Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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

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.

We make corporate fitness easy.  Find out how.

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

High-Touch Versus High-Tech in Corporate Wellness

fit techThere’s been a lot in the media lately about wearable technology having a strong presence in corporate wellness. Employee wellness programs have provided a whole new market for some wearable manufacturers, and one research firm indicates that upwards of 13 million wearables could become part of employee wellness initiatives in the next five years.

The Challenges with  High Tech Wellness

This specific high-tech phenomenon is fairly new and relatively unresearched in terms of long-term effectiveness at helping adults make sustainable health behavior change. But technology in corporate wellness has been around for years and it has evolved to keep up with perceived wants and needs. Years (and I mean years) ago, we used to take health risk assessments (HRA) on paper. Then those moved to this thing called the internet. Eventually, we got “smart” feedback on those HRAs and our fingerstick data was integrated with our self-report HRA responses to create a profile.

Now we have web capacity to integrate with pedometers and other higher-tech wearables like Up® by Jawbone® and various products by Fitbit. The data syncs up to a company site where we can compete with our peers, and it links with our own tracking tools on our phones. We have access to a lot of information about our movement. Still, I wonder if data is really king when it comes to health behavior change. Are high-tech solutions enough to help someone move their own needle?

You probably have anecdotes where someone’s health was profoundly changed with the help of a wearable, an app, or some combination. You, like me, may also know stories where a wearable began an obsession with data and quickly sucked all the fun out of measuring the movement. So effectiveness may very well be in the arm of the wearer (so to speak). Still, there are definite limits to today’s tech solutions. Maybe someone will solve them down the line, but right now, as I see it, there are barriers on tech that limit potential impact on improving health. There’s a great outline of these limits in this Forbes article.

There are other issues with a high-tech-only solution that have come to light recently, as well. For example, while more and more boomers (who are still in your workforce) are adopting technology solutions in various areas of their lives, they still lag behind Gen X and Millennials in their rate of adoption. This article makes the case that boomers may be the demographic most likely to benefit from, and most willing to pay for health-related technology, but the market isn’t designing for them.

And while the technology certainly supports what seems to be the unquenchable thirst for data, there is still the tricky math involved in determining whether your employee wellness device translates to actual company savings on health care.

How High Touch Wellness Helps

When you look at the challenges identified in the Forbes article, many (dare I say all) of them can be worked through or even remedied by a human being with a brain and some capacity for nuance. And here’s where high-touch in corporate wellness steps up.

The right people powering your corporate wellness program should be

  • Both capable of and passionate about helping your employees establish healthy goals and effective plans to achieve those goals.
  • Compassionate motivators who have the right skills to nudge participants toward finding their own intrinsic motivation.
  • Nuanced enough to know when to step in to provide a course correction when your employees stop engaging or when their efforts aren’t achieving the carefully crafted goals.
  • Savvy at helping participants understand their data in a way that’s meaningful and impactful.

Using people in a high-touch capacity to bolster and back up your high-tech tools can be an effective way to help your employees achieve better health. 

CORP Initiatives

 

Topics: corporate wellness employee health technology corporate wellness staffing counting steps

Employee Health: Smaller Is Better

This blog was written by Melissa Cusick. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

cell phones, technologyIn the world of technology, time equals improvement and efficiency. Back in the day, we had computers that occupied the space of an entire room and Zack Morris-sized cell phones. Now we have personal computers that fit in the palm of a hand and Zoolander-sized cell phones. It seems that as more is discovered in the world of technology, items have become smaller and more efficient. Interestingly enough, this concept does not seem to apply to people.

In 1995 when the United States began tracking obesity rates, Mississippi had the nation’s highest adult obesity rate at 19.8 percent. Now, 16 years later in 2011, Colorado has the nation’s lowest adult obesity rate at 19.4 percent.

As you can see, what used to be the upper end of the nation’s obesity scale is now at the extreme low end of the spectrum. This is concerning because common conditions associated with obesity include, but are not limited to, high cholesterol and triglycerides, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease, all conditions that can be avoided with proper nutrition and activity.

Nowadays, we have low-calorie options at stores and restaurants, fitness centers popping up on virtually every corner, and educational tools at our fingertips. We can download an app on our tiny cell phones to count calories or find a healthy restaurant or fitness facility. But do we?

Something common to the field of technology and humans is that bigger is not always better. What has changed in our society in the last 16 years that has influenced the adult obesity rate to increase so severely? What can corporate wellness programs do to help reverse this alarming trend?

Topics: corporate wellness obesity technology

Senior Health & Wellness: Staying "Home Sweet Home"

This blog was written by Melissa Sherman. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

senior wellness, retirement, seniors at homeAs the first wave of baby boomers are turning 65 this year, there is a rush to the finish line in the technology field to see who can come up with the best ideas to keep elders healthy, happy, and in their own homes.

