Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

What Happened When I Stopped Doing Cardio; Increased Strength Training

ThinkstockPhotos-80699669.jpgSix months ago, a friend dared me to give up cardio for three months and focus on strength training. My initial response was, “No way! I’m a runner, I’ve always been a runner. There is no better exercise than running!” My friend was relentless and eventually I agreed to take a brief hiatus, although I was convinced that I would turn into a mushy ball of goo if I didn’t get in my daily run.

How I Changed My Workouts

Fast-forward six months. During this time, I’ve followed a low-impact exercise routine, which includes four days of low-impact strength activities such as yoga, one day of cardio, and one day of heavy weightlifting. And I have to say, the results are completely the opposite of what I expected.

How the Change Affected How I Look and Feel

What happened when I stopped doing cardio:

  • I gained 10 pounds, but my body measurements decreased. This was perhaps the most surprising change that I noticed. Muscle tissue takes up much less space than fat. After nearly six months of strength training, I’ve added 10 pounds to my frame and my clothes are fitting better than ever—not to mention it feels good to look in the mirror.
  • My energy levels skyrocketed. There is a reason why running burns so many calories: It’s HARD work! And when your body works that hard, you’re going to feel fatigued. Even if you sleep seven to eight hours a night, the physical strain of high mileage takes a toll on the body. I must admit that my energy levels are higher than they’ve ever been, even though I have a 5am alarm to fit in my exercise before work. In fact, I feel more fatigued on the days I don’t exercise!
  • I’m not as hungry. This was a “well DUH” moment for me. Many people tend to focus on the calorie-burning power of running without stopping to think that your body will want to replace all those calories. Several weeks after I stopped running, I noticed that I had a much easier time regulating my food intake. I didn’t need to eat as much, but I felt fuller with the foods I did eat.
  • I’ve noticed improvements in other areas of physical fitness. Previously, I was focused on distance, time, and miles. To me, a run wasn’t “a run” unless I ran at least four miles. Now I’m focused on how many pushups I can do with proper form (I’m getting close to 30!), how long I can hold a plank (nearly five minutes!), and how many pullups I can do (well, let’s just say I’m still working on this one).
  • I have fewer injuries. Focusing on low-impact exercise and strength training has helped my body recover from more than two decades of intense, running-focused exercise programs. My legs no longer ache if I stand for more than an hour. My tight hip flexors are starting to relax, particularly as I focus on improving the flexibility and strength of my hamstrings and glutes.

In sum, to everyone out there who is worried about limiting their cardio because they don’t want to risk gaining weight, try it for three to four months. You might just be surprised at how different you feel and the gains you make!

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*Weight loss claims or individiual results vary and are not guaranteed.

Topics: running NIFS cardio strength training yoga weightlifting

Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2017

ThinkstockPhotos-615414964.jpgEvery year the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conducts a survey across the United States to determine what trends will be seen in the coming year. Completed by over 1,800 fitness professionals, the survey has found the following to be the top 10 fitness trends for 2017. 

10. Wearable technology, such as activity trackers, smart watches, heart-rate monitors, smart eyeglasses, and GPS tracking devices.  Check out this blog post about the challenges with high tech wellness.

 9. Bodyweight training requires minimal to no equipment and can be done anywhere, which makes it an inexpensive way to stay fit.  Check out @NIFSquickfit on instagram for inspiration to use your bodyweight to train at home.

 8. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves short bursts of exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery and can take 30 to 60 minutes, or longer, to complete.

 7. Educated and experienced fitness professionals are becoming more available as the ways to get certified and educated grow. Finding professionals who have gotten certified through nationally accredited programs can help consumers make an important decision more easily.  Looking to staff your onsite fitness center, check out how you can get back to business and let the professionals handle your fitness center. 

 6. Strength training has been trending since the first survey was published by ACSM in 2006. Strength training can help many to improve or maintain current levels of strength.  Grab your co-workers and get fit at lunch.  

 5. Group training is designed for participants with varied levels of fitness. Group fitness instructors specifically program these classes for a fun, motivational, and effective large-group experience. 

