Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Office Wellness: Using a Stability Ball to Exercise at Your Desk

exercise ball, stability ball as a chairSome of the biggest issues I see in corporate fitness clients with sedentary office jobs are a weak lower back and poor shoulder posture. When we sit in a chair, staring at a computer screen for eight hours of the day, our core tends to get a little soggy. Posture and core strength can easily be improved by simply switching out your swiveling office chair for a stability ball, sometimes called a Swiss ball or physio ball.

Sitting on an unstable ball immediately engages your core and forces you to sit tall and upright. Not only does it instantly improve posture, it also serves as a great tool to have in your office to use for short bouts of exercise. Try replacing your office chair with a stability ball for at least an hour per day. Then, at the end of that hour, try these posture enhancing exercises:

  • Plank: Place your elbows just below the top of the ball. Extend your legs behind you, balancing on your toes and elbows. Keep your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your hips and knees. Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Shoulder I-Y-Ts: Place your stomach on the ball so that your body is at a 45-degree angle with your hands touching the floor in front of you. With your thumbs up and moving only at your shoulders, lift your arms so that your upper arms come right by your ears, forming the letter I with each arm. After 10 repetitions, move your arms out to a 45-degree angle, forming the letter Y. Again, moving only at the shoulders, lift your arms into a Y position. Lower your arms and repeat 10 times. Next, move your arms straight out to 180 degrees, a T position. Lift your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Lower and repeat 10 times.
Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness

Corporate Fitness and March Basketball

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

Many of us have sedentary jobs and get very little physical activity, planned or otherwise. Additionally, it doesn’t help our waistlines that many of us prefer to spend our leisure time stagnant as well. With some planning and creativity, you can get your less-than-active hobbies moving.

Getting a Workout While Watching TV

It’s March, and I lovemarch madness college basketball, so for the next few weekends I could park myself on the couch for hours of entertainment and bliss without moving a muscle. However, I know that long periods of inactivity have dangerous consequences. How can I “squeeze” some activity into my basketball watching marathon?

I get into the action with this “game” I’ve created for myself. When my team makes a three-pointer, I do five push-ups. Free-throws equal five squats each. I stretch during time-outs, and for every 10 points my team scores, I hold the plank for one minute. By the end of the game, regardless of how well my team played, I’ve probably gotten quite a bit of activity.

Cue Yourself to Take Exercise Breaks at Home and Work

If your hobby isn’t already active like hiking or biking, what reminders or cues can you create to remind yourself to take an activity break? Maybe you can take a lap or two around the block at the end of each chapter you read in your novel. Perhaps you can take a break to play with your kids outside when you finish a page in your scrapbook.

This type of activity can also be included in your workday, too. In fact, employees who get more physical activity are more productive at work. A well-rounded corporate wellness program can help you determine how to get your employees more active each day.  

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work exercise at home productivity staying active

Employee Health: Smaller Is Better

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

cell phones, 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 personal 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 in the last 16 years that has influenced the adult obesity rate to increase so severely? What can corporate wellness programs do to help reverse this alarming trend?

Topics: corporate wellness obesity technology

Five Steps to Employee Health During National Nutrition Month

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

March is designated as National Nutrition Month and has been making a healthy impact worldwide for nearly 30 years. Eating healthy does not have to be complicated, time consuming, or boring. All it takes is a little thought and a positive attitude. Follow these 5 tips for a healthier you and a happier dinner plate!

Tip 1: Start in the produce section when grocery shopping.

describe the imageFill the cart with many fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce packs a healthy punch with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Focus on color by rainbow shopping. Look for fruits and veggies that are green, yellow, red, purple, orange, and white in color. The more colors you purchase, the better.

Tip 2: Always have healthy snacks on hand.

Keeping a small stash of almonds, dried fruits, whole-wheat crackers, granola bars, or pretzels in your bag or desk drawer will come in handy when a snack attack hits. Although vending machines are convenient, cravings may take control of food choices, leading to an unhealthy purchase. Be prepared and avoid unnecessary calorie consumption.

Tip 3: Enjoy foods from all five food groups.

Consuming a variety of foods from each food group helps to fuel the body. However, it is important to make healthy choices. Choose foods that will be both filling and satisfying without sacrificing too many calories. For example, a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread will be more filling, supply the body with ample energy, and yield less calories than a piece of chocolate cake.

Tip 4: Be knowledgeable about portion sizes and include variety in each meal.

A serving does not mean whatever makes it on the plate. Follow serving sizes on packages and in recipes to help keep calories in check. Using smaller plates will help keep excess food consumption to a minimum. At every meal, foods from the fruit and vegetable groups should take up half of the plate while the other half should be equally divided by grains and proteins.

Tip 5: Drink plenty of water.

Water is essential to the body. Consuming approximately 64 ounces of water daily helps replenish any fluids lost through functions such as sweating, urinating, and breathing. Water also helps the heart to pump blood efficiently. While other fluids such as 100% fruit juice, sports drinks, and tea assist in replenishing fluids, they also contain calories. For a calorie-free way to reload, fill up with H2O.

Topics: employee health nutrition water

Employee Wellness: A Healthy Makeover for School Lunches

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

With the recent release of new standards regarding school lunches and theischool lunch resized 600r nutrition content, it won’t be long before the food on your child’s plate will be more colorful, more portion-conscious, and more nutritious than ever before. The changes brought forth by the National School Lunch Program, in connection with the USDA, feature the following in lunches at participating public and not-for-profit private schools as well as various child care institutions:

  • Minimum requirements for veggies and fruits, with more choices and an emphasis on color variety

  • More whole grains and less refined carbohydrates

  • Milk choices of either skim or 1%

  • Calorie ranges for different grade levels that promote portion control

  • Limits on sodium and fat content

To better illustrate the improvements being made as the guidelines were introduced, a “before” and “after” menu was provided for a typical day. Instead of pizza sticks, raisins, a banana, and whole milk, the choices were a chef salad with low-fat dressing and a whole-wheat pretzel, choice of raw carrots or cooked corn, a banana, and chocolate skim milk. The healthier menu is certainly more well-balanced, yet reasonably attractive to a child’s appetite.