With the array of senior-living care available between group housing, nursing homes, and assisted-living establishments, you may be wondering what the importance of keeping seniors in their homes might be, but experts now believe that quality of life for seniors is significantly better when they are able to stay in their own homes. This is not to mention much cheaper for society keeping them at home is than these senior-living homes or institutions.

Studies are being conducted by the Oregon Center for Aging and Technology at Oregon Health and Science University in order to come up with new ideas and technology to keep elders in their homes without jeopardizing their safety and health. The research lab in Oregon includes a model home with all the latest gadgets, such as motion sensors along hallways and ceilings to record gait and walking speed, a back door monitor to observe when one leaves the house, a refrigerator monitor to keep tabs on how one is eating, and even a bed that assesses breathing patterns, heart rate, and general sleep quality. Some other gadgets include a pill box with electronic switches that records when medication is taken. In the works are several other items such as software to help dementia patients find their way home if they get lost, devices that interpret facial expressions, and robotic "pets" that have lifelike interactions with seniors.

There is still much to be done, though, and many hills to climb before you will see this technology on the shelves. Families would have to spend several hundred dollars or more to get these sensors, and monthly monitoring fees can top $100, with little to no help from insurance or Medicaid. However, if these new devices can help keep seniors happier and healthier, as well as help to save society money in the long run, why shouldn’t we all have the opportunity to spend our golden years right where we have always belonged: “home sweet home”?

Topics: senior wellness programs technology independence

Using the iLog1 App in Corporate Wellness Programs

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Little did we know when the iPhone was introduced that it could one day transform our total body fitness. Robert Jay Martin has attempted to do just that with his new app, the iLog1, available for iPhone, iPad, or iPod.

iphone

iLog1 Tracks Health Stats and Reports Trends

I’ve come across several phone apps and online tools that can track both diet and exercise, but the iLog1 goes a few steps further to enable the user to record their sleep habits, body mass index (BMI), daily mood, and even housework or other chores. The best feature is that the iLog1 charts all of this data to display trends. In any scientific research, or even an individual’s lifestyle change, it’s the trends that are the most telling.

The iLog1 also offers enough customization to be used by skilled athletes, fitness newbies, or even a large company looking to track how many employees participate in corporate health incentives.

Introducing iLog1 into Corporate Wellness Programs

Corporate fitness management has, in the past, used systems of handwritten food journals, paper exercise logs, or maybe certain computer programs to track diet or exercise progress. How could we introduce applications like these into our corporate wellness programming?

While we are not pushing any certain product or brand on our clients, as you’re doing a one-on-one consultation with a member, it could be worth asking whether he or she already owns an iPhone. If so, the iLog1 could be a valid solution to helping the client manage and track his or her fitness goals.

In the corporate world, I believe employees value the convenience of needing only one hand-held device to quickly enter their health stats throughout the day. One quick glance at the iLog1 could tell the user how many calories are left in the day’s budget before going out for a lunch meeting. As busy employees are checking e-mail on the iPhone or iPad, they could also check their iLog1 and be reminded to fit in those 30 minutes of cardio before they go home.

Survival and success of corporate fitness programming depends on offering impactful information and guidance in a technologically savvy, gadget-loving world. Convenience sells!

 

 

  

Topics: exercise corporate fitness nutrition technology

A Corporate Fitness Program Manager Evaluates the Shake Weight

You might have seen, or at least heard about, the Shake Weight commercial. It's that somewhat (and by "somewhat," I mean "very") suggestive ad with a woman (and now a man) shaking a spring-loaded dumbbell at chest level.

As a corporate fitness professional, when I see a new fitness Shake Weightproduct, my first instinct is to investigate further. Did I miss out on inventing yet another ingenious fitness product? Am I going to think "Why didn't I think of that?" There are a plethora of fitness products that I should have invented, including the Gliding disks, the BOSU, and the Bender Ball. Will the Shake Weight be the next product on my list?

The Claims: Strong, Toned, Ripped Arms and Chest

During my initial investigation, I found the product's claim on its website: “In just 6 minutes a day, you'll get strong, toned, ripped arms and chest.” The 2.5-pound (5 pounds for men) product has a spring on either end and is powered by your movement. It comes with an upper-body-toning DVD and an unconditional money-back guarantee.

The product promises to meet its claims through a “completely new workout technology called dynamic inertia.” According to the manufacturer of the Shake Weight, dynamic inertia (the vibration of the muscles) results in a 300 percent increase in muscle.

The Verdict: Not So Fast

A recent simulation study by LifeMOD concluded that vibration training can give us the body we have been waiting for. Keep in mind, though, that this study was not done on humans.

