Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

How to Establish a Balance Training Regimen

balance trainingThe number-one challenge that the aging population faces is balance because the number-one concern is falling!

In order to maintain balance, you must balance your day to include balance exercises! A wise person once said, “Practicing balance doesn’t make perfect; practicing balance makes permanent!” Therefore, include specific balance exercise daily, incorporate them into your exercise routine, provide a variety of balance exercises, and do different ones daily to challenge your stability.

Start with the three goals of achieving better balance:

Goal 1: Establish a Routine.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? You usually head to the bathroom, take a shower, brush your teeth, and so on. It’s a consistent routine. So is practicing balance! Find the time, whether it 's before or after exercising, after breakfast, or before bed. Schedule in a few balance exercises and make it part of your routine.

Goal 2: Think Before You Start.

Remember, all the exercises in the world will not do any good if you don’t follow these simple safety rules:

  • Wear proper shoes. Your ankles and feet need good support. No sandals or fancy shoes!
  • Utilize your strong muscles. Strengthen the muscles that support the body (especially the lower legs and ankles). So make sure your exercise routine includes strengthening these areas.
  • A mirror is helpful. Look at yourself when you attempt to balance, check your posture, and note what your limitations (such as knee replacements or back issues) permit.
  • Stand on good flooring. Do your exercises on stable and level ground. If one side is higher or more unsteady than the other, you will be the same.
  • Use stable support. Make sure that there is a stable chair or counter available. As you practice, you will need an occasional support when you feel unsteady. The main goal is to prevent falling.
  • Avoid fast movements and position changes. Slow down! Learn to turn and react with deliberate patience. Incorrect weight shifting is the number-one cause of falls. So when you go to move or turn, remember to be as cautious as possible. What’s the real hurry? Let your body catch up with your mind’s intent.

Goal 3: Practice Being Unsteady to Become Steadier.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Practicing exercises that force the body to feel unsteady actually helps the body become steadier. That being said, you should also continue to challenge the body. For example, if you’re capable of supporting yourself by raising both arms out and holding them for 10 seconds, next you can incorporate holding on with one hand and lifting one leg out to challenge yourself. Eventually and over time you can regain better balance.

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Topics: exercise at home senior fitness exercise balance balance training fall prevention

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

free workout fridayIf you’ve spent time in a gym, you know “that guy,” the one who doesn’t work his lower body and just focuses on upper body. Lower-body strength training is just as important as upper-body. The largest muscles are located in the lower body. Working larger muscles tends to get your heart rate up higher and burns more calories. More important, the muscles in the lower body are used for everyday movements and help with balance and coordination.

Regular lower-body strength training helps to increase bone density and strength. Strengthening the lower-body muscles around the joints also helps to strengthen the joints, decreasing the risk of injury in the hips and knees. The lower body is the powerhouse for most sports and activities, so try this workout for maximum results!

Eventually work your way up to going through this workout twice. (See the video link for specific instructions on form.) All you should need for this workout is a set of dumbbells and a step/bench/chair. I love lower-body workouts, so join me for this one and let me know what you think.

  • Side/lateral lunges (12 to 15 reps each side)
  • 45 seconds skater lunges
  • Repeat
  • Squat―alternating knee crunches (1 minute)
  • 30 seconds squat hops
  • Calf raises―toes straight, in and out (15 reps each direction)
  • 30 seconds calf jumps (stay on toes)
  • Straight leg deadlifts―form is very important! (15 reps)
  • Single-leg squats (15 reps each leg)
  • Single-leg squat hops
  • Right leg lunges (10 reps), lunge hold (20 seconds), lunge pulses (20 seconds)
  • Left leg lunges (10 reps), lunge hold (20 seconds), lunge pulses (20 seconds)
  • Squat hold (30 seconds) staying in a squat―hop feet out and in (30 seconds)
  • Lunges with back foot elevated on step/bench (12 reps each leg)

You can also refer to the demonstration video for details on which exercises are to be used with weights. Toward the end of the workout, if your legs get too fatigued, just set the weights down and do the lunges/squats with no weight. Don’t forget to stretch at the end of all workouts!

