Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Corporate Wellness: Laughing... it's good for the soul and your health

laughterIf smiling is contagious and laughter is infectious, then why don’t more of us do it? When people laugh together, it brings them closer, and creates happiness and intimacy. Laughter not only does these few things, but it also causes physical changes within the body. 

Laughter is powerful and priceless (I mean, who doesn’t like a bargain?!). Oh, and it’s fun! Humor and laughter have the ability to:

  • Boost Your Immune System: Laughing decreases the stress hormones and increases the immune cells and anti-bodies, improving your body’s resistance to infections and diseases.
  • Trigger the Release of Endorphins: That natural feel-good chemical rush you get can improve your overall feeling, decrease pain, and fight off stress.
  • Relax the Whole Body: It relieves tension and stress, allowing your muscles to stay relaxed for up to 45 minutes after that obnoxiously good belly-laugh you just had.
  • Protect the Heart: Laughter increases blood by improving the function of blood vessels, aiding in the protection against cardiovascular problems.

Humor can keep one optimistic and even one little smile can turn someone’s day around. A good laugh can bring your body back into balance. I think it is hard to resist a good laugh or smile when the person next to you is laughing in an absolute hysterical manner. A shared laugh can keep relationships fresh and exciting and build strong bonds too!

You can learn to develop or improve your sense of humor by:

  • Learning to laugh at yourself
  • Laughing at a situation, rather than getting upset over it
  • Keeping things in perspective
  • Surrounding yourself with reminders to lighten up a little

In life, remember not to take yourself too seriously. Yes, some events are sad and not the right occasion for laughter, but learn to look at the positive side of the event. Laughter is priceless, fun, and easy to use! If you need a good laugh, I am sure one of our Corporate Fitness staff members could crack a joke or two! Laugh on, my friend - it’s good for the soul.

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Topics: wellness

Corporate Wellness: Tis the season for volunteering

volunteeringThe holidays are right around the corner and what better way to spread holiday cheer than to volunteer!  Fall sports are starting to wind down with the winter rolling in, big projects at work are wrapping up, and schedules start to open up for new activities to fill in.  The holidays are the perfect time to sign the family up for a volunteer day to share some of your good wealth. 

4 Tips for Giving during the Holiday Season:

  1. Helping out in your community- The joy of winter means cold weather and most likely a good amount of snow.  Show someone you care by offering to shovel their driveway or sidewalk.  Or, invite your neighbors over for a warm meal and not only share a meal, but share conversation.
  2. Serve from home- With all of the do-it-yourself projects out there, there’s plenty of ways to get creative in your home!  Organize a volunteer group to create holiday bags for a local shelter or senior living community or even your neighborhood. 
  3. Visit a local animal shelter- Animals need attention during the holidays as well.  Colder weather makes it harder to take animals outside to play; why not visit your local animal shelter and offer to donate your time playing with animals or helping out around the office?  If you have the resources, consider fostering an animal in need.
  4. Give back to veterans and military families-  If you know a family, offer to bring over a meal or snacks over the weekend.  Offer to give the family a break and carpool to school or invite the family over for some fun at your house.

Places like the Salvation Army, local homeless shelters, and the American Red Cross are always searching for help around the holidays and year round.  Never volunteered before?  Try one of the 4 ways above and go from there!  All it takes is one small act of kindness to change someone’s day!

Other ways you can do good and initiate a great family tradition is to let the kids choose an angel from a giving tree, donate to your local coats for kids, or work in a soup kitchen.  There are many ways to do good during the season.  Share with us how your family spreads joy to others, comment below and tell us your family traditions during the season of giving.

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Topics: wellness volunteering,

How One Senior Living Community Got Focused on Brain Fitness

senior_puzzleMost senior living communities have a variety of group fitness classes on their calendars focused on balance, muscular strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health, and the clients we work with are no different. But we’ve landed on a program tied in with our group fitness classes for seniors that has become wildly popular with the residents. It turns out, it’s been a great way to draw more participants into the exercise program, too.