Although the product may have one supporting study, I still have my doubts. The arms and chest may be the most glamorous-looking muscles, but in order to have a well-functioning body, all the major muscle groups should be worked. More importantly, six minutes a day of upper-body work does not meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations of 150 minutes of aerobic activity and two or more days of strength training for all the major muscle groups.

If getting the “ripped arms and chest” that you see advertised in the commercials is the primary goal of your workout, it will take a lot more work than just shaking a weight for six minutes a day to get them. Without a balanced diet, a regular exercise program, and some hard work, it is nearly impossible to build those “ripped” muscles.

A Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

If the Shake Weight claims are true, be on the lookout for exercisers everywhere shaking things in the gym. Gone will be the days of shoulder presses, lunges, and pushups. In will be the days of shaking to create results.

In hindsight, I won't be adding the Shake Weight to my list of fitness products that I should have invented. I will stick with traditional weightlifting for now. If I feel the need to shake something for some muscle activation, I'll grab a bottle of all-natural fruit juice and shake it for six minutes before I take a drink. But hey, if the New York Jets think it's amusing enough to try out in training camp, my conclusion may be way off! 

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program corporate fitness technology

Can Smartphone Apps Help Employee Health?

SmartphoneSmartphones and related devices are pretty versatile. They can remind you where you parked your car, help you locate the nearest drugstore, and provide you with the latest gardening tips. But did you also know that they could help your employees stay committed to their health and fitness goals?

Some of the most popular smartphone applications that are available (for purchase or for free) can help you design a fitness routine or report the calorie content of the jumbo java you’re eyeing. Here are a few apps your employees might find useful for staying on track and improving their health and fitness.

Do your employees need help designing a beneficial fitness routine?  

App: iFitness
Available for: iPhone, BlackBerry, iPod Touch
Price: $1.99

Ranked the number-one paid fitness application for iPhone, this application is like a personal trainer in your pocket. iFitness enables you to view up to 100 exercises (pictures and instructions included) by muscle group or select one of the 12 predesigned workouts to follow. Once you’ve mastered the preset routines, you can create your own. You also have the ability to track your progress by making notes; recording sets, reps, and weight lifted; and other achievements like weight and inches lost.

Help overweight employees take off those unwanted pounds.

App: Lose It!
Available for: iPhone and iPod Touch
Price: Free

This app is a calorie-tracking tool that uses a predetermined equation to establish what your daily calorie intake should be based on your target weight goal. The large database allows you to enter the foods you’ve eaten, including the portion size, and track your intake each day. Lose It! hasn’t forgotten about exercise, either. Enter an activity like playing Frisbee or mowing the lawn, and it is factored into your daily caloric allowance.

Chill Out: Help employees relax and de-stress.

App: iRelax Melodies Lite and iRelax Premium
Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad
Price: Lite—free; Premium—$3.99

iRelax Melodies is the self-titled “Sleep & Meditation & Yoga & Relaxation Helper.” Listen to one of four looping sounds on the Lite version designed to help you relax or sleep. Other features allow you to mix any of the sounds yourself for a personalized melody as well as a timer that ends the melody at the time you decide. Save and replay your favorite melodies anytime you need to escape. The premium edition includes 36 melodies as well as binaural beats known to help the brain reach a particular relaxation state.

Improve employee health one morsel at time.

App: Morsel
Available for: Apple devices, Android, and BlackBerry
Price: Free

Move toward a healthier lifestyle one daily, healthy suggestion at a time. This application from GE offers up simple daily tasks, or “morsels,” that everyone can do. “Morsel empowers you to take control of your well-being, one step at a time,” says the app description. Examples of the daily tasks include

  • "Drink and refill a water bottle."
  • "Don’t put extra salt on anything you eat today."
  • "Walk backwards for 10 steps."

Help your employees stop smoking.

App: No Smoking
Available for: BlackBerry
Price: $9.99

Thinking about quitting smoking? This app may be for you. No Smoking is designed to slowly wean you off cigarettes by first learning your smoking pattern. The app records your smoking frequency and severity. Then, when you’re ready to quit, it really goes to work. The app uses the information it learns and tailors a smoking schedule that slowly decreases your smoking frequency, lowering your nicotine level over time until you’ve completely quit.

App: iQuit
Available for: Apple devices
Price: $1.99

Not only does this app keep track of the number of days it’s been since you quit smoking, it displays the extra life you’ve gained and the amount of money you’ve saved by not buying cigarettes. When you download this app to your iPhone, you’ll be able to see how your health has improved with stats like, “After 2-12 weeks, your circulation improves, making walking and running a lot easier.”

Does your company offer Weight Watchers for Employees?