Topics: corporate fitness balance joint health strength training Free Workout Friday bone density

How to Improve Balance with Weight Shifting Exercises


The number-one challenge that the aging population faces is balance because the number-one concern is falling. The question has always been, “What causes these falls and how can we continue to prevent them”? The answer from a recent study is outstanding (no pun intended!).

Study Shows What Causes Senior Falls

An observational study determined how and why falls occur in the aging population by actually videotaping falls in two long-term-care facilities between 2007 and 2010. These video cameras were placed in the common areas such as the dining rooms, hallways, and lounges. When a fall occurred it was reviewed with a focus on the actual cause of imbalance and the activity at the time of falling. The study captured 227 falls from 130 individuals. The result of the study concluded that the number-one cause of falls (41 percent) was incorrect weight shifting: basically, how one moves or transfers from one position to another.

The study identified that the majority of falls occurred during standing and transferring, how we go from the position of standing still to starting to move. Staying balanced doesn’t involve only maintaining it when we are in motion, but the study has proven that how we begin that motion can be much more crucial to staying in balance.

Weight-Shifting Exercises for Senior Fitness and Balance

Therefore, in order to improve balance and prevent falls, it is crucial that a balance program incorporate weight-shifting exercises to help teach seniors about their center of gravity. Weight-shifting exercise can also improve coordination, strengthen the muscles in the lower extremities, and teach slower and more precise movements. Older adults should speak with a qualified fitness professional who understands the functional needs of the population, including balance-training recommendations. Fitness professionals can administer balance-training and weight-shifting exercises through one-on-one personal training sessions, group exercise classes, or simple recommendations of exercises for one to include in his or her normal fitness routine.

Here are some examples of weight-shifting exercises for active older adults:

  • Side Sways: While seated in a chair or standing, place the feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Leading with the upper body, lean the body gently to the right while keeping both feet in contact with the floor. Repeat in the other direction. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
  • Forward Steps: Standing with the feet together near a chair back or counter top to hold onto, take an exaggerated step forward with the right foot. Then take the necessary amount of steps to recover to a normal standing position. Repeat 8 to 10 times and then perform on the left leg.

If you are interested in reading about the study and the specific findings, follow this link.

Download our QuickRead for more information on the importance of teaching physical balance in your active aging community!

Senior Fitness, teaching balance

Topics: senior wellness programs balance strength training senior fitness fall prevention

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

free workout fridayAre you ready to make a change in your life? Have you been busy with a career or raising a family and put working out on the back burner? Most people’s activity level tends to significantly decrease in their 30s and 40s, and it only continues from there. It’s time to focus on you and spend just a few minutes each day doing something for yourself.

I understand this is easier said than done, so I’ve created a workout to get you started that can be done in your own home with no equipment required. All you need is an open space on the floor. This workout is designed to be challenging but not impossible. Do what you can and work your way up to going through it all, and eventually go through it twice!  View the video for a brief demonstration for the exercises in the workout below.

Beginner cardio circuit workout:

  • 1 minute straight leg kicks (travel as you do them if you have the space; otherwise do them stationary)
  • 1 minute high knees (travel if you have the space; otherwise do them stationary)
  • 1 minute walking or stationary (alternating legs) lunges
  • 1 minute recover/rest
  • 1 minute skater lunges
  • 1 minute mountain climbers
  • 30 seconds split jumps
  • 30 seconds froggers
  • 1 minute recover/rest
  • 30 seconds modified push-ups
  • 1 minute lateral hops (feet together)
  • 1 minute forward and back hops
  • 30 seconds modified push-ups
  • 30 seconds knee tucks
  • 1 minute recover/rest
  • 30 seconds center plank (modified if need be)
  • 30 seconds side plank (modified if need be) on each side
  • 30 seconds center plank (modified if need be)
  • 1 minute straight leg kicks (traveling or stationary)

This workout can be done with modifications or added intensity if you are up for the challenge! This is intended to be done two to three times a week in combination with other forms of physical activity and a healthy diet. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and stretch at the end of every workout.