The Popularity of Brain Activities

At one of our client’s communities we have many of the typical activities to stimulate the mind: card games, lectures, forums, resident committees, etc. And at one point we offered a “Memory” workshop series. This was so popular that we added a word of the day and the TriBond® game to our daily information board in the fitness center, along with including puzzles in our newsletter.

Over time, we noticed that more and more people started coming to the fitness center to learn the word of the day, to get the TriBond® puzzle, and to ask questions about the puzzle in the newsletter. It was obvious that our residents were craving ways to challenge their minds, and we were eager to respond in ways that would help them keep their minds strong or increase their abilities.

So we added a brain fitness class to our group fitness schedule, and that class is thriving each week! In the weekly offering, our residents have a wonderful time challenging their minds. They learn new games like Sudoku, and play old games like Memory™. They also engage in history trivia questions and challenges. One of our residents recently named all 44 presidents, in order, off the top of her head!

How to Start Brain Fitness Classes at Your CCRC

We’ve started offering this type of class at our other senior living client sites with similar popularity. Here’s some advice on how you can get it started in your community:

  • Hold an event such as a brain fitness fair for your residents to see how fun and important it is to continue to work on the mind.
  • During the event, pay attention to what the residents like and don’t like. This will help you build a class structure that works for them.
  • Do not always make the class what they like. In order to strengthen the mind we need to challenge it. Typically the things that we do not like are the things that we find challenging.
  • Begin putting puzzles in your weekly or monthly newsletters.

Brain Class Structure

For the structure of the class, consider the following ideas:

  • Begin with a task that can be done while waiting for everyone to come in and sign in. (Example: Write your name with your non-dominant hand or with both hands at the same time.)
  • Have classical music playing in the background. Some studies show this increases the brainwaves that stimulate thought process.
  • Come prepared with four to five activities. Make it a variety of word games, long-term memory/short term memory, and deductive reasoning. Here are some sites that might provide some ideas:,,, and
  • Leave time for discussion in small groups and then time with you for answers.
  • Have the answers for all activities to share with the participants. (The residents will be angry if you don’t!)
  • If you do not finish all activities, consider giving “homework.”

Learn more about physical exercises that help improve cognition here.

Let us know how your brain fitness program works in your setting! We’d love to keep sharing these kinds of ideas to improve the health of the residents we work with. 

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Topics: CCRC active aging senior living communities brain health cognitive function resident wellness programs memory

Corporate Wellness: Think PINK Year Round

pinkOctober brings the awareness… It has gained a lot of attention over the past few years and helped to raise women’s awareness of this aspect of health they should not take lightly. I wanted to take this time to fully educate and extend the awareness on the topic of breast cancer by exposing a few myths about this disease and remind people to be aware year round. The following information is provided courtesy of National Cancer Institute:

The Breast Cancer Myth

Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer.

The Truth

Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer.  But if you discover a persistent lump in your breast or notice any changes in breast tissue, it should never be ignored. It is very important that you see a physician for a clinical breast exam. He or she may possibly order breast imaging studies to determine if this lump is of concern or not. 

Take charge of your health by performing routine breast self-exams, establishing ongoing communication with your doctor, getting an annual clinical breast exam, and scheduling your routine screening mammograms.

The Breast Cancer Myth

Men do not get breast cancer; it affects women only.

The Truth

Quite the contrary, each year it is estimated that approximately 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 410 will die. While this percentage is still small, men should also check themselves periodically by doing a breast self-exam while in the shower and reporting any changes to their physicians. 

Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola.  Men carry a higher mortality than women do, primarily because awareness among men is less and they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment.

The Breast Cancer Myth

A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.

The Truth

A mammogram, or x-ray of the breast, currently remains the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer. Breast compression while getting a mammogram cannot cause cancer to spread. According to the National Cancer Institute, “The benefits of mammography, however, nearly always outweigh the potential harm from the radiation exposure. Mammograms require very small doses of radiation. The risk of harm from this radiation exposure is extremely low.”

