Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Family Flu Shots Are Good for Corporate Wellness

FluShotI believe that getting an annual flu shot is the right thing for my boys. I know there’s a lot of controversy out there around vaccinations for kids, but the thought of seeing my kids down for the count for days with an illness that I could have prevented doesn’t sit well with me. And I haven’t found the science against vaccinations to be compelling enough to change my mind. Having said that, I almost reversed my flu-shots-are-the-right-thing-to-do philosophy when I took my kids to a local drugstore to get their shots the other day.

Getting Flu Shots Is Not Always a Smooth Experience

I should have known I was in for a ride when my five-year-old said he wanted his brother, who is two years old, to go first. Truthfully, the two-year-old did pretty well: He cried, but he was still, and he didn’t freak out. The five-year-old, on the other hand, basically had to be strapped down. Not only did I have to hold and brace him, but the RN administering the shot felt it was best to shut the clinic door to help dampen the sound of his bone-chilling screams. Seriously—you would have thought we were cutting off his arm with a blunt instrument. It was pure hysteria. 

Needless to say, he did survive (and so did I), but we might have to find a new neighborhood drugstore. (If you're in the same boat, you can find CVS MinuteClinic locations here, and Walgreens Take Care Clinics here.)

Flu Shots for the Family Help the Kids and the Company, Too

Despite the fact that my son will likely describe his experience as torture, I believe I did a good thing for his health. I’m willing to bet my employer thinks so, too. Of course, it’s smart for businesses to offer flu shots for their employees. According to the CDC, the flu shot is the best defense against the flu, reducing the number of cases by up to 70 percent. Preventing the flu at work helps with decreasing presenteeism and preventing absenteeism; employees are healthier and more productive—that is, of course, unless your employee’s family members come down with the flu. Consider that flu-related absenteeism can range from two to seven days. That is a lot of lost work time caring for sick loved ones.

Support your corporate wellness program—get your family members vaccinated!

Topics: corporate wellness employee health disease prevention productivity improve absenteeism

Unhealthy Beverage Choices Derail Employee Health

BottledWater resized 600A few weeks ago, one of my worksite fitness center members felt the need to defend his absence from the worksite fitness center by showing me that he was at least making healthy dietary choices. He showed me his lunch beverage, a 20-ounce Gatorade. He was disappointed when I didn't affirm his drink choice.

Sports Drinks Are Not a Healthy Alternative

Ads for sports drinks, vitamin-infused waters, and even vitamin-infused sodas want consumers to believe these beverages are a healthy alternative to other sweetened beverages. The fact is, they often contain just as many, if not more, calories and sugar as regular sodas and sweetened drinks and have no real health benefits.  

One study found that Americans get 22 percent of their daily calories from their drink choices. These calories are almost entirely from sugar. Excess sugar in the diet is a major contributor to obesity, insulin sensitivity, and tooth decay, and can also contribute to decreases in immune function, depression, and many other health concerns.

Educate Employees and Provide Healthy Choices

You can help create a healthier workforce by minimizing sugary drinks available at your office as well as educating your employees about the health risks associated with excess sugar consumption. Employing registered dieticians and personal trainers at your corporate fitness center is a great step toward guiding your employees to adopt a healthy diet and exercise program.

What steps are you taking to cut down employee access to sugar-sweetened beverages at work?

Topics: corporate wellness overweight employees nutrition

Employee Health: Is Organic Food Really Better?

Rhubarb resized 600In the health craze of organic and all-natural food, it's easy to get confused and not know where to turn. What exactly is organic? How do I know I can trust what’s on the label? Is organic really better for me? These questions and more have been up for debate for years and will continue to be for many to come.


What Is Organic Food?

Organic food is defined by the USDA to be grown “free of synthetic substances; contain no antibiotics and hormones; has not been irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge; was raised without the use of most conventional pesticides; and contains no genetically modified ingredients.”

Many true organic farmers feel we have a long way to go beyond this definition. For example, animals must be given access to the outdoors, but for how long and under what conditions isn’t defined. Furthermore, most farmers who practice sustainable farming and are organic in spirit operate on such a small scale that they can’t afford the expensive requirements to be certified organic by the USDA.

Organic Does Not Necessarily Mean Local, Healthy, or Inexpensive

A common misconception is that organic means local. This is not true. You could buy organic salmon from Chile, but what kind of carbon footprint are you leaving behind?