Topics: corporate fitness exercise at home cardio staying active Free Workout Friday

An End to the Dark vs. Milk Chocolate Debate

chocolate heartIt’s Valentine’s Day… the chocolate lover’s favorite holiday! With boxes of chocolate at home and bowls of goodies at the worksite, you can’t help but indulge. You’ve heard it all before: dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate, everything in moderation, and so on, but is one really better for employee health than the other? Let’s divvy up the facts before we divvy up the chocolate.

We know that chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean, but where do the health benefits come from?

  • Antioxidants: A high concentration of antioxidants has been proven to come from the cocoa bean. These chemicals aid the body in eliminating free radicals that promote disease and cause damage to the cells in your body.
  • Flavonoids: Epicatechin, which is found in the cocoa bean, helps to improve cardiovascular function by improving blood circulation and relaxation of the blood vessels, which in turn helps to improve blood pressure. A chocolate a day just might keep the heart doctor away!

So what is the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate?

Dark chocolate contains little to no extra sugar and a larger quantity of cocoa (60 percent or more). This increases the amount of flavonoids; therefore, there are more antioxidants present. Since milk chocolate contains milk, along with added sugar, the flavonoids are at lower levels due to a possible interaction with milk. This leaves dark chocolate healthier. By choosing dark chocolate, you can also reduce the risk of blood clots, improve your mood, and help lower cholesterol levels.

It’s recommended that you choose chocolate that is at least 60 percent cocoa and consume only one ounce per day, which is equivalent to about one piece of Dove chocolate or 2 Dark Hershey Kisses. Forget the white chocolate; it contains no cocoa, so it provides no antioxidants for the body.

As hard as it might be, consume chocolate in moderation and don’t overindulge.

With all this chocolate talk, what chocolate treat do you prefer on this chocolate lover’s holiday? Leave a comment on our blog or visit the NIFS Fitness Management Facebook page and take our poll.

Topics: employee health nutrition cardiovascular disease antioxidants cholesterol hypertension

How to Address Senior Fitness Class Challenges

senior stretch classWhat are some challenges in developing group fitness classes for active older adults? One of the hardest things for me is that there is a wide variety in exercise knowledge and ability. For example, you might have someone who has never exercised a day in their life sitting next to someone who has been exercising in a gym for decades. Or, you may have someone in their middle 60s next to someone who is 85 with two knee replacements.

To overcome these challenges, make sure that you give both a progressive and regressive option for each exercise that you are teaching. Allow the individuals to experiment with what works for them. Each individual will choose how hard they want to make the exercise, but it is the instructor’s responsibility to ensure they are able to complete the exercise in a safe and effective manner for their varying ability levels. Encourage the participants to try new exercises, but also let people know that it’s okay to progress slowly over several weeks or months. The most important aspect is that they keep moving and have fun while feeling accomplished at an appropriate intensity level for their needs.

Use Visual and Verbal Cues

Each individual will learn in his or her own way. Make sure that you not only show them a visual demonstration but also use verbal cueing that may help them. At this age, some of your residents may not see well and others may not hear well. Pick out key words or moves that may help them remember from one class to the next.

Explain Why They Are Doing the Exercise

It is also important to educate senior fitness participants on why they are doing different exercises. Describe the reason for the exercise, the muscle group being worked, and how it should feel while performing the exercise. This can help participants become more in tune with their bodies and may help prevent injury if they develop improved body awareness.

