure in your chest, neck, shoulder, or arms.

Begin Slowly and Gradually Increase Duration/Intensity

If you are new to exercise, start out by scheduling exercises at least 2–3 times per week, for 15–20-minute sessions. As you become more physically adapted to exercise, you could increase your frequency to roughly 4–5 days per week. When you reach a point where you would like to increase your resistance and/or intensity, make sure that you make no more than a 5% increase in one week.

If you have been exercising for a while, don’t hesitate to reduce your workload to re-acclimate your body to the regular routine. This might include coming to an exercise class that is seated rather than standing, or cutting back a few minutes on your daily walk.

Plan Rest Days Accordingly

If you do not give your body the opportunity to rest in between exercise sessions, it will have physiological effects on your nervous system, and potentially develop micro-trauma and overuse injuries. You could also spend your rest and recovery days doing light stretching exercises, or going for a light walk.

Be Patient

It will take at least 3–6 weeks for your body to develop neuromuscular adaptation to exercise, and to achieve long-lasting results.

If you incorporate a slow and steady approach and find that proper balance in your exercise routine, you’ll have a higher rate of success in achieving your exercise goals and avoid a setback. 

Exercise for older adults is about more than just physical fitness, grab our quickread below and read more about the importance of exercise in aging well.

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Topics: exercise active aging senior fitness senior living community