Organic also does not mean healthy. In this article in the New York Times, Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University’s department of nutrition, food studies and public health, says, “Organic junk food is still junk food.”

Additionally, organic foods are more expensive. If you can manage spending a few extra dollars, WebMD recommends buying the following organic foods:

  • Dairy products
  • Beef
  • Spinach
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Green beans
  • peas
  • squash

Another option is frozen organic produce.

Organic Does Have Some Health Benefits

In a recent study conducted by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and highlighted in this article, organic tomatoes were found to have nearly twice the levels of quercetin and kaempferol as regular tomatoes. These two compounds are known as flavonoids, which have been linked to a reduced rate of heart disease.

So far, more money has been spent on marketing organic foods than on the nutritional benefits of organic products. So more it will take more time, money, and research before people understand the full effects of organic foods.

Are You Confused Yet?

So if you are now more confused than ever, it's quite understandable. Starting your own garden is a great option, but it's not always feasible. The point here is to buy local, buy seasonal, and if possible buy organic local products. Being an informed consumer is always a good thing.

If you have access to corporate wellness programs or an onsite fitness center, don’t hesitate to ask your worksite wellness staff for more information on organic food and other health topics.

Topics: corporate wellness nutrition

Three Ways to Create Worksite Fitness Opportunities with TRX

TRX is billed as "the original bodyweight Suspension Training system consisting of 12 feet of nylon-webbed straps, handles, and various anchors that can be attached to any sturdy weight-bearing base." Here are some ideas for using it in your corporate fitness program.

  1. TRX adds a new and fun way to take workouts to the next level. At my corporate fitness center, we just bought a TRX for our members, and it’s created quite a buzz both for Man PullUp resized 600members and my staff. In fact, the first time I ever used it I couldn’t walk very well the next day due to muscle soreness. I had worked my muscles in a new way and it was a great feeling (at least to me!).
  2. TRX doesn’t take up much space. It can be placed around a secure post or pole, or you can purchase door anchors for the unit. You can put it up and take it down easily. You really only need enough space to complete the exercises. If you have available meeting room space or a storage closet, the TRX is a great way to convert that space into a worksite fitness center.
  3. TRX is great for cardio and strength. For example, you can do a one-leg burpee followed by a pushup, and then go into a knee tuck for an abdominal exercise. These unique upper- and lower-body exercises will help keep your body from reaching a plateau.
Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program worksite wellness exercise at home

Too Much Sitting Contributes to Poor Employee Health

You’re an avid exerciser, hitting the gym five days a week. You think, “I’m doing great with my active lifestyle.” Well, think again! According to recent research highlighted in an article by Men’s Health, it may not be that simple. “The more hours a day you sit, the greater your likelihood of dying an earlier death regardless of how much you exercise or how lean you are,” says the artSitting at Deskicle.

For example, a “standing” worker (salesclerk) burns about 1,500 calories at work, whereas a person with a desk job might expend only 1,000 calories. Although 500 calories may not seem like that much of a difference, extending that over weeks or years may go a long way in explaining why people gain 16 pounds within 8 months after beginning sedentary office work. Check out the study behind the startling numbers.

Even worse, it’s not just weight gain we’re talking about. Sedentary lifestyles can also impact heart health; lead to muscle stiffness; contribute to poor balance and mobility; and result in lower back, neck, and hip pain.

Corporate wellness programs can help reverse these effects. Implementing regular stretch breaks, office walking programs, trained and certified staff to educate employees, and small-step incentive programs will help encourage employees to move their sitting-versus-standing spectrum in the right direction and improve the company bottom line.

What are you doing to get your employees out of their seats?

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work overweight employees

Group Exercise Programs Can Jump-Start Worksite Fitness

Richard Simmons is on to something (he has been for years). Not only are his outfits shocking enough to make people watch him work out, but he has also grasped the value of camaraderie and support when it comes to exercise. Case in point: His website offers a “Clubhouse” where members can become a part of an “interactive health and fitness family.” Along with recipes and daily motivation comes the support of others who are trying to get healthy and stay positive.

Use Camaraderie in Your Corporate Fitness Program

Online motivatidescribe the imageon and support is a great tool, but getting support from people we can’t see doesn’t work for all of us. Worksite wellness programs and corporate fitness centers can offer the same benefit just by having an available facility for members.