 4. Exercise Is Medicine is a global health initiative based on the belief that exercise can be preventative as well as a way to treat diseases. This initiative brings health care professionals together with exercise professionals to include physical activity as treatment.

 3. Yoga can be practiced in many forms, including but not limited to Power Yoga, Yogalates, and hot Yoga. Yoga uses specific types of postures to help with flexibility, relaxation, and health.  Can't make it to Yoga?  Take a moment to stretch at your desk.  Making time for a five minute stretch break will help you ease tension and relax the mind.

 2. Personal training has not left the top ten since the first survey was published in 2006. Personal trainers will continue to be an integral part of the professional staff in all areas of health and fitness centers.

 1. Exercise and weight loss combine calorie restriction and exercise programming to control weight loss.

The full list of top 20 trends is available in the article "Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017.”

Looking to improve the health and wellbeing of your employees this year?  Let us handle your program and you get back to doing what you love to do.  Click below for our quick read to find out how we make corporate fitness easy.

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Topics: exercise weight loss strength training technology yoga group fitness personal trainng bodyweight HIIT

NIFS Nutrition: Common Weight-loss Questions

ThinkstockPhotos-488214534.jpgAs the Wellness Coordinator at NIFS, I get to meet a lot of great clients and help them attain their nutritional goals. I have noticed some common weight-loss questions that arise during the sessions. Hopefully if you have been wondering the same things, these answers will give you some more insight.

How do I gain muscle and lose fat?

The best way to lose fat is to either increase the amount of calories you burn or decrease the amount of calories you consume. As you are doing this, you also need to make sure you are doing 2 to 3 days of strength training per week to build muscle.

To decrease calories, it is important to keep track of what you are eating and see where you can decrease. This might mean decreasing the amount of coffee creamer you put in your cup of joe or swapping the potato chips at lunch for some raw veggies.

Increasing your protein intake won’t automatically increase your muscle mass. If you are strength training 2 to 3 times per week, a simple calculation to know your protein needs is to divide your body weight in half and multiply by 1.5.

Can you give me tips on how to lose weight?

The first advice I always give to anyone wanting to lose weight is to start keeping track of your food. Studies have shown you eat 40% less when you write it down! This can be done with the apps available for your phone, using a website, or just jotting it down with a pen and a piece of paper. It will allow you to see when and why you eat and also will hold you accountable for what you are eating.

The other thing that can be helpful with weight loss is to look at what you are drinking. Are you consuming empty calories from flavored coffee drinks, soda, juice drinks, or alcohol? Most people tend to eat the same amount of food no matter how many calories they consume from their beverages. So try to stick to water, low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, and 100% juices for the majority of your liquids.

How many calories do I need a day?

Every person is a different height and weight, and has varying levels of activity, so there isn’t one calorie number that works for all individuals to follow. Instead, use the simple Choose My Plate calculator that takes these factors into account to determine the proper amount you should be consuming. Not only does it give an overall number, but what is more important, it tells you how to get in that number. Recommended servings of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and beans, and fat are given, along with some “extra” calories for those every-once-in-awhile food choices!

Personal Nutrition Coaching at NIFS

If you are interested in having your questions answered during a personal nutrition consultation, please contact me at amitchell@nifs.org or 317-274-3432, ext. 239. Click below for more information on packages and pricing.

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Topics: nutrition weight loss weight management NIFS apps strength training wellness nutrition coaching

Active Aging: Workout Technique - Form First

seniors lifting weightsWe have all heard the phrase “quality over quantity,” and most of us have even directed this adage at someone else. But do we really believe it? And if we do, why is every gym and fitness center in the country filled with people sacrificing form for a few additional reps and pounds?

Before you pick up a weight, start a treadmill, or begin whatever mode of training you have planned for the day, think about your technique. “Where should my feet be?” “Should my hips be under my torso or behind it?” and “How am I going to breathe?” should be some of the questions you ask yourself before getting started.

