Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Worksite Fitness: Post-Pregnancy Muscle Toning

This blog was written by Megan Jack. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

pregnancy, exercise, abdominal mucsles, toningThe deepest part of the abdominal wall―and the most important, specifically for postpartum exercise―is the transverse abdominis. These muscle fibers run horizontally across the abdomen and perform abdominal compression, which draws the belly inward and narrows the waist. It is sometimes referred to as the “internal girdle.”

The Flat-Belly Muscle

After pregnancy or excessive abdominal weight gain, the transverse acts as a splint helping to close any abdominal separation. It is the body’s most important core stabilizer and is responsible for “re-flattening” the abdominal wall. With pregnancy, the abdominal wall has been pushed outward for nine months. It is important to first retrain those muscles to pull back in toward the spine.

A common mistake postpartum is to jump right into crunches, which strengthens the external layers (rectus abdominis). External layers can then overpower the transverse, leaving it functionally weak. This in turn causes the abdominal wall to bulge outward, specifically below the waist. So I encourage my corporate fitness clients to train those abs from the inside out. 

An Exercise for Tightening Your Core

It is never too late to retrain and balance out all of your core muscles. Try the following exercise from, beginning with 3 sets of 5 repetitions held for 5 seconds, and progressing to 3 sets of 8 repetitions for 10 seconds.

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat.
  2. Place a Bender Ball between your knees.
  3. Place an object such as a toy block or two hockey pucks taped together on your stomach in line with the hip bones.
  4. Without holding your breath, squeeze the Bender Ball between your knees and draw the pucks down into the abdomen without initiating a crunching action. Some visualization cues to think about: “Navel to spine” or “zipping up a tight pair of pants.”

As you pull your belly in, you should notice the pucks or block sinking. If they rise as you complete the exercise, stop, reset, and try again.

Topics: corporate fitness muscle toning

A NIFS Manager Asks: Is Indianapolis' Favorite Pastime a Sport?

This blog was written by Bethany Garrity. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

I’m not an Indianapolis native and I didn’t grow up around racecar driving. I’m a Buckeye―I’m all about the football. For me, baseball, hockey, and golf are sports. They're not sports I love, but I do view them as athletic pursuits (though I’ll admit, it took me a while to come around to golf as a “sport”). Racing is a different story. Unless we’re talking about racing on foot, it just doesn’t resonate with me as a sport.

exercise, sports, racingWhat's the Physical Challenge of Driving Around in Circles?

I originally chalked up that “it’s not a sport” mentality for racecar driving to the fact that I simply wasn’t into the hype. I don’t know anything about racecar driving, and to be honest, I didn’t see the physical challenge in driving a car in circles. So I started researching the Indy Racing League (IRL) to see what I could find out about stock-car racing.

I started seeing the term “land rocket” in my search results, and I noted that the drivers sometimes maintained speeds of 200 m.p.h. for four to six hours and in high heat. My education in exercise science and my experience in corporate fitness began to kick in and I realized that those physical demands had to have some kind of traditional exercise component, and thus, perhaps stock-car racing really was an athletic pursuit. There has to be something “fitness-y” about drivers expected to produce under those conditions.

Racecar Drivers Have High Levels of Exertion

My conclusion: It turns out racecar driving is a sport! I found quite a bit about training regimes both on and off season. But what hit home most for me was a press release from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for a December 2002 article in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal. It noted that drivers reach levels of exertion similar to those athletes playing basketball might attain.

They also noted that the work level for a driver is comparable to someone running at an eight- to ten-minute-per-mile pace. Now that is something I can relate to. I’ve trained for the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon with a nine-minute-per-mile pace group. It’s hard for me to imagine maintaining that pace for four to six hours with temperatures in the high 90s to over 100 degrees.

Go NASCAR, go IRL―race your hearts out! I can’t promise I’ll watch with enthusiasm and follow like a true fan, but my appreciation has grown. Now, if we could just get more sports fans to adopt a piece of the exercise routines from their most beloved drivers, pitchers, shooters, goalies, defenders….


