Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

NIFS Collaboration: Maximizing Resident Engagement

A significant value component we bring to our senior living clients is that our staff have a team of peers doing this work across the country and we pride ourselves in collaboration and networking best practices across our client sites. It’s important that fitness stay fresh and fun to maximize engagement in your community and with dozens of emails just like this circulating around our team each month, the flow of ideas is constantly elevating how we serve our clients. Below is a monthly recap email from our superstar staff Kayla Hill in Towson, Maryland that was sent to our team of managers in 14 states across the country. She has a wonderful team at her community who she collaborates with regularly to bring these special programs and events to life and as you can see, she has a lot of fun doing it and sharing her story with her peers.

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If your community could benefit from a stream of fresh ideas to enhance resident engagement in your fitness offerings, contact NIFS today.

Get Our Guide to Successful Fitness Programs

 

Topics: nifs fitness management staffing effective wellness programming resident engagement

How to properly fuel your body, pre/post workout

GettyImages-1363588189Fueling your body before and after exercise is essential for ensuring you will have enough energy to both perform and recover. However, it is important to choose the right  foods, and to consume them at the appropriate time, to optimize your nutrition. What and when you eat varies depending on the individual and their preferences, the type of activity being performed, and whether the food is being consumed before or after physical activity.

Pre-Exercise Nutrition
Ideally, you should aim to eat within 1 to 3 hours of exercise. When you should eat will
depend on the amount of food that is to be consumed. Allow 3-4 hours for a large meal (400 calories or more), about 2-3 hours for a smaller meal (200-300 calories), and one to two hours for a snack (100-200 calories) to digest. Eating too close to physical activity may result in gastrointestinal discomfort or impaired performance. Everyone’s body is different, so try
experimenting to see what time frame is best for yours. Similarly, consume familiar foods that you know will not cause stomach discomfort during activity (common culprits include
fried/greasy foods and high fat/very high fiber foods).

Good pre-exercise snacks/meals include:
● Cereal with fat-free milk and a piece of fruit
● Whole grain toast with mashed avocado or peanut butter
● A fried or scrambled egg with whole grain toast
● Low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit
● A fruit smoothie

Post-Exercise Nutrition
Typically, it is best to eat within 1 hour of an intense workout. If you’re unable to tolerate
a large meal after exercise, a small snack or meal (100-300 calories) should suffice until you’re able to stomach something more significant. Despite being finished with your activity or exercise, it is still necessary to replenish your energy stores by consuming carbohydrates and/or fats with your post-workout meal. Additionally, obtaining enough protein is important for muscle recovery and repair.

Good post-exercise snacks/meals include:
● A protein shake or smoothie
● Chicken, tuna or turkey on whole grain bread/toast
● Low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit
● Low-fat chocolate milk
● Hard-boiled egg and string cheese

Don’t forget to hydrate! Consuming a large amount of fluid prior to exercise is likely to cause an upset stomach, so try to stay hydrated throughout the day before and after exercising, and keep a water bottle with you during activity when possible! A general rule of thumb is to drink at least 8 ounces of water for every 10-20 minutes of exercise you complete.

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Topics: diet and exercise foot health Dietitian Connection

Pool Flexibility for Seniors

GettyImages-509106582Exercising in the pool is great way to get in a workout! The water helps support you and allows you to challenge yourself! You can safely push the limits of your balance or get a thorough strength workout without putting too much stress on your joints compared to working out on land. Have you ever considered taking your flexibility workout into the pool? Increasing the range of motion within your joints and developing flexibility in major muscle and tendon groups can keep you mobile, promote better posture, and help prevent injuries. All these combine to reduce stress on your body!

People of any age can improve their flexibility and range of motion by practicing flexibility exercises! Seniors can start to see their flexibility grow within a month if they consistently practice two to three days each week, although stretching is most effective when done daily. Older adults should try to hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds and repeat each stretch three times. You don’t have to try to twist yourself into a pretzel to get a good stretch. Small movements or static stretches that help maintain or increase flexibility for each muscle group will do the trick. When you hold a stretch, you should never feel pain and you should breathe throughout the stretch. Hold a stretch until you feel tension in your muscles, but don’t pull so hard that it hurts.

When you first get into the water, be sure and warm up before you start stretching because flexibility exercises are most effective when the muscle is warm. Start by walking a few laps around the pool to loosen up. If you are exercising in a heated pool, that’s a bonus for stretching!