App: Weight Watchers Mobile
Available for: Apple devices and BlackBerry
Price: Included with Weight Watchers fee

Weight Watchers Mobile makes searching and tracking point values (the units associated with the Weight Watchers weight-loss program) simple and convenient. This app can help you make selections that fit within your point budget when you’re eating out at a restaurant or picking up some groceries on your way home from work. Don’t forget about those activity points, either. When you’ve completed your two-mile walk, enter it in your activity log for easing tracking.

Other health-related apps your employees could use:

Topics: employee health healthy workforce overweight employees technology

BMI vs. Body Fat Percent: Which Is a Better Employee Health Measure?

BodPodCorporate wellness program members hear terms like BMI, body fat percentage, girth measurements, and waist-to-hip ratio floating around on a daily basis. There is more to a person's body composition than just the number on the scale, but what number matters the most? Let's compare body mass index (BMI) to body fat percentage.

Using BMI (Body Mass Index) to Measure Employee Health

BMI is a ratio of a person's height to weight. Think of it as a chart where you would find your height on one side and your weight on the other. Connect the two dots, and boom: That number you landed on is your BMI. (Here's an online BMI calculator.)

As you can see just from that description, BMI is a very general assessment of overall body makeup. It tends to be more abstract. Tell someone that his or her BMI is 23.7 and, chances are, that won't mean much to the individual. People are classified as either underweight, normal, overweight, or obese, with no breakdown within those broad categories.

Body Fat Percentage for Determining Employee Health

Percent body fat, on the other hand, requires a more involved process for testing (including bioelectric impedance, skinfolds, underwater weighing and BodPod (air displacement) technology) to determine how much of a person's total body weight is comprised of fat versus fat-free mass (muscles, bones, organs, tissue, etc.). Body fat percentage is more telling of a person's fitness level. Two people may look the same as far as appearances go, and quite possibly have the same BMI. But they could have very different body fat amounts.

The application of percent body fat is simple. If a person weighs 160 pounds and is told his body fat is 15%, he can do the math and know that he is carrying 24 pounds of fat and 136 pounds of fat-free mass. If this person loses 10 pounds over the course of a few months and retests his percent body fat, he will have specific data to compare, whereas his BMI rating may be in the same category as it was before.

Why Percent Body Fat Is a Better Emloyee Heath Measurement

Over the years I have seen articles surface claiming things such as that BMI may not be an accurate measurement for different ethnicities, neck measurements are just as valid as BMI, etc. But percent body fat cannot be as easily argued against.

The big commonly known fault with BMI, and the reason behind its generality, is that the number does not take muscle mass into account. This makes BMI misleading in two ways:

  • Firstly, a person who is underweight or normal on the BMI scale may still have a high percentage of body fat, meaning a lower level of fitness.
  • On the flip side, a person with a large amount of muscle mass, for example a football player or bodybuilder, could be told by the BMI ranking that he or she is morbidly overweight, when the individual in fact has a low percent body fat and high fitness level.

I perform body composition tests in my corporate fitness center, using the Jackson-Pollock 7-site skinfold protocol, and I see these scenarios often. I have to explain the huge discrepancy when a person's BMI is in a healthy range but the body fat percentage is high, or vice versa.

The bottom line is that BMI is a general overview and can be an introductory assessment of a person's body composition. It's perhaps useful when more involved testing is not available. For more truth behind the matter, look at percent body fat.

(Further reading: See this article, which discusses the validity of both numbers.)

Topics: employee health corporate fitness worksite wellness technology

Exercising at work - use music to move more

 

Working Out with MusicI have always wondered how people can exercise without music. Music is one of the main reasons I exercise! When I get a break at work or on a Saturday morning, I look forward to listening to my music while I burn a few calories.

Working in onsite corporate fitness management, I see a lot of different types of people on a daily basis. While some members want only the TV on for noise, most have their own iPods and headphones so they can hear whatever type of music motivates them. Sometimes, while I’m looking out the window in my office watching people work out, I try to imagine what type of music they are listening to. I think it’s entertaining because I’m sure most of the time I’m way off.

Music Can Help Your Workout

I personally find music very motivating. It helps to take my mind off the sweat running in my eyes and my lower-body muscles fatiguing out. I can also play mind games with myself using my music as motivation. For example, I will speed up the treadmill or increase the resistance on the elliptical for the length of the song. This helps me to work harder and in turn burn more calories.

Music Tempo Can Affect Your Workout

I have discovered that I need to have mostly upbeat music because I move to the tempo of the song. For example, on the stair climber I find myself slowing down or speeding up according to the beat of the music. That’s why most group fitness CDs have warm-up and cool-down songs. This helps to get the body and brain in the mode to exercise and then to relax afterward.

Your Music Challenge

Discover tunes that motivate you and make a playlist that includes slower tempos for warm up and cool down and faster tempos for working hard and burning calories. (Add links to some sample playlists).

Topics: exercise at work Be inspired exercise at home technology personal interest