All It Takes Is a Few DVDs and a Place to Work Out

Before you see big dollar signs flash before your eyes, consider the value of a few good DVDs and the group fitness groupies in your workforce.

From my experience as a corporate fitness professional, videos are a great way to get through your workouts while forming relationships at the same time. I hardly ever see anyone going into our aerobics room to do a video on their own. Instead, it’s always a herd of people following the one holding the video of the day.

By the time I see them, they have already communicated through e-mail chains, getting a count of who will be there and who won’t. After all, exercise is more fun when there is someone there to endure the challenge with you, and its much easier to bounce back from a couple of days off when there is someone in the group that can relate and pick you back up!

What can you do to build a DVD-driven group exercise program at your worksite?

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program motivation

Three Tips for Keeping Worksite Wellness Resolutions

Your employees will soon be considering their New Year’s resolutions. And there’s a good chance that, shortly after they make those resolutions, they’ll break them. The failure rate for resolutions—75% or higher, according to a Wall Street Journal report—is startling.

Don’t miss this chance to maximize the New Year as an avenue toward a healthy workforce. Consider the following tips to create easy healthful opportunities for your employees:

  1. Create ways for your employees to exercise. Bring group exercise onsite. Make a worksite fitness center out of unused meeting-room space. Establish a walking program or partner with a local commercial fitness center for reduced-rate memberships.
  2. Get creative with signage at work. Fran Melmed of Free Range Communications offers an intriguing blog on ways to maximize signage at work to help employees make better choices. My favorite idea is to post notes on vending machines indicating how many minutes on a treadmill will be required to burn off the choice candy bar that costs more than $1.describe the image
  3. Encourage healthy food choices. Speaking of food, a study just came out indicating that when people use cash to pay for food, they tend to make healthier choices. Apparently those in the study were less likely to make impulse buys on unhealthy foods when they were paying cash for their groceries. Perhaps worksite cafeterias should initiate a cash-only payment policy.

How will your worksite leverage New Year’s resolutions to create a healthier workforce?

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program healthy workforce nutrition worksite wellness

What Worksite Fitness Means to Employees

This blog was submitted by an employee at a NIFS corporate fitness center.

It is our secret society...the gym. When the double doors open to the corporate fitness center, we leave behind, if only temporarily, any thoughts of the business we conduct upstairs. The agenda is no longer focused on a project plan and deadlines. Instead, we have one agenda in mind: to let everything go and enjoy the ride.

IndoorCycleAs we enter the fitness center, our corporate environment becomes the locker room. Where photos and paintings once hung, now hang towels drenched with hard-earned sweat, reminding us of our achievements of the day. File cabinets that once housed documents now are lockers and gym bags holding pairs of athletic socks, t-shirts, and gym shorts.

While our peers are e-mailing about deadlines, we are using e-mail to motivate and encourage our coworkers to get pumped up and be ready to work out. The ritual e-mails start about 45 minutes before class; a sort of buzz begins like bees to a hive.

When we come together for a group fitness class, for one hour we are all on the same playing field―incognito, no different from one another. For one brief hour at our corporate fitness center we are trying to motivate each other and to achieve similar goals, and we work harder than we ever have. If there is competition, it’s only to inspire those who need it and to push those who are up to the challenge.

I wonder if the trainers we entrust with our everyday routines understand the effect they are having on our lives? If they were flies on the wall in the locker room, wouldn’t they be surprised to hear conversations about how their classes have motivated us to do things we didn’t know we were capable of?

I wonder if our supervisors know how many endorphins have been released after our workouts to ensure that the rest of our working day is productive.

After class when we pass each other and exchange glances at the elevators in our business attire (which clearly separates us as Managers, Associates, or Supervisors), we just flash each other a smile, because for one hour of the day we are no different from each other. We are just employees, our guard down, laughing, sweating, and coming together….a priceless camaraderie.

So for now, as we leave the worksite fitness center through the double doors, we leave behind our secret society with a few more smiles and a few more friendships! 

NIFS would like to thank Hollis Mills for this blog.  Tell us what you like best about your worksite fitness facility!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness productivity

Is Worksite Health Promotion Scary?

The current healthcare model in this country is scary.

It’s scary from a cost standpoint, to be sure. We spend more than $2 trillion annually on healthcare, and according to the American Medical Association, 75 percent of U.S. medical care dollars are spent on preventable illnesses like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. U.S. healthcare can be scary from a user standpoint, too.