For example when cueing upright rows, explain to the participants that the exercise can help improve their posture because it engages the muscles of the upper back and backside of their shoulders. As you cue them through the movements, explain how to engage the shoulder blades so they can specifically feel and identify where the muscles should be working if the exercise is being done correctly. For someone who does not have a good visual of the exercise being demonstrated, it may provide reassurance that they are performing the exercise correctly if your verbal cueing is matching up with what they are feeling.

Topics: motivation senior fitness senior fitness management fitness success

3 Tips to Relieve Joint Pain

This blog was written for NIFS by special guest writer Elizabeth Carrollton.

joint painJoint pain is a very common problem, and keeping fit is one of the best ways to find reliable relief. For many of us, limiting activity might seem to make sense when a joint is achy. However, inactivity can make matters worse. In fact, inactivity is a leading cause of joint pain, causing weakness in muscles and bones that can lead to injuries and joint disorders like osteoarthritis.

So if your joints are getting a bit sore and stiff by the end of the day, exercise can help relieve the pain and ward off more serious troubles. Of course, it's important to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment of injuries or joint problems before treating them with exercise.

1. How Exercise Helps Joint Pain

Keeping the muscles around injured joints strong is important in maintaining range of motion, joint function, and alignment, factors that can speed healing and recovery after injuries, as well as decreasing pain and stiffness. In joints affected by arthritis, regular exercise can increase joint support by improving the strength and tone of surrounding muscles, which can relieve daily pain and stiffness and slow the progress of this degenerative joint disorder. That's why physical therapy is typically used as part of the treatment plan for most joint injuries and chronic degenerative conditions.

2. Joint-Friendly Exercise

Moderate, weight-bearing exercise is the way to go when your goal is to relieve joint pain. Avoid high-impact exercise that rattles the joints in favor of more joint-friendly options, like walking, swimming, or bike riding. Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are great choices as well, and have been shown in a number of studies to reduce joint pain and discomfort.

If you have been fairly sedentary, start slowly, working up to that optimal goal of at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. If you have severe joint pain or degeneration, physical therapy might be a good idea to ensure that you aren't putting yourself at risk for further joint injury. Besides, working with an expert who is knowledgeable about joint care and function will likely offer more effective relief than exercising on your own.

3. Why Taking Care of Joint Pain Properly Is Essential

Ignoring joint pain can give small issues or injuries a chance to develop into serious, long-term joint problems. Serious joint problems lead to more than 690,000 knee-replacement surgeries every year in the United States and more than 450,000 hip-replacement procedures. Although these surgeries can be a good option for people who have been disabled by joint conditions or injury, they are major surgery and should be considered a treatment of last resort.

Recovery can be a long and challenging process after joint replacement and complications can be an issue, as anyone affected by the recent hip implant recalls can tell you. Faulty metal-on-metal hip implants, used in thousands of procedures, caused metallosis in some patients, which is a complication related to metallic implant debris. Metallosis can cause intense pain and swelling in the hip as metallic particles collect in the soft tissues, and can eventually lead to tissue death, bone loss, and implant loosening or failure, making more surgery necessary.

Elizabeth Carrollton writes about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com.

Topics: corporate fitness exercise arthritis pain relief physical therapy

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout FridayIt’s easy, when walking and talking with friends or coworkers, to follow their lead and get on the elevator. Time for a change? Try being the leader and lead them toward the stairs instead of the elevator. Not only will you get where you’re going faster by taking the stairs, but you will also burn more calories throughout the day.

February is "Take the Stairs" month, so try to break the habit of using elevators! You have the power to persuade others to take the stairs and become more active.

Not only is it good to take the stairs when you have the choice, but it’s also good to incorporate stairs into your workouts. If you have stairs in your house or at the gym, that is great! But not everyone has that option, so you can resort to a stair climber or stair stepper. Most gyms have a cardio machine that simulates going up stairs.