Take advantage of all parts of your pool. Do you have steps leading down into the water? Use the bottom step as an extra level while stretching! A safety bar along the shallow end of your pool? Perfect! Holding onto the bar can help you pull closer into a deep calf stretch. A bench seat along one wall? This way you don’t have to get your hair wet while doing seated stretches.

Try a few of these stretches in the water! Take deep, slow breaths, and stretch both sides of your body. Be sure and stay hydrated even when exercising in the water! If your pool is outdoors, don’t forget your hat and sunscreen.

  • Stand at one end of the pool and face the wall. Hold onto the wall for balance. Position your toes and the ball of one foot on the wall. Keep your heel of the other foot on the floor. Straighten your legs, stand tall, and use your arms to pull your hips toward the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of your front leg
  • Extend one leg out in front of you propping the heal on the floor, straighten your knee as far as you comfortably can, and pull your toes up towards the ceiling. Stretch your arms straight ahead until you feel a stretch along the hamstring of your front leg.
  • Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and rest your arms on the surface of the water. Slowly rotate your torso side to side while keeping your hips facing forward.
  • Try to clasp your hands behind your lower back and straighten your elbows. Lift your chest up towards the ceiling and raise your hands up behind you as far as you comfortably can.

The pool is a great addition to your fitness routine. Take your flexibility workout in the water and see what you can do in the water!

Topics: active aging balance training pool exercise

Alkaline Water: Is It Worth the Hydration Hype?

GettyImages-1352302431We all know it’s essential to stay hydrated in the summer and that the best way to do so is by drinking plenty of water. But is there a certain type of water, such as “alkaline” water, that offers better hydration? Here’s what our RD has to say.

Alkaline water is typically fortified with small amounts of “alkalizing” minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and/or sodium to increase its pH, making it less acidic. The pH scale is used to specify the acidity or basicity (alkalinity) of a water-based solution. The pH scale ranges from 0, highly acidic, to 14, highly basic. For perspective, some everyday liquids and their respective pHs include battery acid (pH = 0), tomato juice (pH = 4), baking soda (pH = 9) and bleach (pH = 13). While pure water has a pH of 7, alkaline water typically has a pH of 8 or 9.

Some individuals hypothesize that drinking water with a higher pH than that of the body’s blood - between 7.35 and 7.45 for healthy individuals - can help decrease acidity in the body by raising its overall pH. However, the pH of the body is tightly regulated by our kidneys and lungs and excessive acid build up is unlikely, unless an underlying health condition is present, such as kidney or respiratory failure, severe infection, uncontrolled diabetes, or physical muscle trauma. Even in cases such as these, a lot more would need to be done than drinking water with a slightly higher pH than that of the body. With a pH of closer to 2-3, stomach acid would likely neutralize the water immediately, regardless of how high its pH. And even if the extra “alkaline” in alkaline water was able to make it into our bloodstream, it would quickly be filtered by our kidneys and removed from the body by way of our urine.

Overall, alkaline water is still water; therefore, it is generally safe for consumption and serves its main purpose: to hydrate you. However, any out of the ordinary health benefits boasted on the label are likely just a marketing tactic. Nevertheless, alkaline water is a great choice for hydration, especially when compared to sugary, high-calorie beverages such as soda, sugary sports drinks, and/or juice. Be sure to stay hydrated this summer by drinking plenty of water - alkaline or not!

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Topics: hydration water wellness

Tips for Staying Hydrated

GettyImages-1372307016Do you drink enough water throughout the day? The body and all of the systems in it require a certain level of water to preform everyday activities. Staying hydrated can help move waste out, maintain a normal body temperature, and cushion your joints. Here are six tips to make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day.   

Carry a water bottle. A reusable water bottle is a fantastic way to increase fluid intake while reducing plastic waste. You are going to be more likely to drink water if you have it with you than you would if the water fountain was right down the hall. A water bottle makes water readily available to you whenever you feel thirsty. You could even personalize your water bottle to make it an accessory, like a purse or watch.  

Add flavor. I get it, water can be bland, flavorless, and not all water tastes the same. Give your water a touch of flavor by adding produce. There are water bottles that are made for fruit infusions! Citrus fruits, berries, cucumbers, mint, or rosemary added to your water can bring delicious flavors to your drink. Water flavoring packets like crystal light or electrolyte water additives can be a low-calorie way to add flavor to your water. You will be more likely to drink it if the water is not bland. 