A Frightening ER AdventureStethoscopeHeart

I recently had an experience with strep throat while I was out of town. Unfortunately, my best Jedi mind tricks couldn’t beat his bug, so one raging fever and a wicked sore throat later, I found myself at the hotel lobby at 11:30 p.m. asking for help finding an emergency room.

The ER waiting room was an adventure in itself. After having to weave through a maze of men who appeared to be “sleeping it off,” I noticed that the waiting room smelled like urine. One of the would-be patients was vomiting in the most gut-wrenching way possible every two or three minutes. And there was this weird guy sitting in front of me who wasn’t wearing a shirt, had a gaping wound on his forehead, and (of  course) he felt it was acceptable to take off his shoes and socks to lay down on the lounge chair.  In a creepy (but I think well-meaning paternal) way, he repeately asked me, “Honey, are you OK?”

There’s nothing like a scary ER waiting room in a strange town to make you think twice about just how sick you really are!

Can Worksite Wellness Be the Place to Start?

Forgive me this sweeping generalization, but I think promoting better health really is the answer to this country’s scary sick-care model. If we can keep more people well, it will take some of the burden off of our overworked system (and hopefully help keep our emergency rooms from looking like something out of a horror film).

Worksites really do have a captive audience to target for worksite health promotion. Unfortunately, it seems that building a healthier workforce is getting scary, too. There are legal landmines to navigate, value-based benefits design to decode, communication strategies to build, and leadership to get on board. And if that isn’t a scary enough to-do list, many worksites are embarking on these healthier strategies with an army of one (or sometimes half of one) person.

“It’s scary” isn’t a reason to not get to work incentivizing better health in your workforce (it’s never wrong to do the right thing), but it certainly has stalled the best-laid plans.

What is your worksite doing to bravely improve employee health?

Topics: corporate wellness employee health disease prevention

Long-term Benefits of Corporate Wellness Programs

describe the imageWith money being tight in just about every organization these days, companies are looking to cut costs any way they can. At first glance, adding corporate health and wellness programs doesn’t seem like a very cost-effective move, especially if you're looking at building a corporate fitness center complete with an onsite fitness center. Upon closer examination, though, it’s clear that the benefits of worksite health promotion programs far outweigh the initial start-up costs of implementing them.

A recent study at the University of Michigan showed just how much a company can save over the long term by focusing on worksite wellness. The corporate wellness program of a large utility company was studied over a period of 9 years. The cost over that time period was rather large at $7.3 million, but it was found that the same “expensive” program saved the company $12.1 million over the long haul, for an overall savings of $4.8 million.

This study is believed to have found the true cost of implementing worksite health promotion programs because both the direct and indirect costs were measured. It may be a tough decision for the leaders of an organization to make because of the initial and ongoing costs of offering corporate wellness programs, such as staffing corporate fitness centers, but there seems to be a high return on the investment.

We all know the benefits of regular exercise and seeking to live a healthier life. Those who strive to live in this manner are a welcome relief to many employers. For those who need a little extra motivation, though (or even for those who don’t but like the convenience of onsite wellness opportunities), investigating how your company might be able to move forward with a corporate wellness program is a win-win situation.

Your employees are your most valuable asset. What are you doing to help invest in and protect them and thus protect your company's bottom line?

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness program cost conscious business fitness solutions

Employee Health: Do You Check Your Prescriptions?

PrescriptionsWith our busy lifestyles, running to the pharmacy is just that: racing in and out as quickly as possible. Is this placing employee health in danger? Well, it could be. It's ultimately up to each of us to filter what substances go into our bodies.

Check Your Medicine

Even before paying for the medication, you should check the name, medication, and dose to ensure that the prescription has been correctly filled and belongs to you. Pharmacies require personal information such as name, date of birth, Social Security number (for insurance), or driver’s license number to guarantee that the medication is dispensed to the right individual. But it doesn't hurt to check.

Prescription Questions

Be aware of what you are putting into your system. Ask questions. The pharmacist is there not only to fill prescriptions, but also to answer questions. Know the answers to these questions before taking the medication:

  • What is the name of the medicine?
  • What is it supposed to do?
  • How and when do I take it and for how long?
  • What do I do if I forget to take the medicine?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • What should I do if I experience any side effects?
  • Is there an information sheet about this medication?
  • Are there any interactions with other drugs you are taking? (Check here to find out.)

