Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Effects of Smoking and Obesity on Employee Health and Life Expectancy

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

obesity, smoking, smoking cessation, weight lossLife expectancy in the U.S. in comparison to the rest of the world is quite impressive: 78.7 years versus 69.2 years. Much of this difference is due largely to advanced medical and preventative care; however, many analysts worry that this number will soon plummet due to a high population of American smokers and the ever-alarming prevalence of obesity in the U.S.

What would our life expectancy stats look like if it weren’t for smoking and obesity? When you look at each factor individually, it’s plain to see that we would boast one of the highest—if not the highest—expectancies in the world. The facts below speak for themselves.

Tobacco Use in the U.S.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that longtime smokers lose about 14 years of their lives to their addiction.
  • Tobacco use accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths in the U.S.  
  • Tobacco use is responsible for nearly one out of every five deaths in the U.S., and is the largest cause of preventable death.
  • Secondhand smoke causes nearly 3,500 nonsmokers to die of lung cancer and 46,000 nonsmokers to die of heart disease each year.

Obesity in the U.S.

  • Accompanying obesity are numerous risks and ailments that pose serious threats to one’s health and well-being.
  • Researchers have discovered that overweight and obese cancer patients are at a greater risk of experiencing complications related to treatment as well as premature death.
  • In general, overall mortality increases with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more, and a BMI greater than or equal to 30 multiplies one’s risk of premature death—especially from cardiovascular disease—by 50 to 100%.

Is your corporation a tobacco-free workplace? How do your workplace wellness programs help promote tobacco cessation and quitting smoking? How can weight-loss programs help your employees live longer, healthier lives?

Topics: corporate wellness overweight employees disease prevention tobacco cessation

Employee Health: Maintaining Motivation to Meet Fitness Goals

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

Your new year’s resolution fell to the wayside. You set out to lose 20 pounds, start working out regularly, get more sleep, or any number of things. But after a few months (or maybe even a few weeks), you’re back to square one with nothing to show for it. You start out with the best of intentions, but your motivation to change has slowly faded away.

Sound familiar? If you’re like most Americans today, chances are you’ve set up honorable goals related to your health and well-being in the past, but had a hard time staying motivated and gave up shortly after starting. You had the right idea, but not the right strategy for achieving your goals.

social support, motivation, obtaining goalsFour Keys for Maintaining Fitness Motivation

When it comes to maintaining motivation, then, what is the key to helping you do so? There are four important things I’ve found in my own life that have helped me maintain motivation that I’d like to share with you.

  • Have a plan. You won’t just magically arrive at your goal of losing 20 pounds or eating better. Make a plan and narrow down exactly how you will get there and what it will look like. Nothing worthwhile happens without a strategy and a plan.
  • Minimize distractions. No matter what your goal might be, there are plenty of less important things that will try to get in the way. Make sure to periodically “clean out the closet” of your lifestyle. See what needs to stay and what needs to go. Anything that helps move you closer to your goal needs to stay, while anything that distracts you from it needs to go.
  • Form a support network. Having a friend who has the same goal as you—whether it’s weight loss, eating less fast food, or getting to the gym three days a week—can help keep you on the right track. Now you know that if you give up, you let not only yourself down, but your companion in the journey as well. Letting others know your plan can help keep you accountable.
  • Eliminate all-or-nothing thinking. Despite your best intentions, it’s inevitable that you will make some mistakes along the way. Don’t minimize your shortcomings and see them as unimportant, but don’t totally give up on your efforts after a mistake or two, either. See it as part of the process and don’t fall prey to wanting to give up the whole thing after one setback. There will be ups and downs along the way.

Don't Skip Any of These Fitness Motivation Tools

No matter how good your intentions are, chances are you won’t ever reach your goals and maintain them without following the four principles outlined above. You must have a plan in place, focus only on things that line up with your goals, have a network around you to support you, and allow for mistakes along the journey. If you skip any or all of these helpful tools, chances are you will still have trouble maintaining motivation along the way and will minimize your chances for success.