The standard recommendation is an annual mammographic screening for women beginning at age 40. Base your decision on your physician's recommendation and be sure to discuss any remaining questions or concerns you may have with your physician.

The Breast Cancer Myth

If you have a family history of breast cancer, you are likely to develop breast cancer, too.

The Truth

While women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, most women who have breast cancer have no family history. Statistically only about 10% of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of this disease.  

If you have a first degree relative with breast cancer: If you have a mother, daughter, or sister who developed breast cancer below the age of 50, you should consider some form of regular diagnostic breast imaging starting 10 years before the age of your relative’s diagnosis. 

If you have a second degree relative with breast cancer: If you have had a grandmother or aunt who was diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk increases slightly, but it is not in the same risk category as those who have a first degree relative with breast cancer. 

If you have multiple generations diagnosed with breast cancer on the same side of the family, or if there are several individuals who are first degree relatives to one another, or several family members diagnosed under age 50, the probability increases that there is a breast cancer gene contributing to the cause of this familial history.

The Breast Cancer Myth

Breast cancer is contagious.

The Truth

You cannot catch breast cancer or transfer it to someone else's body. Breast cancer is the result of uncontrolled cell growth of mutated cells that begin to spread into other tissues within the breast. However, you can reduce your risk by practicing a healthy lifestyle, being aware of the risk factors, and following an early detection plan so that you will be diagnosed early if breast cancer were to occur.

The Breast Cancer Myth

If the gene mutation BRCA1 or BRCA2 is detected in your DNA, you will definitely develop breast cancer.

The Truth

According to the National Cancer Institute, regarding families who are known to carry BRCA1 or BRCA2, “not every woman in such families carries a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, and not every cancer in such families is linked to a harmful mutation in one of these genes. Furthermore, not every woman who has a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation will develop breast and/or ovarian cancer. But, a woman who has inherited a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 is about five times more likely to develop breast cancer than a woman who does not have such a mutation.” For people who discover they have the harmful mutation, there are various proactive measures that can be done to reduce risk. These include taking a hormonal therapy called Tamoxifen or deciding to take a surgical prevention approach which is to have bilateral prophylactic mastectomies, usually done with reconstruction.  Most women will also have ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as well since there is no reliable screening test for the early stages of developing ovarian cancer.

The Breast Cancer Myth

Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.

The Truth

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.

To throw in a little corporate fitness your way, exercise boosts the immune system and helps you to keep your weight in check. With as little as three hours of exercise per week, or about 30 minutes a day, a woman can start to lower her risk of breast cancer. This doesn’t mean you need a gym membership to start. Power walking is more than sufficient!

Click here for more information about this topic or to continuing supporting the cause year round.

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NIFS: How a simple squat challenge helped corporate fitness metrics

squat_challengeWhen our members talk, we listen.  Sometimes we get good old fashioned direct, face-to-face feedback about what’s working and what isn’t, and sometimes they tell us what’s working by their participation.  Such was the case with a recent squat challenge we ran at one of our corporate sites.  In fact, the simple challenge was so effective, we’ve proceeded to design more programming around the same concept. 

Here’s a little of the history and data on the original corporate fitness center program:

The 30 Day Squat Challenge was designed to help our members get up from their desks and choose to be active during the long and busy work days in August.  The challenge ran the duration of August and we established a set number of daily squats the participants needed to complete, with every third day being a rest day. The participants could do the squats where ever they wanted (though we love when they come to the fitness center to do them) and they had all day to complete them, but they had to log their efforts at the Wellness Center.

On the first day of the challenge, the expectation was for participants to complete 50 squats, and by the end of the challenge, successful participants completed 250 squats!  We would never advocate performing 250 squats in a row (or even 50 in a row, for that matter), so allowing participants all day to complete the squats was a must.

I loved hearing the stories about when and where participants were squatting and who they were convincing to participate with them. A lot of members got their kids and spouses involved, making it a family affair. We had a bulletin board in the fitness center with squat variations and modifications for members to follow and we integrated the squats into our group fitness classes to keep the participants motivated.  It was really fun seeing everyone squatting in the fitness center; it really turned out to be a group effort.