Next time you head to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, don’t rush. Take the time to check the prescription and ask questions for your own safety.

Topics: employee health healthy workforce

Employee Health: Can You Be Healthy and Overweight?

This much-debated topic has gone round and round in the medical and fitness community. Is it possible to be overweight and still be healthy?

On one side of the coin, researchers speculate that if an overweight or obese person has normal blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels, there is no reason to push weight loss. On the other side, a study published by Circulation online in 2009 concluded that overweight (body mass of greater than 25) individuals with no abnormalities of blood pressure, cholesterol, or glucose have a 50 percent increased risk of developing heart disease compared to those of normal weight (body mass of less than 25). Beyond being bad for your heart, increased weight increases the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Regardless of what side of the debate you fall on, one thing is unanimous: Fitness is key and pounds matter less than type of body fat. That is where a worksite wellness program and corporate fitness staff can come into play to help you identify and reduce your dangerous fat.

Recently there has been a push to look beyond the standard BMI (body mass index) measurement and into true body composition testing. Skinfold testing, BOD POD, and underwater weighing are just a few of the tests available to determine the true percentage of body fat.

BMI does serve a purpose, but it also has its shortcomings. For example, check out the Shapely Prose blog by Kate Harding. She runs a “BMI Project,” a series of photos of individuals of different sizes with their BMI levels. It’s a glaring example of how skewed the BMI measurement can be at times. 

The fact is that being overweight or obese is not necessarily good for you, but more importantly being overfat is the largest concern. So eat a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise, and take care of yourself. Regardless of the debate, you have only one body, so take care of it!

Topics: employee health overweight employees corporate fitness

How Much Is Tobacco Costing Your Company in Employee Health?

Perform a search for components of an employee health and wellness program and you’ll find that smoking cessation makes its way into nearly all wellness programs. Tobacco-free employees have fewer health risks and cost their employers less than their tobacco-using counterparts do.

The Staggering Cost of Employee Tobacco UseCigarette in Hand

If you’re like me, you know that tobacco users must cost a company more money. But I didn’t realize how staggering the cost actually is. According to the CDC, tobacco users cost their employers nearly $3,500 per person each year in medical costs and lost productivity. If you figure that approximately one in four employees uses tobacco, the approximate cost per year for a 2,000-employee site is nearly $1.75 million!

Approaches to Encouraging Tobacco Cessation

Companies take two different approaches to tobacco cessation: incentives and penalties. My company's wellness incentive programs, for example, put a lot of focus on rewarding employees for their efforts to quit tobacco. With benefits ranging from reimbursement for medication to free counseling, becoming tobacco free is a priority. They even offer employees an extra cash bonus in their flex account for being or striving to be tobacco free.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, other companies impose penalties on tobacco users. In a recent survey of major U.S. companies, almost 50 percent of companies surveyed showed interest in penalizing their employees for not complying with all aspects of their wellness programs. In these companies, employees could face higher insurance premiums or increased deductibles. Some companies may even refuse to hire tobacco users.

In my opinion, the best way to keep employees on track for healthy behaviors is staffing a corporate fitness center with highly trained experts familiar with the company’s wellness programs. Onsite fitness center management provides the tools and resources that both employers and employees need to reach the goal of becoming tobacco free.  

So which approach is more effective toward the goal of having a tobacco-free workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Topics: employee health control healthcare costs productivity tobacco cessation

ConferenceBike: A Way to Boost Worksite Wellness During Meetings?

Ever wish that your workplace was a little more relaxed and lighthearted? When working in a larger corporation many employees spend several hours of their day seated around a table discussing ideas, brainstorming, and solving problems.

describe the imageI wonder what would happen if these sit-down meetings were transformed into moving meetings, on a ConferenceBike. These bikes seat seven people, allowing six participants to pedal as one person steers. It’s like turning a corporate meeting into corporate fitness!

Now I will admit they are a little funny looking and the price is a little steep for just a unique meeting place and a way to increase employee health. But it may have the potential to shorten meeting times, increase workplace productivity, improve employee morale, and develop a new type of worksite fitness.

Even if you know your company won’t buy into this moving meeting idea, just take a look at the ConferenceBike website for a stress-relieving laugh or a way to get your creative juices flowing. It worked for me!   