Topics: exercise

Employee Health for Eyes: Computer Vision Syndrome

This blog was written by Kara Gootee. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Do you find that after sitting at your desk staring at your computer all day, you start seeing double? Your eyes might feel irritated and dry. You might even have a headache or neck, shoulder, and back pain. You might be suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). CVS is described by the American Optometric Association as vision-related problems following prolonged computer use.

eye health, wellness, employee healthOther symptoms of CVS include the following:

  • Eyestrain
  • Tired, achy eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Trouble focusing after long periods of computer use

Most symptoms are temporary and will subside after completing computer work. If your work causes you to spend long hours at a computer monitor, consider taking breaks. Incorporate a stretch break so you can relax your head, neck, and shoulders while giving your eyes a rest, or simply get up and move. Prevention will help reduce visual symptoms associated with CVS.

Consider these additional steps to protect your eyes:

  • Take short breaks; for a few seconds to a minute, look away from your computer monitor.
  • Tilt your monitor up to prevent glare, or consider an anti-glare screen.
  • Position your monitor so the screen is 4 to 5 inches below eye level, and so you sit 16 to 30 inches away.
  • To avoid dry eyes, blink frequently to keep your eyes moist.

Make sure to routinely visit your eye doctor and give your eyes a break! Vision health is an important part of worksite wellness.

Topics: corporate wellness employee health

Employee Health: Strokes Rising Among Young and Middle Aged

This blog was written by Lisa Larkin. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

heart health, exercise, young, wellnessIt’s scary to think about younger generations having an increased number of strokes. My mom had a stroke a couple years ago. At the time she didn’t know it, but she has high blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for strokes.

I think it’s important that younger and middle-aged people start going to the doctor and know whether they are at risk. Some risk factors for stroke cannot be changed, such as age, heredity, gender, and previous history of stroke or heart attack. But some risk factors are controllable.

Obesity, smoking, overuse of alcohol, and high blood pressure are all reasons why the number of strokes has increased in younger people. Get into the gym or walk outside to start burning calories. Then continue to do some sort of physical activity every day.

Do you know your numbers? If not, schedule an appointment with your doctor and know your cholesterol, HDL, and LDL levels. If they are unfavorable, ask your doctor what you can do to improve them. Living a healthy lifestyle is important for your present and future.

Does your corporate wellness program provide an onsite fitness center? If so, be proactive; take advantage of the great resource made available to you.

Topics: employee health corporate fitness program disease prevention

Parkinson's Disease: Healthy Diet Choices for Senior Fitness

This blog was written by Sean Holbrook. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

A slow twitch.

An uncontrollably shaky hand.

Both are easily passed off as nothing, but this is just how Parkinson's starts. This degenerative central nervous system disease eventually leads to difficulty walking and talking, and even cognitive function.

Currently there is no known cure for Parkinson's, but there is a recent increase in funding toward research for Parkinson's disease because of President Obama's reversal of restrictions on use of stem cells in research. The increased funding has led to research in additional areas regarding Parkinson's disease, including lifestyle habits.

disease prevention, senior wellness, aging, healthNew Study Offers Parkinson's Prevention Hope

A new study by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that men who ate a diet rich in foods containing flavonoids were 35 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's disease. Researcher Xiang Gao stated that the study suggests that a group of flavonoids known as anthocyanins may have a neuroprotective effect.

The study looked at the responses of 49,281 men and 80,336 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. Participants were followed for 20 to 22 years and filled out food questionnaires. The researcher calculated flavonoid intake based on the responses of five flavonoid-rich foods, including tea, berries, apples, red wine, and oranges/orange juice. No real link was identified for women, but both men and women who ate the most foods rich in anthocyanins, berries, and apples had a 22 percent lower risk of Parkinson's disease.

Antioxidants and Balanced Diet Limit Risk for Many Diseases

The benefits from a healthy antioxidant-rich diet full of berries, citrus fruits, teas, and even chocolate are well known because of their ability to prevent cardiovascular disease, several types of cancers, premature aging, and the list goes on and on. This study does not prove that berries or a diet rich in antioxidants will prevent Parkinson's disease. This was an observational study that lends more support to the fact that eating a well-balanced diet and making healthy lifestyle choices can be a limiting risk factor later in life.

