Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Financial Stress Impacts Employee Health

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

Fitness and orderly finances. Do they go together? Now try this one: poor health and chronic debt. I bet you can see that relationship more closely. Just as with our health, we need to be proactive about our money and keep our financial lives “in shape.”

financial wellness, stress, wellnessFinancial Problems Cause Stress

It’s no surprise that money, or lack of money, is one of the biggest causes of stress in the human life. Long-term stress can lead to a whole host of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, loss of sleep, and depression. Just as you encourage your corporate wellness members to take action now and build healthy physical lifestyles, there are measures they can take to build the health of their finances.

Urge Corporate Wellness Clients to Focus on Their Workouts

This article reports that anywhere from 30% to 80% of employees in any given workforce are taking care of personal financial matters on company time. This means they are probably thinking about their financial dilemmas during their exercise time, too. Urge your corporate wellness members to stay focused on their workouts at the gym and block out distractions. This not only enhances the physical benefits of their workout, but also provides post-exercise mental stress relief.

Other Ways Corporate Wellness Can Help with Financial Worries

Encourage others to examine their resources and have gratitude for their finances, large or small. These positive feelings of contentment can be linked to better mental health.

Also, consider hosting an educational Lunch & Learn at your corporate fitness center, and invite a trustworthy financial consultant to speak. Giving people tips they can use on a daily basis to save money or showing someone how to set up a simple budget can alleviate stress and maybe sickness down the road.

Refer to this website for other “Small Steps to Health and Wealth.”

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness stress financial fitness

Improve Employee Health with Behavior Modification

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

late night binge eating, stages of changes, behavior modification, nifsHabits are hard to break. This is especially true when it comes to your health. It’s very easy to fall into routines of not exercising, late-night snacking, eating out, watching several hours of television, and so on. In addition to diet and exercise-related health rituals, other behaviors that can be detrimental to health and similarly very hard to break free of include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive caffeine consumption, and self-loathing (or having a negative self-image)…and we all know how hard those can be to overcome!

Steps to Behavior Modification

In order to achieve permanent success in behavior modification, one must realize that it takes time. In fact, psychologists have outlined five Stages of Change that are used to identify how ready an individual is to tackle his or her negative health behaviors. These stages include

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance

Notice that the first three stages are all centered around getting ready and realizing the need for change, whereas the last two focus on actually changing the behavior and maintaining the change. This is a long-term process; success will not—and should not—happen overnight. Truth be told, change is something we all need time to warm up to.

Modifying Your Behavior with Goals

One of the most successful interventions in modifying behavior is goal setting. The entire process encourages gradual change. If proper procedures are used, goal setting can serve to increase energy, effort, and focus.

One of the main reasons goal setting works in behavior modification is that the process creates a never-ending chain of events. In setting goals, you identify obstacles, which help you secure commitment to your goals, which helps you develop an action plan, which—once started—offers feedback on goal attainment, which helps you evaluate goal attainment, which leads to reinforcement of goal attainment, which allows you to set new goals when you are ready!

Topics: employee health behavior modification tobacco cessation smoking

What Motivates You to Move?

This blog was written by Sarah Harriman. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

A quick glance around the fitness center and you’ll see dozens of people, each with a different goal drawing them in to exercise. What motivates these people to come in the door and keep them coming back day after day?

Motivation can be both extrinsic (“My wife made me come to the gym”) and intrinsic (“I want to go to the gym”). While both may be effective short term, someone in it for the long haul needs to tap into his or her inner self.

tennis, women, exercise, competitionMotivation Ideas

If you feel like you’re lacking that inner drive, try these ideas:

  • Healthy competition: Make bets with friends and family. Who can lose the most weight in a month? If you’re an athlete, find local events or races. Or, make bets with yourself. How many days in a row can you be physically active?
  • Specific goals: Not seeing improvement can be a leading contributor to lack of motivation. Take a look at your goals and make sure they are specific and measurable. Instead of “I want to lose weight,” try “I will lose 10 pounds before December 1.” Or, modify “I want to be a faster runner” to “I will decrease my 5K time by 10 seconds before September 30.” With clear goals you’ll feel like you’re making progress and you’ll be less likely to be discouraged.
  • A vision: Where do you see yourself as it relates to your goal? Keep track of how your actions contribute to that vision. Be honest and record your thoughts daily on a notepad or in a journal.
  • Motivation loves company: Sharing your goal with a friend can help build your confidence and build on successes. Finding a buddy to partake in your goal not only adds a psychological boost, but ensures accountability. Or go high-tech with your goal by updating your Facebook status, posting a tweet, or blogging about your progress. With a post like “Heading out for a three-mile run!” or “Five pounds down, three to go!” you’ll likely be encouraged and may gain some followers. 