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program business fitness solutions productivity

The Role of Workplace Wellness in Nutrition

Helping Employees choose the right supplementsThe other day one of my wellness center members approached me about my advice regarding vitamins and supplements. She had been feeling extremely tired and fatigued while at work and wanted to know if there was something she could be taking to combat her exhaustion. I was happy to see that she was increasing her activity in hopes of boosting her energy, but she said she was still feeling tired even after a 15-minute walk on the treadmill.

Supplements Can Fill In Your Employee's Nutritional Gaps

Vitamin and mineral supplements are a great backup plan for when our diets may be lacking in all the recommended fruits and vegetables we need. If you’re like me, this is pretty frequent. Although they are not necessary, it is nice to be able to fill in the nutritional gaps in our day-to-day diet choices with a supplement. This is especially true if you are on a diet that eliminates an entire food group or you are a vegetarian.

Encourage Employees to Speak to a Professional When Taking Supplements

It is best to speak to your doctor or a registered dietician when considering supplements so he or she can tell you which supplements are best. Additionally, if you are already taking a daily supplement, you should notify you doctor or pharmacist because some can interfere with your medications.

Supplements Aren't Always the Answer

Sometimes exhaustion can be caused by something as simple as eating too few calories or too much sugar. After a few questions with my member, we discovered that she was drinking almost no water (or any other liquid, for that matter). I encouraged her to keep a regular sleep/wake cycle, to continue exercising and I recommended that she increase her water intake.

Follow up with this member found her feeling much better! I was thrilled. She said her exercise routine is getting easier and she has drastically increased her H20.

A Health Professional Could Benefit Your Company

Many people suffer from fatique and exhaustion. Your company could benefit from offering employees the resources of a degreed exercise specialist or registered dietician as part of its employee health benefits. An exercise professional can assess your employees needs and, if necessary, refer them to a registered dietician who can not only assess one’s diet and make recommendations for improvement, he or she can suggest appropriate supplements if necessary.

Topics: corporate wellness nutrition

Employee Weight Loss and Nutrition: Quality Over Quantity?

employee food choicesIf you’re skeptical like me, you may have questioned some of the weight-loss methods you’ve seen in the media. After all, any diet that requires you to substitute steak for fruit salad is sure to be a hit, but how healthy can that really be?

Amidst all the confusion a simple question remains: When looking to lose weight, what matters more? What you eat, or how much you eat? Here are some thoughts to share with overweight employees looking to make a change.

Tell Employees to Burn More Calories Than They Consume

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Griffin Prevention Research Center, seems to offer a simple answer. Dr. Katz points out that “The fundamental truth is that energy balance, calories in versus calories used, determines weight.” Put even more simply, the only way to lose weight is to burn off more calories than you consume. There’s really no mystery about calorie balance.

But it’s not quite that easy. How do you know if you should cut out carbs, pump up the protein, or follow any one of the many other suggestions out there along with eating less?

Nutritionist Mark Haub, an associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State University, answered these very questions with a unique experiment. For one month he ate a high-fat, high-sugar, low-nutrient diet consisting of Twinkies, Nutter Butters, canned or frozen vegetables, a protein supplement, steak, and milk averaging 1,800 calories per day. Believe it or not, he lost weight--15 pounds in the one-month experiment.

Tell Employees to Eat Less but Also Eat Healthy

So how much you eat has more bearing than what you eat--unless you actually want to lose weight in a healthy way.

The major problem with any diet is that you go on it, but eventually must come off of it. So unless you plan to maintain a diet the rest of your life, the odds are you will regain the weight you lost once you resume your normal eating habits.

The long and the short of it? Eat just enough of foods that are good for you and get on with the rest of your day!

Topics: employee health overweight employees nutrition

Functional Capacity in Corporate Fitness Programs, Senior Fitness

Increasing functional capacity through exerciseIn my last post, I explained that functional capacity is exercising in a way that improves the ability to perform activities of daily living. In this post I look at how this concept is being used in senior fitness classes and corporate fitness programs--in place of more traditional but less efficient training.