When we mapped out this program, we set three goals we hoped to achieve by running the Squat Challenge:

  1. We wanted to increase visits to the fitness center by three percent compared to August 2013.  This is a tough month for us to draw our members in because many of the employees are sneaking in final summer vacation time before their kids head off to school.
  2. For those members who participated in the challenge, we wanted them to increase their total time spent being active through the day by 10 minutes each day.  We know how important even short, 10 minute bouts of physical activity can be for an individual’s health and we wanted to see if this program provided a means of stimulating more movement in our employee population.
  3. Finally, we set a goal to achieve a 50% completion rate.  We’re constantly trying to determine what’s most effective at helping our members stick with a program, and we hoped to learn a little more about how small exercise goals might influence success rates.

The Squat Challenge was very successful with 50% completion rate.  We also met our fitness center visit goal (increased by three percent) for August, 2014, and half of the program participants reported that that increased their total active minutes per day by at least 10 minutes.  On top of the great numbers we also fielded some positive feedback.  One member said, “Loved this Challenge!  [It] made my legs so much stronger, [I] love when you can honestly feel results in a short amount of time.”  Another program participant said, “I started Roller Derby and if I hadn't done the squat challenge, I seriously would not have made it thru the 1st practice. So thank you Squat Challenge!” 

Up next is an Ab Challenge.  We can’t wait to see how the members do and what we can achieve for participation and completion goals. 

If you’d like to learn more about NIFS best in class programming for corporate fitness centers, sign up for our best practice series. 

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Topics: corporate fitness fitness programming

Corporate Wellness: Sleep Ergonomics

sleep_positionHave you ever woken up and felt like you never slept at all and could hibernate for weeks upon weeks? You know, it’s similar to that back-to-work Monday feeling. The average person spends one third of their life sleeping, so it may be good to consider your bed posture being as important as your daily posture. Your bed, sleeping position, and use of pillows are key to more than one night of good sleep.

Starting off with your bed, mattresses come in all sizes, designs, and firmness. They say the more firm the better. A firmer bed will provide your back with more support and has the ability to keep your spine in better alignment. A mattress’s life span is about 8-10 years and can range anywhere from $800 for a queen to about $1000 for a king size bed. Go big or go home I guess, right? The bigger the bed, the more room to switch up your sleeping positions from starfish to the fetal position. Kidding! Find a mattress that fits your budget, but remember that it has a huge role in how well you sleep!

Secondly, the type of pillow you lay your head on at the end of a long day or for a quick power nap can change your bed posture and result in a terrible night of sleep. Depending on your neck depth, you’ll need to find a pillow that fits it. Yes, everyone has a different neck depth. Your sleeping position also affects the type of pillow you need. If you're a back sleeper, you'll need a pillow that fills the space between your neck and bed, but not too high because you don’t want to be able to see your feet. The side sleepers should find a pillow that fills the space between their ear and bed. You may find that this pillow needs to be thicker than the ones for sleeping on your back. For all you stomach sleepers, your pillow should be quite thin and only thick enough to level your head while sleeping. This pillow should only fill the space between your head and mattress. There are several ways to modify your pillow to fit your sleeping position. You can add towels or foam to fill thickness and trim foam or remove padding to make it thinner. 

Lastly and more importantly is your sleeping position. The pressure on your back varies to the position you sleep in. The position with the least amount of back pressure is lying on your back and then your side. The worst and most stressful sleeping position is on your stomach. If you sleep on your back or stomach, it is recommended you place a pillow under your knees as well and if you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees.

Who knew there were so many tips and tricks to a smooth sailing night of sleep? I know I didn’t! No matter how you choose to sleep, just be sure to keep that spine in alignment. If your body has trouble adjusting and needs some stretching to loosen up, stop by your corporate fitness center and ask a Health Fitness Specialist for recommended stretches!

Working to build your corporate fitness program and need a little help?  Click below to download our guide to successful corporate fitness centers to get the tools you need for successs.

 Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers

Topics: sleep wellness