Make it part of your routine. Become attached to your water bottle just like a cellphone. When you wake up in the morning, grab your water bottle and take a drink. You can add sips of water into your day after something you do often throughout your day. If you answer phones all day, take a sip of water after you hang up. This will become a habit if you stick to it. Soon you will catch yourself taking a drink of water because your desk neighbor’s phone rang. Just remember to refill the bottle when it is empty.

Alternate your drinks. You do not have to give up your juice, smoothie, coffee, or favorite tea. These drinks do have water in them although not enough to keep you hydrated. Try having a glass of water the next time you go to fill up you cup. A cup of water every other drink can help keep you hydrated without you craving tea or juice later. This method can also help you cut back on the caffeine and sugar intake. 

Eat your water. Hydration does not always come from drinking water. Certain fruits and vegetables contain high levels of water that can aid in hydration. Melons, cucumber, apples, lettuce, and others can help keep you hydrated if eaten throughout the day. When drinking water gets bland or you are in the mood for a healthy snack, give fruits and vegetables with high water contents a try.

Try sparkling water. If soda has become the first thing you reach for when you are thirsty, then flat water is not going to appeal to you. Switch out your soda for a can of sparkling water to quench your thirst. Sparkling water has less sugar and less calories than soda. Regular water does not contain the carbonation your body is so used to from drinking soda. Sparkling water contains that carbonation and comes in different flavors to satisfy your thirst while keeping your taste buds happy.

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Topics: hydration employee wellness healthy habits

What’s the best??? Practical tips from a NIFS pro!

GettyImages-1267419080Throughout my career in the health and fitness industry, I am constantly asked “what’s the best” cardio equipment, snacks, health bars, time of day to exercise, etc. Hopefully I can shed some light on some simple but important questions and answers.

What is the best time of day to exercise? Typically, the morning is best. As I say, get it over with before your day gets out of control. If you planned to exercise at 1pm and a friend invites you out for lunch, I would think you would accept the invitation and skip your workout.   If you exercise in the am, your day is wide open for any of those last-minute invitations. Research does not indicate that one time of day for exercise proves more beneficial to the body than others, but again starting your day with a workout helps to avoid it getting skipped. Do not let your workout suffer due to social engagements.

 

What is the best form of cardio equipment?  Very simple, the one you like and enjoy using. If you hate running or walking, the treadmill would not be the best fit even if it is a good piece of equipment. If you watch tv or read while you do your cardio workout, a recumbent bike where you are supported may be the safest option for you. Follow you brain, if you enjoy the activity, let the piece of equipment you use guide your choice of equipment.

What is the best snack? There are many organic options but the simplest with the least ingredients is always the best. Fresh fruit, cut up vegetables, lean protein like Greek yogurt or cheese or good old fashioned air popped popcorn are good choices. If you have a sweet tooth and are craving ice cream, pick up some frozen fruit bars. They are only 100 calories per bar, and some have actual fruit in them.

What should I eat in the morning if I’m not a breakfast person? By now you have all heard the importance of eating breakfast. Think of your body like a car, would you ever let your oil or fluids go low? Same thing with food. Do not deprive your body of food and please do not deny your body carbohydrates. They are the fuel of your body. Some simple ideas include an apple with peanut butter, fresh fruit, or yogurt with berries.

What is the best health bar? This goes back to you, which bar do you enjoy? Choose options that are low in sugar and have at least 10 grams of protein.

What’s the best exercise? I’m a big fan of push-ups! When done correctly, they work your core and are a complete upper body strength movement. Plus, there are a variety of modifications that can be used to maintain proper form by using a wall or countertop versus getting all the way down on the floor. Perform push-ups for the upper body and sit-to-stands for the lower body and you have worked the major muscle groups of the body with those two movements alone!

My balance is terrible - should I not exercise? Yes, you should absolutely exercise! By not actively engaging your muscles your balance will worsen. Start slowly, you didn’t lose your balance in a week, and you will not gain it back in a week. Work with a fitness professional to begin an exercise program customized to your needs that will allow you to safely build your strength and endurance over time.

As we get older, the answers to our questions 30 years ago are not the same answers. With so much misinformation out there, continue to listen to your body and keep moving!