It may seem like a lot of work, but the old proverb, “All hard work leads to a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty,” couldn’t ring more true here, especially to those who have tried it all before.

Topics: corporate fitness weight loss motivation

Senior Wellness: Tai Chi Helps Fight Depression in Seniors

This blog was written by Samantha Whiteside. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

senior fitness, tai chi, exercise, retirement communitiesWith the elderly population only increasing, many senior living fitness centers are looking outside the box for ways to keep their residents moving and their spirits high. Tai chi could be part of the answer.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that is practiced for health benefits. It has long been known to reduce stress, but researchers at UCLA recently found that the ancient martial art, in conjunction with a prescribed medication, can decrease depression in seniors.

Over a four-week period, 112 seniors aged 60 or older with major depression were given Lexapro. From those studied, 73 who showed only partial gains in their battle with depression were additionally prescribed 10 weeks of tai chi classes or health education classes for two hours per week.

Although both groups showed a decrease in depression, the group participating in tai chi displayed the greatest reduction. An additional 14 percent, compared to those not partaking in tai chi, were actually placed into a “remission” category. Thus, UCLA’s study shows that mind-body exercise can fight depression in older adults.

What ailments can exercise help your senior wellness program clients overcome?

Topics: group exercise senior wellness programs senior fitness management

What Corporate Fitness Clients Need to Know About Barefoot Running

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

Finding ways to incorporate current trends, or at least educating yourself and clients about them, is key to keeping your corporate wellness programming fresh. So if you haven't experienced the recent barefoot running movement, here's what you and your corporate fitness clients need to know.

barefoot running, employee wellness, fitnessAlthough barefoot running has existed for quite some time, the movement has reemerged in the past couple years. Rather than advertise any special shoe or apparel to enhance your runs, barefoot running followers suggest ditching the shoes completely to run with newfound freedom and a better connection to the ground than before.

Now the first thought running through the mind of your corporate fitness center members is probably along the lines of “Wouldn’t that hurt my feet if I happened to step directly on a rock or hard surface?” Podiatrist Stephen Pribut, DPM (quoted in this article), would agree, saying, “Most of my patients aren’t world-class runners. It wouldn’t make sense for them to risk getting twigs and glass in their feet.”

However, the same article points out that when you are wearing socks and tennis shoes, the body loses some of its proprioceptive awareness. Without the motion-control or stability features of a good running shoe, the foot and leg muscles have to work harder to react to surfaces. From my research over the past year, there is a general lack of strong evidence that wearing shoes is much better for the runner’s stride or biomechanics.

From an injury and liability standpoint, barefoot running is not something corporate health and wellness programs should incorporate onsite. Most fitness centers should hold policies of wearing tennis shoes at all times on equipment. If your runners are dying to try the trend for themselves, suggest they do it on their own time, offsite, on ground that appears to be safe.

Do any of your corporate fitness center members believe in barefoot running?

Topics: corporate wellness muscle toning exercise at home

Pick Red Peppers for a Great Weight-Loss Snack or Side

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

Red peppers can play a role in weight loss! Peppers are low in calories, which helps with weight loss. Grab fresh red peppers instead of potato chips as a healthy snack. You still get that same crunch with a lot fewer calories.

Red peppers are mature green peppers. They are mild in taste, which makes them a great snack raw or cooked. Red peppers do not contain any fat, are low in carbohydrates, and are rich in fiber and vitamins C and A. Fiber helps with the digestive system and vitamins C and A help to protect your eyes and skin.

Peppers also contain a chemical called capsaicin, which may help to increase the rate at which the body burns fat. With all these positive things, why wouldn’t you pick up some red peppers next time you’re at the store?

Adding red peppers to your meal will not only add color, but also good flavoring. I like to buy a variety of colored peppers and cut them up in my salads. I’ve also cut up fresh red peppers and made a low-fat veggie dip as a healthy snack when company is over.

red pepper, healthy snacking, corporate health and wellness, senior wellness, fitness center managementJust last night I made kabobs with red peppers and shrimp to put on the grill. Add a little seasoning and you have a low-calorie, low-fat, and fun meal. You can also go online and search for a low-fat recipe to make stuffed peppers. Red peppers are something different to incorporate into your fresh summer meals!