Incorporating stairs will help to improve your aerobic conditioning and lower-body strength. Try this indoor workout during the winter months and look around for a set of stairs you can use outdoors when it’s nice outside.

  • Jog in place for 3 minutes to warm up
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 3 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 20 squat hops
  • 5 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • Jump rope for 3 minutes
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 20 squat hops
  • 5 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • Jump rope for 3 minutes
  • 5 minutes on the stair climber at a moderate intensity
  • Walk a lap around the fitness center/house to cool down

Legs burning? That’s okay. Your lower body will thank you for trying something new and incorporating more stairs!

Topics: corporate fitness exercise at work exercise at home calories cardio Free Workout Friday

The Simple Truth about Exercise Adherence in Senior Fitness

active seniorThe New Year often provides the fitness industry with a boom of customers hoping to hold true to their resolutions. Many of those resolutions often pertain to unrealistic weight-loss goals.

Older Adults Exercise for Different Reasons

While we still see a boost in participation at our retirement community fitness centers in the New Year, the resolutions are often for a different reason. Many older adults exercise to maintain a healthy weight or to try to lose weight, but they understand the value in physical activity beyond vanity. As a fitness professional, it is refreshing to serve the needs of older adults in retirement communities who understand the value of living a physically active lifestyle for their overall health and well-being.

When a physically active lifestyle is adopted for the wrong reasons, it can be more difficult to adhere to for the long term. This is likely why the surge in participation in January often trickles off in mid-February at commercial gyms. However, when older adults adopt a physically active lifestyle, particularly one that has been designed for their individual needs, the benefits of that program help them adhere.

Selling the Benefits of Exercise in Retirement Communities

In our retirement community fitness centers, our participation levels gain momentum as the year progresses, and we don’t see that drop in participation. This isn’t all that surprising. We hear feedback from residents stating they have more energy, less joint pain, improved sleep, an easier time performing ADLs, and more overall endurance.

Kick off a motivating incentive program in your retirement community fitness program in the New Year to recruit new residents to exercise and inspire existing participants. Getting the residents started is half the battle. The benefits of exercise can often sell the adherence component for you!

Topics: motivation senior fitness exercise senior fitness management fitness

Corporate Fitness: FREE Workout Friday

Free Workout Fridays

Did you know the number one killer of women is heart disease?

Today is National Wear Red Day, encouraging you to show support against heart disease. Too many women are unaware of the deadly disease and how it can be prevented. So, grab a friend, put on your favorite red shirt and hit the treadmill for a good cardiovascular workout.

Cardiovascular exercise (example – treadmill workout) is very important for several reasons, including the prevention of heart disease. Not only will the treadmill help you to lose weight, but it can be a great heart pumping workout. The stronger the heart, the less work it has to do to pump blood throughout your body. Cardiovascular exercise will also help to reduce stress levels and increase confidence. Who doesn’t love leaving the house feeling confident?? Give this treadmill workout a try!

  • 2.6 mph for 3 minutes (warm up)
  • 3.0 mph / 3% incline for 2 minutes
  • 3.4 mph / 4% incline for 2 minutes
  • 3.6 mph / 5% incline for 2 minutes
  • 3.8 mph / 6% incline for 5 minutes
  • 4.0 mph / 8% incline for 8 minutes
  • 3.8 mph / 6% incline for 5 minutes
  • 3.0 mph / 1% incline for 3 minutes (cool down)

This workout is designed to push walkers by adding some incline work to burn more calories and strengthen the lower body. If you feel you are ready to take it up a notch increase the speed so you are jogging rather than walking.

If you feel you are not ready for this workout, take it down a notch and work your way up to 4.0 mph / 8% incline over time. Find a challenging speed you can maintain for at least 10 minutes and increase the incline 1% every two minutes until you can complete the workout above.

What is your favorite treadmill workout?

Topics: exercise at work exercise at home worksite wellness exercise walking NIFS Wellness in the Workplace employee wellness Free Workout Friday