Topics: nutrition disease prevention senior wellness programs senior fitness

Wii Balance Program for Senior Fitness: A Follow-up

This blog was written by Sean Holbrook. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

A month ago I wrote "Wii Fit and Wii Sports: Why They're Good for Senior Fitness," which covered the benefits of the Nintendo Wii to increase physical activity among seniors. That blog set off the proverbial light bulb in my head and made me wonder how could I incorporate Nintendo's Wii into senior fitness classes at my Continuing Care Retirement Community.

senior fitness, balance, coordination, muscular toningI had originally planned a four-week balance program with a three-month follow-up using the Fullerton Advanced Balance (FAB) test to be launched the following month. But I came up with a way to incorporate the Wii Fit to use the initial body test on the game as one of the pre- and post-test measurements for the program. Along with using the Wii Fit body test, participants performed a baseline assessment using the FAB test.

Based on their performance in the baseline assessments, participants would be set up with personalized exercises that focused on one to two specific areas pertaining to their balance that needed the most work. The most common areas were lower-body weakness, center-of-gravity control (standing and dynamic), vestibular impairments (inner ear), and poor use of vision.

Along with individualized exercise programs, participants were encouraged to use the Wii Fit and play balance games to become more aware of their center of gravity and work on their center-of-gravity control. The most popular balance games used during the program included ski jump, lotus focus (using it with tandem and semi-tandem balance stances), snowboard slalom, and ski slalom.

It has been about six weeks since the program began and many of the participants have begun their four-week assessments. I'm happy to report positive results. At the four-week assessment, 80 percent of the participants have shown improvements over their FAB baseline tests. The most common areas of improvement have been lower-body strength and center-of-gravity control. The participants are scheduled for a second three-month follow-up, which will give them adequate time to see significant changes in their balance and on their scores in the FAB test.

Topics: muscle toning senior fitness

20 Worst Drinks for Employee Health

This blog was written by Veronica HofMann. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Before you reach for that next drink, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into! Many of us know that some beverages pack in tons of calories, sugar, and fat. But there may be some on Eat This, Not That's Worst Drinks in America list that may surprise you! The sugar content in many of the drinks would rival a late-night snack binge on all of your favorite sugary foods. Here are some examples:

  • Worst Water: Snapple Agave Melon Antioxidant Water (1 bottle, 20 fl oz). This has the sugar equivalent of two Good Humor chocolate éclair bars.
  • Worst Bottled Tea: SoBe Green Tea (1 bottle, 20 fl oz). This has the same amount of sugar as four slices of Sara Lee cherry pie!
  • Worst Energy Drink: Rockstar Energy Drink (1 can, 16 fl oz). You could just eat six Krispy Kreme doughnuts…that will boost your energy, right?
  • Worst Beer: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (1 bottle, 12 fl oz). If you want to splurge on beer in terms of carbs, you could have an entire 12-pack of Michelob Ultra for one of these!
  • Worst Lemonade: Auntie Anne’s Wild Cherry Lemonade Mixer (32 fl oz). Dangerous levels of sugar in this one―same as 11 (yes 11!) bowls of Cookie Crisp cereal.
  • nutrition, wellnessWorst Frozen Coffee: Dairy Queen Caramel MooLatte (24 fl oz). Moo in the name should be your first clue, but here is the shocker: 12 Dunkin’ Donuts Bavarian Kreme donuts have the same amount of sugar. WOW!
  • Worst Drive-Through Shake: McDonald’s Triple Thick Chocolate Shake (large, 32 fl oz). You could swap the shake for 13 baked apple pies and get the same sugar!
  • Worst Smoothie: Smoothie King Peanut Power Plus Grape (large, 40 fl oz). So smoothies are healthy, right? Not this one; 20 Reese's cups has the same amount of sugar! Not to mention, who really needs 40 ounces of anything?

And the award for worst drink in America goes to:

Cold Stone PB&C (Gotta Have It size, 24 fl oz). At over 2,000 calories in just 24 oz, this is the one to avoid at all costs. That’s more than a day's worth of calories in one drink! You could have 30 Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies for the same sugar!

Usually we are guilty of grabbing drinks like these on the go or while at work. If you or your coworkers have packed on pounds due to sugary drinks, this could be a reason to speak to your employer about a worksite fitness program (if you don't already have one).

At the very least, this would be a great lunchtime conversation with coworkers. This information is shocking to most. If more people knew just how bad these drinks were, it might help them make better decisions. 

Topics: nutrition weight loss

More Reasons to Use Corporate Fitness Centers

This blog was written by Dan Walker. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Last time we looked at three of the top benefits of utilizing your company’s corporate fitness center: cost, convenience, and the environment. Today we will look at three more reasons why you can’t afford to pass up what your company has to offer in its fitness center.