Add red peppers to your salads, omelets, chicken tacos, whole-wheat pasta with ground turkey, or just add peppers on top of your grilled chicken sandwich. Have fun and get creative with red peppers this summer!

Corporate health and wellness programs are making strides in encouraging healthy eating, so look in your onsite cafeteria for these and other healthier options.

Topics: nutrition weight loss

Early to Rise Helps in Weight Loss

This blog was written by Samantha Whiteside. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

early to rise, exercise, employee health, corporate fitness center managementIn corporate fitness centers across the country, members are always on the lookout for health and wellness strategies to help with weight control. Help may be as close as their bedroom pillow.

It has long been said that “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”; but now there is evidence from Northwestern University to back up this claim. The University’s School of Medicine followed 52 individuals who were split into two distinct groups: late sleepers, defined as going to bed around 3:45am and waking at 10:45am, and “normal sleepers,” who were in bed by 12:30am and awake by 8am. The researchers followed mealtimes, amount and type of food, and calories consumed.

Normal sleepers consumed 248 fewer calories than the late sleepers and the extra calories consumed by the late sleepers occurred mostly after 8pm. The quality of the food consumed by the late sleepers was of lower nutritional value and sodas were also more frequently consumed. Additionally, fast food was gobbled twice as much and half as many fruits and vegetables were ingested by the late sleepers.

With this evidence from Northwestern University in mind, what time will you hit the hay tonight?

Topics: corporate wellness weight loss

Overcoming Corporate Fitness Obstacles

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

Fitness opstacles, employee wellness, corporate fitness center managementWe’ve all experienced fitness obstacles, health professionals included. It may be working through an injury or trying to set a new personal record, but for many corporate fitness clients, it may be as simple as finding the courage to step foot in a gym for the first time in years.

You need easy techniques to encourage your corporate wellness members to keep pushing for their goals and realize they have the power to control a big chunk of their health and well-being. Here are some of the most important things you can do as the motivating “team captain” of your corporate fitness center:

Always Use Encouraging Words

From the initial new-member orientation, come across as friendly and welcoming. Beyond that, stress to them that you are there to help, answer questions, and understand their individual situations. During group fitness classes or personal training sessions, be sure to use motivating words or phrases at the point of exercise when things get uncomfortable or tiring and the member wants to give up.

For some individuals, encouraging words are better received in written form—for example, a small note sent to congratulate them on a recent achievement or a touch-base e-mail to let them know you are still cheering them on. This way the message really sinks in each time the member sees the note or e-mail.

Help Set Realistic Fitness Goals

When you do a consultation with a member, ensure that his or her goals are realistic within a time frame. For example, for someone with a lofty goal of losing 50 pounds, split it into smaller chunks of 5 to 10 pounds each so that the uphill climb of weight loss doesn’t seem insurmountable.

Remember That Small Adjustments Can Add Up

Remind corporate fitness members that every step counts. Sometimes, as health professionals, we fall into the trap of trying to force too many life changes on a member too soon because we know the importance of all the elements. However, encourage members to initiate one new change a week and follow up to see how the adjustment impacted their well-being, getting them closer to their ultimate goal.

What motivational techniques or tips have been successful at your corporate fitness center?

Topics: corporate fitness motivation

Employee Health: How Does Your Spouse Impact Your Health?

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

spouse support, exercise, employee wellness,corporate fitness center managementI work at a corporate fitness center where spouses are eligible to use the facility. Although I do work with several couples/spouses/partners, I would like to see more getting fit together at the fitness center. There is no cost, and no restricted hours, so that takes away some of the excuses. Spouses need to motivate each other and make changes toward a healthier lifestyle.

The Health Benefits (and Detriments) of Being Married

Some studies have shown that married individuals are healthier than singles. Married couples usually have more money, which improves health status. Studies also say most spouses depend on each other more (wages, childcare, etc.), so they take better care of each other. (That’s not to say single people don’t care about someone they’re dating; they just don’t depend on them as much as married couples do on their spouses.)