Common problems associated with poor exercise technique include injuries such as sprains, strains, and fractures. Decreased activation of the desired muscle is also common when performing an exercise incorrectly. I see this most often when people are doing exercises too fast and momentum begins to reduce the work the targeted muscle has to do. All of these technique-associated problems have one thing in common: time.

“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time,” said Jim Rohn. So stop wasting your time recovering from injuries you got only because you were doing exercises incorrectly or because you had to do extra repetitions since poor form caused the targeted muscle not to fatigue as quickly as it should have.

Here are some workout technique tips for making sure you take the time needed to do the exercises properly and safely.

Use Your Resources

There are countless fitness resources around us, some clearly better than others, that you can consult with to ensure that you are doing exercises properly. The first thing I would recommend you do is research the exercise technique on your own so that you have a general idea of what to expect. Then you should consult with the fitness professional in your active aging community, who can then provide you with cues and possibly hands-on instruction.

Proper Breathing During Exercise

Proper breathing can make the most difficult exercise seem easy. Or it can have the exact opposite effect, making a routine move seem like the end of the world. The most common method of breathing while performing resistance training is to inhale during the eccentric contraction (lowering weight) and to exhale during the concentric contractions (lifting weight). This method of breathing is not the only option an exerciser has, so do your research and find out what is the best method for you, but keep in mind that some variations carry risks. The Valsalva maneuver, for example, can be used when resistance training, but this method of breathing, exhaling against a closed airway, can cause dizziness as the blood levels returning to the heart drop.

Correct Body Position

Once you learn the appropriate body position for your desired exercise, pay attention to it as you execute the reps. The best way to do this is by watching yourself in a mirror. If you notice that your form is beginning to deteriorate and you are not able to correct it, stop the exercise and rest or reduce the weight you are working with. As I mentioned earlier, a few extra reps now are not worth the time you could miss as you recover from an injury.

This year’s tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon has sparked a new saying: “If you see something, say something,” reminding us all that we are the first line of defense when it comes to our own as well as our neighbors’ safety. This motto could also be used in the gym when you see someone demonstrating poor form; say something, but you better make sure you know what you are talking about first.

Topics: exercise strength training Fitness Center injury weight training

Balance Training is Important at Any Age

business woman balancingOne of the most overlooked factors of physical fitness is balance. This is especially important for the senior population, but balance is something every age group should think about. Balance is important in order to remain upright and steady when sitting up, standing, and walking. We utilize balance constantly in our daily routines without even thinking about it.

Completing balance exercises will result in fewer injuries and improved stability with age, and that will keep individuals stronger and independent for a longer time period. Improving balance does not have to take large amounts of time out of your day. The following exercises will reduce your base of support and challenge your stability in various ways.

  1. Knee raise and extension: From a seated position, raise your knee and then slowly kick, or extend your leg out straight. This exercise works your upper thigh and hip muscles. These are both important muscle groups for stability. This exercise can be done anytime while seated. For example, do this exercise during a commercial break while watching your favorite TV show.
  2. Walk heel-to-toe: Place one foot directly in front of the other foot while walking. This exercise can be done at home when walking down a hallway or near a table or counter so that you have something to grab onto if necessary. For example, do this exercise while walking from your living room to your bedroom at night.
  3. Stand on one foot: While standing, lift one leg off of the ground. After holding for 30 seconds, switch feet. This exercise can be done anywhere when you are just standing still. Be sure to keep something stable close in case you need to grab it for extra support. For example, do this exercise at home while standing at the kitchen sink.
  4. Chair stands: This is a sit-to-stand exercise. Move to the edge of your seat, place your arms across your chest, and then push through your heels to stand up out of the chair. This exercise will help strengthen lower-body muscles that are important for mobility and stability. This exercise will be most beneficial if you focus on using only your legs to get up out of the chair (try not to push yourself up with your arms). For example, do this exercise during a TV commercial break a few times to improve lower-body strength.
  5. Tandem and semi-tandem stance: Stand with one foot directly in front of the other, or stand with one foot slightly in front of and off to the side of the other foot. Do this exercise for 30 seconds, and then switch the foot you have forward. This exercise can be done anywhere you are standing still. For example, do this exercise while waiting in line at the grocery store. Keep your shopping cart in front of you in case you need some extra support.