Senior Fitness Management Now Emphasizing Functional Training

One arena that has begun to understand this dilemma and has sought to eliminate it is senior fitness management. Some of the problems affecting older adults are poor balance, loss of strength, and a decrease in flexibility. As a fitness professional who frequently teaches senior fitness classes at retirement home fitness centers, I’ve noticed a trend in moving away from the typical chair exercise class, which was the norm years ago, to more functional training (training the body in the way in which it typically works).

Entire classes are now designed with the goal of improving balance. Many movements designed to improve strength are now done out of a chair and on the feet because this is how we typically function in everyday life. Along with this, retirement community fitness center management heavily pursues improving residents' flexibility. Since balance, strength while on the feet, and flexibility are all major needs of older adults, fitness professionals have made a move to more directly train in ways that improve these aspects specifically. This move is a perfect example of training to improve functional capacity.

Improving Employee Health Through Functional Training

Functional capacity can also be a synonym for aerobic health or power. Aerobic health or functional capacity is often the main measure used to determine one’s overall health. Numerous diseases that afflict many Americans today can be prevented or even reversed through improving aerobic health.

Many businesses have caught on to this and are pushing to improve their employees' physical health through exercise. This leads to less employee absenteeism, less fatigue on the job, and more productive employees. Since a company’s employees are one of its most valuable assets, many organizations have developed corporate wellness programs to help protect this asset. Because this can improve an employer’s bottom line, many companies are going one step further and building corporate fitness centers for their employees to utilize.

Through group fitness classes at these centers, personal training with staff, or even simply working out on their own, employees are improving the strength and endurance needed for their job as well as their aerobic health, leading to a lower risk of disease and less time lost from work. It is easy to see how this increase in functional capacity benefits both the employee and the employer over the long haul, despite the initial cost of building such centers.

Next: How everyday people can adjust their workouts to improve functional capacity.

Topics: exercise at work employee health healthy workforce muscle toning senior center solutions productivity improve absenteeism

Choose a Corporate Fitness Program Over Exercising in High Humidity

Protect Employees from Dangers of HumidityIf you don't exercise on a regular basis, a hot and humid summer day is not the time to start. Don’t get me wrong; I think you should start exercising as soon as you have the motivation. But maybe you should do it inside if it’s extremely humid outside. Exercising in the humidity intensifies everything and can also be dangerous.

Humidity's Effects on Your Body

You need to be careful because if your body is not used to exercise, the humidity can put you at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Your body produces heat during exercise which, combined with the heat outside, can inable your body to cool itself down.

I have experienced humidity first hand living in Indiana all my life. I run outside a lot. Just when I think I’m improving with speed or distance, I go out and run on a humid day and that puts me back in my place. This past summer it was extremely hard for me to run outside. Each try was a struggle, which took away my motivation.

I spent a week in South Carolina over the summer and if I didn’t get up to run by 8 am, I couldn’t because of the humidity. Humidity breaks down your body, causes difficulty with breathing and makes you sweat profusely. That is why it’s important to drink plenty of water prior to, during, and after your exercise.

Consider Your Worksite Health Options on Humid Days

Your worksite exercise staff should have a temperature chart to determine the degree of danger for outdoor exercise. If it’s dangerously hot, check out your worksite health options. Take it inside on the elliptical or treadmill at your onsite fitness center or even in your living room with a DVD. Check with your corporate fitness center staff for other indoor options. Get a schedule of the classes they offer or new equipment that will keep you safe and out of the heat and humidity.

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program exercise at home

Functional Capacity: Should You Add It To Your Exercise Program?

When most people begin an exercise routine, the primary goal is often weight loss. Getting rid of excess weight can benefit the body in numerous ways. Another goal that can benefit the body as well but is often overlooked is improving functional capacity. functional capacity and exercise

Working out to improve functional capacity, put simply, is when one strives to exercise in a way that will improve their ability to perform their activities of daily living. These activities of daily living vary from person to person and from age group to age group, but the goal is the same: To work out in the most efficient way so that the results transfer directly to how you live your life. As fitness evolves, this goal is becoming more and more commonplace, especially in retirement home fitness centers and corporate health and wellness.

Why Traditional Workouts Can Be Ineffective

While playing basketball during my free time in college, I learned the hard way that what may appear to be an effective workout may not necessarily be so. I had no problem running three or four miles at a time on a treadmill and thought that would help improve my on-court stamina. Once I began to better understand exercise science, though, I soon realized that even though I ran around the same mileage in a game, it was a very different demand in-game than what I was training for on a treadmill.