Set Fitness Goals

Intrinsic motivation is fueled by our human desire to be competent, to belong to a group, and to establish control. At the start of the NIFS Go Girl Triathlon Training Program, we encouraged our participants to write down their goals and actions to achieve their goals. Some of the more original responses included:

  • Meet other ladies who enjoy triathlon!
  • Beat my husband’s sprint triathlon time.
  • Pass more people than pass me.

What’s your goal and how do you stay motivated?

Topics: motivation Fitness Center

Office Exercise: Good for Employee Health and Good for the Company

This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

take the stairs resized 600With more and more studies indicating just how dangerous to health sitting at a desk can be, incorporating small bouts of physical activity throughout the workday is as important as ever.

For the employee, taking breaks stimulates both the mind and body, combats stress, and helps ward off the monotony that can permeate a workday. In turn, the company is rewarded with healthy workers who earn and save them money through increased productivity and reduced health care costs!

Take a look at some of the following suggestions for quick ways to add exercise in the office:


  • Walk at any opportunity. Take the stairs, visit a coworker, or go for a walk on a lunch break.
  • Instead of a desk chair, try a stability ball! Your core and posture will thank you.
  • Perform short bouts of stationary movement (jumping jacks, marches, jump-rope simulation, lunges, etc.).


  • Stand at any opportunity. Pace while on a phone call. If your company provides workstations that allow employees to stand or even walk on a treadmill while working, take advantage!
  • Think about how you can turn your office into your own mini-gym. Perform chair squats and desk presses (similar to a push-up, with hands on the edge of the desk), chair triceps dips, and shoulder and arm exercises (shoulder presses, bicep curls) with anything heavy.  


  • Without even having to move from the chair, stretch and take some deep breaths to relieve tension. Focus on all major muscle groups.
  • Contract, hold, and relax different muscle groups, such as the abdominals and glutes.

Which of these exercises would mesh best with your schedule?  

Topics: exercise at work employee health businesses exercies at your desk

Wellness Center Manager Advocates Exercise for Preventing Alzheimer's

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

senior fitness, weights, aging wellIt’s probably just my desire as a wellness center manager at a Continuing Care Retirement Community for the National Institute for Fitness and Sport to recommend exercise for most questions I get. But when I speak with residents, one of their major concerns as they age is losing their cognitive function, which is most commonly associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease. A growing body of research is emerging to support my answer that exercise is one of the best medicines, especially in regard to exercise's ability to prevent Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's disease continues to grow in prevalence worldwide, expected to affect 1 out of 85 individuals over 65 by 2050. With the cause of Alzheimer's still unknown, much of the current research is being focused on lifestyle and behavioral habits that decrease the risk of developing it. 

So how much does exercise help in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease? Deborah Barnes, a mental health researcher at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC), analyzed data from studies around the world involving hundreds of thousands of participants about modifiable lifestyle habits that can prevent Alzheimer's disease. Barnes found that the biggest modifiable risk factor in the United States was physical activity. She stated that the most exciting thing about the study was that some very simple lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity, could prevent more than half of the Alzheimer's cases.

Other modifiable risk factors that were identified by the study included smoking, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, most of which can also be modified by increased physical activity.

So what steps can you start to take to increase your physical activity?