Try doing these exercises throughout your day to work on improving your balance and stability. If you need to start out holding onto something while doing these exercises, that is okay. The more you do the exercises, the easier they will become. As the exercises become easier, you can further challenge your balance by closing your eyes. I hope you find these exercises simple, beneficial, and enjoyable!

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Topics: corporate wellness balance strength training senior fitness

Free Workout Friday: Weight-Loss Circuit

Free Workout Friday

It’s Good Friday! That means two more days until we find ourselves seated around the Easter dinner table, snacking on chocolate eggs, and getting second helpings of ham.

It’s important to remember that even though physical activity is important to overall health and weight-loss or maintenance, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. A person may be able to burn roughly 300 calories for a 3-mile run or 30 minutes on the elliptical, but it is very easy to consume 300 calories in just a handful of candy, a large soda, or a coffee drink with added flavors and whipped cream.

As you try your best to maintain healthy eating patterns around the holiday, try this weight-loss circuit to help shed calories before (and after) the big feast. Alternating cardio exercises with higher-impact or combination strength moves will keep your heart rate elevated throughout the entire workout, thus burning more calories!

Complete 45 seconds of each exercise, allowing 15 seconds of recovery time in between each exercise. Try not to rest for more than the allotted 15 seconds in order to keep the heart rate up. Repeat the circuit 3 times through for a jam-packed 24-minute workout! Watch our short video for exercise demonstrations!

  1. Butt kicks
  2. Squat, bicep curl, shoulder press
  3. Line jumps
  4. Rolling medicine ball push-ups
  5. High knees
  6. Side lunge with upright row (switch sides halfway through)
  7. Plank jacks
  8. Plié squat with overhead medicine ball swing

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Topics: weight loss weight management Free Workout Friday cardio calories strength training high-intensity workouts

Free Workout Friday: March Madness Workout

Free Workout FridayYou don’t have to be a collegiate athlete to join in the fun of NCAA’s March Madness! The tournament is now in full swing. You may be glued to the TV and swept up in “bracketology,” but you can use the half-time breaks to sneak in a quick workout!

Cardio is important for basketball or any sport that involves constant running up and down a court or field. Quick reaction time is also important for basketball players so that they can capitalize on rebounds and open holes in the opposing team’s defense. As for strength training, developing power in the legs for jumping is crucial as well as building upper-body strength for long passes and three-point shots.

The following exercises are similar to those that basketball athletes use to help them train for the big game. But they are a fun challenge for anyone! View the video below for exercise demonstrations.

  1. Basketball single-leg squat
  2. Basketball push-ups
  3. Basketball lunges (side to right and crossover to left)
  4. Medicine ball squat throws
  5. Medicine ball slams

The NCAA Men’s Final Four takes place in Atlanta this year, with the championship game on April 8. The Women’s Final Four will happen in New Orleans, with their final game taking place on April 9. For more information about March Madness, click here!

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Topics: Free Workout Friday fitness cardio strength training

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

free workout fridayIf you’ve spent time in a gym, you know “that guy,” the one who doesn’t work his lower body and just focuses on upper body. Lower-body strength training is just as important as upper-body. The largest muscles are located in the lower body. Working larger muscles tends to get your heart rate up higher and burns more calories. More important, the muscles in the lower body are used for everyday movements and help with balance and coordination.

Regular lower-body strength training helps to increase bone density and strength. Strengthening the lower-body muscles around the joints also helps to strengthen the joints, decreasing the risk of injury in the hips and knees. The lower body is the powerhouse for most sports and activities, so try this workout for maximum results!

Eventually work your way up to going through this workout twice. (See the video link for specific instructions on form.) All you should need for this workout is a set of dumbbells and a step/bench/chair. I love lower-body workouts, so join me for this one and let me know what you think.