This same problem I ran into years ago can still be seen at any gym across America at any time. We often train our bodies in a way in which they don’t function in real life, simply because we haven’t questioned “common practice.” And as a result, our bodies aren’t functioning at their highest capacity.

Next: How corporate fitness programs and senior fitness management are using functional capacity training.

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program worksite wellness muscle toning senior center solutions

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

Managing Stress Increases Productivity, Employee Health

manage employee stressAlthough each day may technically be a new day, today brings the stresses of yesterday and the preparations of tomorrow. Nowadays a 40-hour work week is hard to come by, and going home without work is even harder to swing. With all of this added work comes added stress.

Untreated Employee Stress Is Bad for Business

Stress that is not dealt with properly can lead to negative outcomes. The outcome you will be least excited about is loss of productivity. Along with loss of productivity comes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, headaches, upset stomach, and chest pain, and it can even worsen certain ailments employees already have.

According to an annual Harris Interactive Attitudes in the American Workplace survey, 83% of Americans reported they are at least a little stressed at work, and nearly half said they need help in learning how to manage stress.

Consider the following tips to keep your stress at bay.

Develop a Wellness and Fitness Program or add Stress Management to Your Offerings

If your company doesn't offer a worksite wellness program, get busy creating one! Worksite wellness programs offer great resources for employees to better their health, including stress management. A healthy and stress-free employee equals more productivity for the company, so it's a win for both! (See the Wellness Council of America's site for tips.)

Encourage Employees To Use Deep Breathing Techniques

Deep breathing counteracts the increased heart rate and blood pressure that happen when the body is under stress. It is one of the best ways to stay calm when the body wants to do the opposite, and it can be done anywhere. When you breathe deeply, you are sending a message to your brain and body to relax. Next time your employees feel stressed on the job, have them try these steps:

  1. Sit up straight and exhale completely through your mouth.  
  2. Place your hands on your stomach and slowly inhale through your mouth, pushing your hands out with your stomach.
  3. Hold the inhale for two to five seconds and slowly exhale.
  4. Repeat until you feel relaxed.

Encourage Exercise As A Lifestyle, Including at Work!

We've all heard about how exercise can help you maintain heart health and manage a healthy weight, but exercise can also be a great form of stress relief. Physical activity not only boosts the release of those feel-good endorphins (and in turn boosting your mood); it can also improve sleep that can so often be disrupted by stress.

If you or your employees aren't currently exercising, start slow. Choose an activity that you enjoy and maybe even consider including your friends. Making it a social activity can give you a stress-relieving social network and make you more likely to stick with the program.

The Results Are Worth the Effort

Learning to manage stress in healthy ways will keep your employees producing the work your want to see as well as keep them sane during the process. You are only as good as your body allows, and it needs to be healthy in order to perform at the top. Make every day a new day by dealing with the stresses of yesterday and breathing through the thoughts of tomorrow.  

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work employee health healthy workforce corporate fitness worksite wellness exercise at home productivity

Corporate Fitness Programs: Improving Functional Capacity Every Day

Functional capacity and your jobIn previous posts, I have talked about functional capacity and how corporate fitness programs and senior fitness classes are using this concept to improve workouts and make them more beneficial to everyday life.

But what about the average person? How can they improve their functional capacity? Should they even seek to? Everyone, whether young or simply young at heart, can and should strive to improve their functional capacity.

Start By Evaluating Your Own Life.

What types of movements do you typically utilize? What does your day consist of? From here, seek out someone who can help you design an exercise program to help you improve directly on the movements and muscles you most frequently use in your day:

  • If you are on your feet a lot and on the move, starting a running or walking program can help improve your endurance, making your job that much easier.
  • If you are glued to a chair the majority of your day, you may find it beneficial to work on the strength of the muscles in your upper back, neck, and shoulders to ward off any pain and changes in posture that may be lingering.
  • If you are a recreational athlete, utilizing a program that will help you improve in a way that directly benefits your sport skills can be an exciting challenge. Fitness has evolved, and gone are the days of sitting down and doing bicep curls and triceps kickbacks every workout.

Join the movement and strive to get on your feet more, move, and train your body in the way in which it works every day. The improvements you’ll experience in both your health and your performance in everyday activities will be well worth it.

Topics: exercise at work employee health corporate fitness program muscle toning exercise at home senior center solutions productivity