Topics: exercise disease prevention senior fitness

NIFS Summer Showdown

This blog was written by Diane Miller. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

NIFS, pushups, working out, exerciseAs the summer months are moving past, NIFS Summer Showdown continues to be a huge success. Session 1 concluded on July 15 and drew in a great crowd of people of all ages and abilities throughout the 5-week program. One member on my team was 81 years old and improved his time by 6 minutes. Another member on Lori’s team improved his time by an impressive 16 minutes—outstanding! The Sizzler workout was as follows:

Level 1                             Level 2                            Level 3
500m Row                    800m Row                    2,000m Row
¼-Mile Walk/Run           ½-Mile Walk/Run           1-Mile Run
25 Burpees                   50 Burpees                  75 Burpees
25 Squats                    50 Squats                    75 Squats
25 Sit-ups                   50 Sit-ups                    75 Sit-ups
25 Push-ups                 50 Push-ups                 75 Push-ups
25 TRX Rows                50 Pull-ups                  75 Pull-ups

While the Sizzler workout was easy to modify for the older or less fit population, the Scorcher has proven to be a different type of challenge. The Scorcher workout is not about setting your own time, but about how many repetitions can you complete in a set time frame. Exercises were all designed to use various pieces of equipment to challenge the entire body. Kettlebell Swings, Burpee Slams, Bentover Rows, and TRX crunches have proven to be a fun, yet challenging workout.

Round 2 ends August 20.. Let’s see how this next group challenges out.

So, have you tried the Sizzler or Scorcher workout yet? Let us know how you did!


Topics: Fitness Center abs

Technology and Obesity

This blog was written by Melissa Cusick. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

obesity, health and wellness, technologyIn the world of technology, time equals improvement and efficiency. Back in the day we had computers that occupied the space of an entire room and Zack Morris–sized cell phones. Now we have computers that fit in the palm of a hand and Zoolander-sized cell phones. It seems that as more is discovered in the world of technology, items have become smaller and more efficient. Interestingly enough, this concept does not seem to apply to people.

In 1995 when the United States began tracking obesity rates, Mississippi had the nation’s highest adult obesity rate at 19.8 percent. Now, 16 years later in 2011, Colorado has the nation’s lowest adult obesity rate at 19.4 percent. As you can see, what used to be the upper end of the nation’s obesity scale is now at the extreme low end of the spectrum. This is concerning because common conditions associated with obesity include but are not limited to high cholesterol and triglycerides, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, all conditions that can be avoided with proper nutrition and activity.

Nowadays, we have low-calorie options at stores and restaurants, fitness centers popping up on virtually every corner, and educational tools at our fingertips. We can download an app on our tiny cell phones to count calories or find a healthy restaurant or fitness facility, but do we? Something common to the field of technology and humans is that bigger is not always better. What has changed in our society that has influenced the adult obesity rate to increase so severely?

Topics: Fitness Center

Employee Health: How Mood and Personality Affect Nutritional Choices

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

We all know that emotional eating can sabotage even the greatest of weight-loss efforts. Typically we envision emotions that coincide with emotional eating to be primarily negative. New research, however, shows that positive emotions can also have an influence on what we choose to eat.

The Journal of Consumer Research recently published findings in an article titled “Helpful Hopefulness: The Effect of Future Positive Emotions on Consumption” that suggest happy people are more likely to snack on candy bars, whereas hopeful people choose more often to snack on fruit.

Personality Traits and Their Impact on Food Choices

happy eating, hopeful eating, nutrition, employee wellness, corporate fitness center managementTo fully understand the relationships that exist between positive emotions and food choices, researchers dissected the traits that classify personalities as happy and/or hopeful. They found that those with hopeful personality traits focus mainly on the future, while people with happy personalities tend to beam from past achievements. In looking toward the future, hopeful people choose more health-conscious snacks, and also exhibit greater levels of self-control than their happy, prideful counterparts who are simply “living for the moment.”

Adjusting Your Attitude Will Improve Your Choices

The relationship between happiness and food choices literally creates an emotional rollercoaster. In addition to the preceding research, scientists have studied the emotional side-effects of food, and have found intriguing results: Participants who consumed apples reported feelings of satisfaction, happiness, and heightened energy, while individuals who ate chocolate cited the same joyous feelings; however, they were closely followed by feelings of guilt.

So what do we make of this? Karen Page Winterich and Kelly L. Haws, the authors of the “Helpful Hopefulness” study offer this conclusion: “The next time you’re feeling well, don’t focus too much on all the good things in the past. Instead, keep that positive glow and focus on your future, especially all the good things you imagine to come. Your waistline will thank you!” Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Many corporations, spurred by corporate wellness initiatives, are going with healthier cafeteria and vending options. What does your workplace offer, candy bar or fruit bar?