Topics: active aging fitness for seniors

Summer Food Safety: Eating Outdoors

Summer is the best time for outdoor activities and fuel in the form of food is needed to support the fun. However, food safety can be a challenge in the summer, with more individuals becoming sick with a foodborne illness than any other season, as the warmer weather is an optimal environment for bacteria to grow. Between leaving food out in the hot summer sun to accidental cross contamination on the grill - here’s how to ensure you’re keeping your food safe this summer.

  1. GettyImages-483116915Wash your hands.
    • As always, you should wash your hands before preparing or eating any food, however, it is especially important to do so before and immediately after handling raw meat.
    • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  1. Cook food at the proper temperature.
    • Utilize a clean thermometer to measure the temperature, rather than guessing based on how it looks. Fresh fish, pork and beef steaks/chops should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F, while eggs and ground beef (hamburgers) to 160°F, and 165°F for chicken and turkey.

  2. Store food properly.
    • Not only is it important to cook food to the proper temperature, but food must be kept at the appropriate temperature to avoid bacterial growth that can result in unsafe food.
    • Cold foods should be kept below 40°F and discarded if they reach a temperature of 70°F or higher.
    • Hot foods should be kept above 135°F, refrigerated within 1 hour if it’s >90°F outside, and discarded if they have been sitting below 135°F for >4 hours.

  3. Don’t cross contaminate.
    • Marinate foods in the refrigerator, rather than on the counter or outside. Dispose of marinades and sauces that have come in contact with raw meat/raw meat juices immediately.
    • Keep raw food separate from cooked food.
    • Use a separate utensil/serving dish for handling raw and cooked meats and other foods.

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Topics: food food quality Dietitian Connection

Suspension Training For Seniors

GettyImages-1141158004Working with a senior population, the most commonly asked question I probably get is “How can I strengthen my legs/back/core.. etc?” As exercise professionals, we already know how as far as the exercise prescription goes, but with seniors, modality often becomes a challenge. Our clients typically have a whole range of physical issues to deal with including joint pain, balance issues, and overall weakness so the traditional sit-to-stand exercises aren’t always applicable. That’s where the TRX suspension training system comes into play.

The TRX was originally developed for Navy SEALS and other elite level soldiers and athletes, but over the years, it has worked its way into home gyms, rehab clinics, and even senior living communities. The TRX is portable, adjustable for all heights, allows you to control ROM, challenges core strength with almost every single exercise, and has hundreds of possible exercises your clients can enjoy.

When it comes to building strength in seniors, ACSM guidelines and other research will tell us that more repetitions are effective when it comes to older adult populations. But there is also evidence eccentric movements are also beneficial due to its reduced oxygen requirement lowering the metabolic demand, and the fact that muscles can move more weight in the lengthening phase versus the shortening phase (concentric).The TRX allows the use of both approaches to strength building, without any additional equipment, such as free weights.

For example, If I am working with a client who can only perform a few sit to stands by pushing off of their thighs or arm rests of a chair, simply prescribing more sit-to-stands may not be the best route, especially if the clients gets frustrated. Instead, I could place the client in a chair in front of a TRX, and use it for an assisted sit-to-stand! Simply have the client start standing up, and begin the descent down into the chair, making sure the hips are hinged back, the knees are bending and in alignment (as best as they can be) and have them sit as gently as possible. Then, perform the same exercise in reverse to stand up. Since the client already struggle to stand up without pushing, they can use the TRX to help pull themselves up, while pushing through the legs. Once the client has a feel for the exercise and can perform it safely, you could then start modifying the repetitions, intensity, and better yet, progress from sit-to-stand to a TRX assisted squat!

And that was just one example. If you have a client that’s looking to improve posture, a bit of upper body strength and core, the TRX row is a very easy to teach and effective. With the TRX adjusted to the proper height, have the client stand with the straps in both hands, with soft knees, shoulders down, and core engaged. Make sure you are standing behind them for safety purposes. Have client begin to lean back, allowing the elbows to leave their sides and begin to straighten out. Then, once the full ROM has been achieved, have the client drive their elbows back while squeezing the scapula together, returning to the starting position.