Females can usually promote males to seek medical advice, which is why married males tend to be healthier than single males.

One bad thing about being married and living together is the risk of passing illnesses and viruses back and forth. This can cause both to have to see a physician.

What if Your Spouse Isn't Living a Healthy Lifestyle?

Because I manage an onsite corporate fitness center, I work out on a regular basis and try to eat healthy. It can be challenging when you have someone in your life who doesn’t live the same lifestyle. If you are the more active one in a relationship, keep up the motivation and try little steps at a time to influence your loved ones. Stay focused to change for the better and take your spouse on the journey, too!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness disease prevention

Will Graphic New Tobacco Packaging Encourage Employee Health?

This blog was written by TJ McAloon. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

According to this Washington Post article, "Federal health officials unveiled plans to replace the warnings that cigarette packs began carrying 25 years ago with new versions using images that could include emaciated cancer patients, diseased organs and corpses.”

What that means is no more cool-looking cowboys and cartoon camels on your pack of cigarettes. Those easy-on-the-eyes images will be replaced with a cowboy or Joe the Camel in a hospital bed or with their oxygen tank.

But the real question to ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is why after 25 years are they taking away the Surgeon General’s warnings? Why have they adopted this picture over lengthy worded warnings?

One answer could be because we do not take time to read warnings, instructions, or really anything.

quitting smoking, employee health, corporate fitness and wellnessTake a second and think about the last time you read the instruction manual to anything. Does anyone take the time to actually read along in emergency guide on an airplane in case of an actual emergency? No, you just sit there and wait until you are allowed to turn back on your iPod, iPhone, computer, or whatever electronic device they made you turn off.

It is a smart move by the FDA to go to the pictures. For example, why does the Stop sign work? Because it’s in big white letters as just one word: “STOP.” Even then people don’t read that and blow right the sign!

This new plan will be in place in October 2012. Now people have no excuse when they get sick or have problems from smoking. It’s now their fault for not seeing the warnings of what can happen from prolonged use of smoking. Get the picture?

What is your workplace wellness program doing to encourage a nonsmoking lifestyle?

Topics: employee health tobacco cessation

Corporate Wellness: Refuel with Chocolate Milk

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

Chocolate Milk resized 600There are so many sports drinks and supplements on the market that it is almost impossible to choose which one is best for an after-workout refuel. There are dozens of flavors and brands of protein shakes, waters, and carbohydrate drinks.

Recently something very simple has been advertised as being a better choice than all of these. Almost everyone has had it before, and many probably still enjoy it frequently without even realizing the benefits it could have when used after exercise. Are you ready? Low-fat chocolate milk!

Yes, believe it or not, science has shown that low-fat chocolate milk contains the perfect balance of carbs and protein that can quickly restore your muscles to their peak potential after you exercise. Low-fat chocolate milk will help you build lean muscle as well as rehydrate after exercise and has been proven to work better than other commercial sports drinks. It also naturally contains some of the electrolytes that are added to recovery drinks.

I was happy to find this information because I try to include only natural foods and drinks in my diet. When looking at the ingredients in sports drinks and protein shakes, there are many unidentifiable ingredients.

I started to include low-fat chocolate milk into my diet for many health reasons. (And hey, let's not forget it's delicious!) I was then randomly contacted by the Refuel with Chocolate Milk tour and asked to work at a local triathlon at their booth near the finish line. They had an amazing setup and I learned all about why low-fat chocolate milk is now a preferred way to refuel after exercise! What perfect timing!

I have been spreading the word about the benefits of chocolate milk for after-workout refueling and it would be a great topic for a corporate wellness program lunch and learn. I am sure encouraging people to drink something that is super yummy and beneficial would be easy!

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness nutrition

NIFS Wellness Manager Does Philanthropic Work

Our onsite fitness center managers and staff not only ensure the safety and well-being of your employees; they go beyond what is asked simply out of the kindness of their hearts. 

Our Roanoke wellness manager has repeatedly organized and collected items for local organizations in her community. From candy and magazines to shoes, she collects and gives with the help of her wellness center members.