Topics: employee health nutrition weight loss motivation

Thomas’ Corner: Get The Most Out of Your Recovery Phase

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

dumbbell training, NIFS, fitness centerRumor has it, you build muscle by lifting weights, doing cardio, and being physically active every day. Okay, that is important along with a balanced nutrition plan; but in reality, muscle is built during your recovery phase.

For those who work out multiple times per day or work the same muscle groups day in and day out and see little or no growth, you may not be allowing your body ample time to rebuild itself. This is also known as overtraining, which can lead to such undesired effects as lack of physical progression, chronic fatigue, compounding injuries, and overall boredom. Keep in mind, most people do not overtrain.

How can you get the most out of your recovery phase? Because you need calories and nutrients to exercise, first plan to consume something before a workout; the window can vary, but at least you have something in the tank. Next, make it a priority to eat sometime soon after you finish; your body is searching for ways to replenish and grow. Finally, rest up. Muscle is built not while you work out, but when you are recovering.


Topics: Fitness Center Thomas' Corner

Hula Hoop for Weight Loss

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

corporate fitness center management, hula hoop, weight lossThere is truly something for everyone in the world of fitness. Case in point, hula hooping is starting to make its mark in group fitness settings. A study found this activity to use the same amount of energy as walking at a speed of 4 to 4.5 miles per hour—which is a pretty quick pace!

Hula hooping for fitness is not as brand new as you might think. When I attended the 2007 National Wellness Conference in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, one session featured hula hoops, where participants were encouraged to try them out and see that they aren’t just for those under the age of 10.

While many of your corporate wellness members may not gain the same fitness benefits from hula hooping as with a higher-impact activity like running or cardio intervals, this can be a good activity to draw in seniors, children, or even those who dread the idea of traditional exercise machines.

Here are a few ideas of how to use hula hoops in your corporate fitness center:

  • During a group fitness class, set up an obstacle course (outdoors is better, if facilities are available). Many of the stations can be standard workouts, but make one a hula hoop station where participants must keep the hoop up for 10 spins before moving on to the next one!
  • Host a family fun night where corporate fitness center members can bring their spouses and children for a night of recreational activities, including hula hoop, jump rope, football toss, etc.
  • Hold a hula hoop contest to see who can hoop the longest. Sometimes all it takes is friendly competition to encourage people to try new activities!
Topics: group exercise weight loss

Blueberries: More Nutritional Power for Employee Health

This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

employee health, nutrition, blueberriesWe’re right in the heart of blueberry season, so it’s a great opportunity to look at what makes this delicious summertime favorite so nutritious.

Blueberries are constantly receiving positive press, and deservedly so: their antioxidant power ranks them among the top “super foods” that provide vital health benefits. According to WebMD and the American Dietetic Association, blueberries boast the power to help prevent cancer, heart disease, and high cholesterol, and can benefit the immune system, cognitive function, eye health, and digestion. Their antioxidant content and high levels of fiber; vitamins A, E, and C; potassium; and manganese provide these benefits.

Are Blueberries a New Secret Weight Loss Weapon?

If the previously mentioned health benefits weren’t enough to send you hurrying to the produce section of the nearest supermarket, what about the fact that a recent study has shown promise for the blueberry in its ability to fight obesity on a molecular level? According to a recent study at Texas Woman’s University, polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) from blueberries hindered the development of adipose (fat) cells in mice. The effects were dependent on the size of the dose; the highest dose had the most impact on the cells.

Further studies are needed, as the jury is still out on the potential effects of polyphenol doses in humans. However, one can’t help but wonder: is the ability to bottle a blueberry’s nutritional power on the horizon?

In the meantime, the old-fashioned way of consuming your polyphenols through a diet rich in unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds (and even wine, tea, coffee, and chocolate!) should certainly be adequate. In fact, Mother Nature may see to it that this remains the best means, as it appears that there are polyphenols that cannot be extracted that are an important part of these foods’ nutritional value.

Healthy and Delicious Ways to Enjoy Blueberries

Think about simple ways that you can add more blueberries to your diet. They make great toppings for yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, cold cereal, and oatmeal. Add them to smoothies and fruit salads, or simply enjoy a handful for dessert or a snack. They’re most nutritious in their raw state, but adding them to pancakes, waffles, muffins, breads, and more will still add a sweet, nutritious burst of flavor.

Topics: employee health nutrition weight loss