Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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

Engage with Your Age

GettyImages-1319025789As we age there are many different changes that start to happen to our brain such as shrinkage, vasculature and cognition. With age, the brain shrinks and changes occur at all levels, from chemicals to morphology. Stroke, lesions, and dementia are all more common as people get older, as is memory impairment. Fortunately there are quite a few things we can do to help prevent or slow the process of some of those changes from happening. Regular exercise, a good diet, and low to moderate alcohol consumption, all of which minimize cardiovascular risk, appear to help the aging brain, as does increasing cognitive exertion in the form of schooling, games or meaningful activities. Physical and mental health may be the best defense against the effects of aging on the brain.

When you start to engage in personally meaningful activities whether it be volunteering, exercise, games or hobbies they are known to make you feel healthier and happier. As we age it can be easy to give into that mindset and feeling that we may not be able to do all the same things we used to and leave you feeling discouraged and hopeless. It’s important to remember that really this the perfect time to find new activities and hobbies to try. Learning new skills can improve your thinking ability and memory. Some research on engagement in activities such as music, theater, dance and creative writing has shown promise for improving quality of life and well-being, from better memory and self-esteem to reduced stress and increase social interaction.

Another way to get involved in new activities is to reach out to a friend or neighbor for ideas and for company. Social interactions and social activities are great ways to keep your brain active and engaged with the community around you. Participating in personally meaningful and useful activities with others will leave you happier, and feeling more purposeful. These activities appear to assist and maintain your well-being and may even improve cognitive performance.

Take the time to reach out and spend time with family and friends or donate your time to a local charity or maybe to join a group dedicated to a pastime you enjoy. Join a walking group for senior citizens. Check out what local community organizations have to offer and give them a try. There are more and more groups that meet online, providing a means to interact with others who share your interests or obtain support from the comfort of your own home. Trivia quizzes, sudoku, arts and crafts, word puzzles, learning a new language, starting book club, trying a new workout class are all great ways to keep your mind engaged and busy. Go out of your comfort zone and try something new and take a friend with you.

Other ideas to keep you on your toes:

  1. Use your non-dominant hand for everyday tasks ( brushing teeth or eating).
  2. Test your memory by creating a list, it could be grocery list or 10 movies you want to watch and then memorize them. See how may you can recall by the end of the day.
  3. Jigsaw puzzles are a great brain workout using strategy and problem solving skills.
  4. Exercise is a great way to combine physical and mental workouts. They don’t have to get you sweaty you can go walking, take a tai chi or yoga class.
  5. Reading is a fantastic brain exercise that stimulates your brain and can slow cognitive decline. Pick up a book from your local library, a magazine at the salon or even read the posters on the walls around you.

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Topics: active aging brain health brain fitness

Dietitian Connection: Is Your Supplement Safe

Dietitian Connection logo_ColorDid you know federal law doesn’t require the potency, purity, efficacy, or safety of dietary supplements to be proven prior to being put on the market? In fact, most dietary supplements are already being sold before the Food and Drug Administration’s safety monitoring role begins. This means you could be taking a supplement that doesn’t even contain what is listed on the label, or that contains significantly different amounts than it claims to contain. This is concerning, as data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2017-2018 revealed that close to 60% of U.S. adults reported taking a dietary supplement within the last 30 days, and this percentage is predicted to be on the rise.


So how do you tell if the supplement you’re taking is safe? Fortunately, there are
independent (not involved in the sale or production of the supplement) third-party organizations that test dietary supplements to ensure their safety and quality, such as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and US Pharmacopeia (USP). Products that have been third-party certified typically have a stamp of certification somewhere on the label. However, prior to taking any supplement, you should always speak with your primary care physician/health care professional to ensure it is necessary, safe, and will be beneficial for you, as many supplements can have unintended side effects or may interact with other drugs or dietary supplements. You can visit the Food and Drug Administration’s website to learn more about dietary supplements and how they are regulated.

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Topics: supplements vitamins Dietitian Connection

Barre is not just for the young, but the young at heart!

GettyImages-656954108Barre, a fitness regimen, has recently gained a lot of popularity over the years. This low-impact exercise does not require any fancy, expensive equipment and people of all ages can do it. It is a workout that combines elements of Ballet, Pilates, and Yoga. It focuses on low-impact, high repetition, and small isometric movements to strengthen and tone your body.

I personally love barre and believe it is such a good workout. I try to implement it into my own weekly fitness regimen! When I started working at my community, I thought why not introduce Barre to our residents? It’s a fun and low impact workout choreographed to upbeat music, they might just like it. We introduced the class and added it the schedule and have gained a good group of “regulars” since then.

Here are a few reasons why I believe Senior Barre is a must try workout to add to your schedule:

  • Appropriate for those of all ages: The small range of motion and low impact workout is a great option for those with limited mobility. Barre is modifiable for all fitness levels yet can still be challenging enough to push yourself further than you thought was possible.
  • Improves strength and balance: Certain exercises may be done on one leg which allows balance and strength to be tested. A lot of exercises will require you to use multiple muscle groups at the same time while engaging your core. Barre also targets a lot of the smaller, intrinsic muscles in your body that are often ignored when performing other strength training workouts.
  • Creates a sense of community: Going to a Barre group fitness class gives people an opportunity to see their neighbors and friends while still being healthy. Attending these classes help create a sense of support, teamwork, and commitment!
  • Improves posture: The class spends a great deal of time focusing on proper spinal alignment form the top of your head to the tips of your toes. It especially includes a focus on the hips, spine, neck, and shoulders.
  • Improves flexibility: You don’t have to be a flexible Ballerina to enjoy Barre, but it will help improve your range of motion. Maintaining good flexibility can help you stay mobile and participate in all different types of activities.
  • Reduces anxiety or stress: Regular exercise can help divert you from thinking about what you are anxious about. Your body also releases endorphins during exercise which can help keep your mind sharp.
  • Can be done at home: With everything going on with COVID and with a lot of gyms and studios shutting down or having extra restrictions, Barre is the perfect workout that can be done at home. It’s doesn’t require any crazy equipment and since most homes do not have an actual ballet bar, most exercises can be done using a chair. Also, if you don’t have a set of weights at home, you can use soup cans or water bottles. 

Barre’s functional training component can help give seniors the proper form to help them with everyday activities of daily living. It also has a great number of positive physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. There are so many fun and challenging ways to keep your body moving during these classes, so the next time you are thinking of changing up your fitness routine, try a Barre class!

 

Topics: senior fitness group fitness for seniors senior group fitness classes barre