Shoes for the Homeless

Initially at a health fair in May 2010, she was able to offer a gym bag or socks to every associate who donated a pair of slightly used athletic shoes and turned them in at her booth. She continued to collect for the following two days, resulting in a collection of 75 pairs of shoes. All of the shoes were donated to the Rescue Mission. Since then she continues to collect shoes at her onsite fitness center and regularly donate them. Since beginning her collection, her team has been able to donate approximately 400 pairs of shoes to the homeless in the Roanoke Valley!

philanthropic work, employee wellness, community serviceMagazines for Retirement Homes

Another great idea is to recycle rather than throw away old magazines. Every month this wellness manager cleans out her magazines as the new issues come out. With the help of one of her dedicated wellness center members, she has been able to donate them to a local retirement home for their use. Thus far they have donated 100 magazines!

Candy for the Troops

Operation Gratitude, the nonprofit organization that sends care packages and letters to U.S. troops overseas benefited from the 34 pounds of candy she collected from her wellness center members last fall. Not only did she save her members from eating all those calories, I am sure they brightened the faces of those troops serving our country. Our manager was able to pair up with a local participating dentist who covered the cost of mailing all of that candy!

Wellness Manager Encourages Others to Promote Social Wellness

Each week this big-hearted manager sends out e-mail communications to her members promoting volunteer opportunities for charities, races, and more. What a great way to promote social wellness. Keep up the great work!

Topics: Be inspired worksite wellness

New Nutritional Keys Improve Employee Health Through Better Choices

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

The Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association announced in January that a new voluntary “front-of-pack” nutritional information system will be seen on food productMan reading food label resized 600s this year. These nutritional keys are different from the standard nutritional label typically found on the back or side of a box or container, in that they are large symbols that inform the consumer about the nutritional information on the front of a product.

The four basic icons that display the calorie, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar content in one serving of a particular product may prove to be helpful for quick product comparison and informed decision making. A campaign to help consumers learn about the new system will launch this fall.

Do you think this new system to deliver simplified information about your food will help you make better nutritional decisions? The GMA reports that a similar labeling system exists in the UK and 63% of consumers say they use the information to make choices when they purchase food.

Employers can play a huge role in helping their employees make healthy nutritional choices at work by not only educating the about food labels but by providing discounts for healthy food options. A qualified corporate wellness company can help you build a worksite wellness program that serves your employees by providing nutritional, fitness, and stress-management programs that lead them toward a healthier lifestyle.

Topics: corporate wellness employee health nutrition

Employee Health: Help Your Kids Build Healthy Habits

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

If you thought your child’s grades and college choice were the most important things to worry about in their adolescence, think again. Unhealthy habits picked up during the preteen and teen years can lead to health problems later in life, a recent study found. The most notable problem among these is high cholesterol levels, or dyslipidemia.

Smoking, poor cardiovascular fitness, and carrying around extra body fat were all significantly correlated with dyslipidemia later in early adulthood. If you think your child might be heading in this direction, here are three keys to help turn them around:

  • Get active together as a family. Go for bike rides, play in Active Family resized 600the yard, and move in other fun ways to show them how much fun exercise can really be when you find something you like. Now is the time to ingrain the habit of regular physical activity in their life.
  • Practice what you preach. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so if you are carrying around a few extra pounds yourself or you smoke, how likely is it that your children won’t?
  • Encourage a healthy, nutritious diet whenever you can. You can’t control your child’s eating when they’re not at home, but odds are you can when they are (unless they want to fork over the extra money to buy their own groceries!). Get them used to eating healthy foods lower in fat and cholesterol while they are young so they will hopefully stick with them as they age.

Although it may seem your children can eat anything and everything under the sun without gaining any weight, they may in fact just be setting themselves up for disaster later in life. Help them establish healthy habits now while not picking up unhealthy ones.

You want to help and guide your kids in their schooling and set them up for a secure future. But what are you doing to help guide them away from having to take medications such as Lipitor? See your corporate wellness program for more help.


Topics: corporate wellness employee health disease prevention