  • Side/lateral lunges (12 to 15 reps each side)
  • 45 seconds skater lunges
  • Repeat
  • Squat―alternating knee crunches (1 minute)
  • 30 seconds squat hops
  • Calf raises―toes straight, in and out (15 reps each direction)
  • 30 seconds calf jumps (stay on toes)
  • Straight leg deadlifts―form is very important! (15 reps)
  • Single-leg squats (15 reps each leg)
  • Single-leg squat hops
  • Right leg lunges (10 reps), lunge hold (20 seconds), lunge pulses (20 seconds)
  • Left leg lunges (10 reps), lunge hold (20 seconds), lunge pulses (20 seconds)
  • Squat hold (30 seconds) staying in a squat―hop feet out and in (30 seconds)
  • Lunges with back foot elevated on step/bench (12 reps each leg)

You can also refer to the demonstration video for details on which exercises are to be used with weights. Toward the end of the workout, if your legs get too fatigued, just set the weights down and do the lunges/squats with no weight. Don’t forget to stretch at the end of all workouts!

Topics: corporate fitness Free Workout Friday balance joint health strength training bone density

How to Improve Balance with Weight Shifting Exercises


The number-one challenge that the aging population faces is balance because the number-one concern is falling. The question has always been, “What causes these falls and how can we continue to prevent them”? The answer from a recent study is outstanding (no pun intended!).

Study Shows What Causes Senior Falls

An 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. These 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 result of the study concluded that the number-one cause of falls (41 percent) was incorrect weight shifting: basically, how one moves or transfers from one position to another.

The study identified that the majority of falls occurred during standing and transferring, how we go from the position of standing still to starting to move. Staying balanced doesn’t involve only maintaining it when we are in motion, but the study has proven that how we begin that motion can be much more crucial to staying in balance.

Weight-Shifting Exercises for Senior Fitness and Balance

Therefore, in order to improve balance and prevent falls, it is crucial that a balance program incorporate weight-shifting exercises to help teach seniors about their center of gravity. Weight-shifting exercise can also improve coordination, strengthen the muscles in the lower extremities, and teach slower and more precise movements. Older adults should speak with a qualified fitness professional who understands the functional needs of the population, including balance-training recommendations. Fitness professionals can administer balance-training and weight-shifting exercises through one-on-one personal training sessions, group exercise classes, or simple recommendations of exercises for one to include in his or her normal fitness routine.

Here are some examples of weight-shifting exercises for active older adults:

  • 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 in the other direction. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
  • 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.

If you are interested in reading about the study and the specific findings, follow this link.

Download our QuickRead for more information on the importance of teaching physical balance in your active aging community!

Senior Fitness, teaching balance

Topics: senior wellness programs balance strength training senior fitness fall prevention

Mixing Elliptical and Walking for Employee Fitness

elliptical machineBy now you’ve probably heard that mixing up your workouts is the thing to do. I think it’s important to mix up your strength exercises and cardio sessions. Here are my thoughts on elliptical workouts and walking and how to use them both.

Benefits of Elliptical Workouts

The elliptical is one of my favorite cardio machines. It’s easier on the joints and you can move your arms on most elliptical machines to help burn more calories. If you contract your abs (without holding your breath) while moving your arms and legs on the elliptical, you can also get a core workout. Crank up the resistance and switch directions (forward and backward) often to work more muscles.

Benefits of Walking Workouts

Walking is the easiest way to burn calories. You can get up and go for walks throughout your day. Most people when walking naturally are not going to get their arms moving as much as when using the elliptical, however. When walking, try to move your arms as much as possible and push your speed to help burn more calories. Also, try to add some hills in your walk or increase the incline if you're walking on the treadmill.

Using Both Elliptical and Walking in Your Workouts

The elliptical allows you to use more muscles than walking, and you can work some muscles on the back side of your body, too, by going backward. They both are lower-impact exercises for the joints. You will benefit from doing different movements, so start incorporating both walking and the elliptical if you haven’t already! Talk with your corporate fitness center staff for ideas on how to mix it up best.

Topics: employee health corporate fitness cardio mixing workouts strength training