Plans are in place for a movement toward healthier breakfast and vending machine options as well. With about 32 million children taking advantage of these school lunches in America today, it’s hopeful that the new guidelines will not only help kids be at their best both mentally and physically, but perhaps put a dent in childhood obesity as healthier food habits are instilled at an early age.

Topics: employee health nutrition employee wellness kids

Misunderstood Carbs Are Not the Enemy of Corporate Wellness

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

carbs, sweetsCarbohydrates, carbs for short, is generally a misunderstood term among your corporate wellness members. When people hear the word “carb,” they instantly think of breads, cookies, chips, or other treats that, in their heads, automatically equate to extra pounds on the body. Many fad diets, such as Atkins, focus on the elimination of this nutrient, so it’s no wonder that the general population thinks of carbs as a five-letter dirty word.

There's More to Carbs Than Breads and Sweets

The first step in educating those in your corporate fitness center is to remind them that the carbohydrate food group is much wider than just breads and sweets. This group includes vegetables, fruits, and plenty of healthy grain options. Our bodies are made to function best when carbohydrates comprise about 55 percent of our diet. When we overload on the two other nutrients—protein and fat—health problems can occur.

Carbs Are an Important Source of Energy

Secondly, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for exercise as well as your body’s daily functions. Carbs support your body’s central nervous system, so it’s easy to see why people on low-carb or no-carb diets can have trouble focusing on daily tasks, may become irritable, or always seem tired.

There's a Difference Between Complex Carbs and Simple Carbs

Lastly, educate members on the difference between complex carbs, which are higher in fiber and carry more nutrients, versus simple carbs like refined or processed foods. Steer away from phrases like “good carbs” and “bad carbs,” because both versions can be incorporated into a healthy diet. Carbs are not the enemy!

Topics: corporate fitness nutrition worksite wellness

Employee Health and Productivity Depend on Breaks

This blog was written by Fitness Staff. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

hectic work schedule, busy, employee stressThe e-mails are piling up, the phone is ringing off the hook, papers are stacked around you, and you are the go-to person at the office for all those who need a helping hand. While it may seem most productive for you to stay glued to your desk chair with your eyes fixed on the computer screen, it may actually not be the most productive choice after all. 

Just as your body needs rest after tiring physical activity, your mind needs breaks as well. In fact, your brain will be more likely to perform at an optimal level if it given rest breaks, just like your physical body performs best with adequate rest. Research has actually shown that employees who spend time daydreaming are more creative and better at generating ideas.

So, before responding to those e-mails, answering the phone calls, and being the helping hand for all, step away from the desk! Take a couple minutes to clear your head. Go for a walk, chat with a coworker, or eat lunch outside. Your body and mind will appreciate that rest break, but so will your business!

Topics: corporate wellness employee health productivity

Corporate Wellness Confronts the Costs of Obesity

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

obesity cost, employee healthLarger office furniture, larger company cars, and reinforced toilets are a few of the major costs companies are taking on to accommodate their larger employees. In fact, at a recent trade show for tech and office furniture, one company displayed its bariatric seat, designed to hold up to 600 pounds and at a cost of $1,300! The representative from Ergogenesis, the maker of this specific seat, says there is a “tremendous amount of demand.”

In a research report released by the School of Public Health and Human Services at George Washington University, it is estimated that 50 percent of the population will be obese by 2030. This means the healthcare costs associated with obesity will continue to grow as well. The study also estimated that the current overall annual cost for obese women is $4,879 and $2,646 for obese men. This estimation includes costs associated with medical care, short-term disability, absenteeism, and productivity losses.

With rising healthcare costs in the midst of an economic recession, many companies have chosen to cut benefits. However, they have kept their corporate wellness programs and incentives for employees who practice healthy behaviors.

What can your company do to invest in your employees while they’re healthy rather than when they get sick?

Topics: corporate wellness obesity

Corporate Fitness: What Is VO2max?

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

VO2 max, exercise, endurance, intensity, employee healthYour VO2max, or maximal oxygen uptake, is defined as the maximal capacity for oxygen consumption by the body during maximal exertion. It sounds very scientific, and it is!

The More You Exercise, the Easier It Gets

A lot happens inside our bodies when we exercise, and regular aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise is known to illicit adaptations that make prolonged, endurance-type activities easier. If you work out in the corporate fitness center regularly, chances are you’ve experienced these improvements! Adaptations to exercise are due in part to changes that occur in your muscles (i.e., getting stronger) as well as the changes that occur in the systems responsible for fueling you with energy to perform exercise and daily tasks (they become more efficient). Changes also occur largely because of improvements in the cardiovascular system, which not only results in increased circulation to and within the muscles, but is where VO2max comes into play.

What Does VO2max Mean to You?

Many exercise professionals view VO2max as a good indicator of how physically fit a person is, as the more aerobically fit you are, the higher your VO2max will be. A good exercise program is one that is sustainable (you can stick with it) and attainable (effective in helping you reach your goals). If you are following a well-rounded exercise program and are conscious of incorporating physical activity into your daily routine, it is likely you are working to improve not only your fitness, but also your VO2max.

Topics: corporate fitness fitness corporate fitness centers cardio