With limitless exercise possibilities, portability, and affordability, the TRX is perhaps the ultimate strength builder for seniors. The TRX company themselves have put out hundreds of videos on how to teach the exercises, ques, and progressions, so there are plenty of resources out there on how to use it. They even have their own certification courses! I would recommend any and all senior living communities to invest in the TRX and the education of their fitness professionals.

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Topics: active aging strength training

Can Physical Activity Improve Your Memory?

GettyImages-1284970958We all know that exercise is great for your health, but too often we think of improving our health as being able to move better, losing weight, having more energy, decreasing stress, or even improving our heart health, which are all great benefits don’t get me wrong! However, did you know that exercise can improve our memory and cognitive function as well? If not, you aren’t alone. The benefits that exercise can give our brain often tend to be overlooked.

Studies have shown that active individuals who are middle aged or older perform better on memory tests than those who are inactive. The best part is that being physically active does not have to mean doing an intense workout 7 days a week. Many studies have compared physically active people to those who are sedentary. These physically active people could simply be getting up and walking around for a few minutes every hour or going for a 20-minute walk at a leisurely pace most days of the week. Of course, being in the health and fitness field, we like to encourage individuals to try more formal types of exercise as well, but the benefits of simply getting up and moving should not be forgotten, especially when it comes to brain health.

A recent study that was published in November 2021 in the Journal of Neuroscience* found that active individuals in their 80s scored better on cognitive and memory tests than those individuals in the same age group who were more sedentary. The researchers also found that after some of the individuals had died, they were able to look at their brains and see that the inactive individuals showed greater signs of memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease. Once again, I think it’s important to note that of the active individuals, there were few who formally exercised. Those who were in the active group simply moved more and spent less time being still.

So, what does that mean for us? It means, keep moving! If you find yourself sitting for long periods of time throughout the day, try the following tips:

  • Set an alarm to go off every hour or put up a sticky note near your favorite chair that reminds you to move.
  • Walk the halls in your community or, when the weather is nice, walk around the grounds for 15-20 minutes.
  • See your NIFS fitness staff for some stretches that you can do at home while you’re watching TV
  • If you want to really keep your memory and cognitive function sharp, try combining movement with spelling words or assigning a movement with a color. For example, you are assigned blue to stepping forward, red to stepping sideways, and yellow to stepping backwards. Have a friend say one of the colors and step to the direction associated with the color. The challenge is remembering which direction is assigned to each color. You can challenge the brain, while having fun!

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Topics: active aging memory physical activity

The Importance of Changing Up Your Workout

GettyImages-529580019Working on one’s strength, agility, form, balance and flexibility are all so very important. Building/working on one’s strength helps prevent or lessen an injury. Using weights helps to strengthen the muscles. That being said, working the same muscles every day is not beneficial. Muscles need time to recover. Doing repetitive movements breaks the muscles down and causes wear and tear which leads to injury.

An example would be a marathon runner. Many runners only run, which puts a lot of strain on the body. Some runners cross-train (cross-training is doing another from of exercise that helps your muscles work in another way. (elliptical, bike, swim)).

Cross-training helps the muscles to work differently. Some runners have this thought that if they lift weights it will slow them down. When it’s actually the opposite. Weight training helps strengthen the muscles that the pressure is putting on those joints and body parts while running.

Switching up a land based class to an aqua class

Bike > Nustep

Nustep > Elliptical

All of these things will force one to use their muscles differently.

Another thing one can do while on a piece of cardio equipment is change the resistance and or speed on the machine. Increasing the resistance for 30 seconds to 2 minutes will get the muscles to work harder. Then go back to where you started from. The same with speeding up on the bike or Nustep for 30 second intervals and then going back to the starting pace.

While using weights, the amount of weights that one uses should be changed up for 6-8 weeks or maybe earlier depending on the individual. The muscles need to be challenged, by using the exact same weight all the time doesn’t do that for a person. When the same weights are being used over and over the body is going through the motions. Even if you can’t do as many reps, build up to the amount of reps you are doing with the new weights. Do one set with heavier weights, go back to the original, then go back to the new weight.

It is important to keep track of how long you have done the same workout for. It would be great if one can remember to change it up every 6-8 weeks. This will keep shocking and challenging the body to be the best it can.

Compare this to eating the same food all of the time, one gets bored and loses the flavor. The same goes for exercise, the body gets bored and doesn’t get the results that are wanted by doing the same thing all of the time.

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Topics: active aging fitness programs for seniors senior fitness