This isn’t entirely universal, but most corporate fitness center staff members are college educated and certified through a reputable organization such as the ACSM, NSCA, or NASM. This ensures a high level of expertise in helping you to exercise the right way and reach your goals.


Many gyms have thousands of members and simply aren’t able to do much more for you than take your membership dues each month. But in corporate fitness centers, programming, classes, and education are top priorities with the goal being to get as many members as possible plugged into what is offered. Your company really sees a return on investment only if your health is improved through what the facility has to offer. You can rest assured that you are their top priority, not making money off membership dues.

Stronger Relationships

corporate wellness, employee health, exerciseWorking out with your coworkers gives you a chance to spend time with them in a new and different way. Taking group fitness classes together, working out with someone, or buddy training with someone else are all great ways to build teamwork and rapport outside the office. Often enough, different incentive programs and friendly competitions take place throughout the year, giving you yet another way to build a bond with those you work with.

The health benefits of regular exercise, which you can get at any gym, are well documented. But corporate fitness centers offer much more than your average commercial gym membership. Among those benefits are a better price, a more convenient location, a professional environment, expert staff, more guidance in your fitness journey, and a chance to build better work relationships.

If you aren’t already experiencing all the benefits your company’s corporate fitness center has to offer, go check it out today!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program exercise corporate fitness

2011 Group Exercise Trends for Corporate Fitness Programs

This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann, MS. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Why have group exercise classes remained popular since their introduction in the '80s? I don’t think it’s the leg warmers and leotards, but I could be wrong. Perhaps it is the motivation and social interaction that come with exercising with a group. Or it could be the time-efficient solution in our time-stressed culture.

Whatever it is that continues to draw people to participate in group exercise classes, this area of the fitness and exercise world goes through trends and fads much like other areas in life. Here are some trends you can expect to see in 2011.


This Latin-inspired dance class is exploding right now. The Zumba motto, which is “Ditch the Workout; Join the Fun,” is a perfect way to describe how its participants feel about the class. “It’s so fun you forget you’re working out,” one of my members said to me. I think the bass-thumping music has something to do with it, too.

Boot Camp

You guessed it: This military-style class attracts both men and women for the no-frills approach to working out. Boot camp groups have been growing in popularity for the last several years, and they are still on the rise in 2011. Instructors lead their recruits through pushups, jumping jacks, lunges, and sprints before the sun rises.

Early mornings aren’t for you? Because of their popularity, health clubs and gyms are offering many indoor boot camps at all times of the day.

C  Documents and Settings kgootee My Documents Dropbox Hubspot Images group yoga resized 600Yoga

This slow paced, gentle exercise class known for its stress-relieving style of mind and body exercise is especially popular in corporate fitness centers. In addition to the traditional style of yoga, called hatha yoga, look for other forms to emerge in 2011, like power yoga and hot or bikram yoga

Group exercise class offerings can be a key factor in the success of a corporate fitness center. If you don’t already offer group exercise classes in your wellness center, they may be the best motivation to get your employees to get on board with exercise.

Topics: corporate fitness program exercise group exercise muscle toning

Corporate Wellness: Green Your Fitness Routine

This blog was written by Sean Holbrook. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Does winter still have you feeling blue? Need a boost for your self-esteem? Regular exercise can improve your mood and sense of well-being; doing it outdoors can give you an extra lift!

Green exercise refers to exercise or physical activity that is performed in nature, which has shown an ability to create a calming effect as well as having a positive effect on your mental well-being. With spring just around the corner, you probably feel a bit like I do: you're ready for the fresh air, green leaves, and warm sun. Green exercise is a simple and free way to get all that and more.

exercise, wellness, corporate wellness, fitnessYou may ask yourself, how much time do I have to spend exercising outdoors to see the benefits of green exercise? Surprisingly, it takes only five minutes a day, according to a recent meta-analysis of 10 studies involving 1,252 participants. The study by Barton and Pretty (2010) showed improvements in self-esteem and mood for the overall population of the study.

Looking for ways to green your routine?

  • Take a five-minute walk during your lunch break.
  • Start a garden in your yard.
  • Try stretching outside on your deck or patio.
  • Plan a nature hike or bike ride on the weekend.

Gather your coworkers for a walk at lunch! Green fitness is one of the many ways your company can get on the corporate wellness bandwagon!

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work exercise motivation