Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Healthy Habits Start Early: Exercises for Kids

Do you remember your childhood? I’m sure most of us can say we were pretty active as children and looking back we can see how important that was for our continued physical well-being. Without the distractions from electronics and television options, what else could we do but get up and move? We all know that kids should be active, but when kids want to go beyond traditional activities like riding bikes and playing tag, how can we safely challenge them? Check out the exercise descriptions below to get started with your kids. We've also provided a video at the end of the blog that you can use to start family workouts at home.

NIFS | Exercises for kids | Healthy Habits

Planking: What better way to challenge your kids than by asking them how long they can hold a plank? Start with elbows and toes on the ground, keep your back straight, abs tight, and all in one straight line. Body should be parallel to the ground. Strengthen core, upper body, and even lower body by starting with a 30-second plank.

Squats: Squats are just like sitting down in a chair, so if your kids have nailed that, they can get the hang of a squat. With feet shoulder width apart, slowly bend the knees as if you are sitting down on a box or chair. Make sure the knees don’t extend past the toes when lowering down into the squat position. Aim for 15-20 reps to start. Add a hop at the end for a little extra challenge!

Pushups: This is another exercise to test overall body strength. Start from a straight-arm plank position and bending at the elbows, slowly lower the chest to the ground. Make sure the body lowers as one unit versus a form that looks like “the worm."  Aim for 15-20 repetitions. Drop your knees to the ground if a modification is needed. 

Lunges: All legs here! Take a step forward with one leg and slowly lower the back knee down towards the ground. Step forward back to beginning position and switch legs. Make sure the front knee doesn’t extend past your toe, and that the chest stays upright. Shoot for 20 lunges to start, but make sure your form doesn’t weaken as you increase the repetitions.

Burpees: The ultimate test! If you really want to challenge your kids and maybe expend some of that extra energy, ask them to do a few burpees. These will really get the heart racing. Start by squatting down, putting the hands on the ground and either hopping or walking the feet back to a high plank position. Add the optional pushup from here and then walk or hop the feet back up towards the hands, followed by a hop straight up in the air. That, my friends, is one burpee. Shoot for 5-10 burpees and see how they feel. Increase repetitions as strength and endurance improve. 

Repeat all for a challenge!

 

These five exercises are great starting points to get your kids up and moving with you! Repetitions are always great but if you struggle with getting a full set completed, feel free to go for time. Here are some other tips if you're confused about what exercises are appropriate at what age. The key is movement and consistency to build healthy habits for the future!

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Topics: exercise for kids healthy habits healthy kids exercises I can do with my kids

4 Things I've Learned from the Silent Generation

The Silent Generation are older adults who were born between 1928 and 1945. Their generational name “Silent” originally came from a 1951 TIME magazine article, in which they were described as a generation that “does not issue manifestos, make speeches or carry posters.” They were raised in a time when children were generally favored as seen, not heard. In 2018, we know them as those 73 to 93 years old. My perspective comes from working closely with these individuals for about two years. Here are four things that I have learned about this generation.

NIFS | Grandmother reading to grandchild

Aging is Not “One Size Fits All”

Aging is a mysterious natural process which manifests differently from person to person. You may hear of someone who has “aged well,” or another who is really “slowing down.” The fact is, those two people may well be the exact same age, but are experiencing aging very differently. Levels of mobility, independence, stamina, strength, and balance are all factors I’ve seen vary widely in individuals that are about the same age. Fortunately, these traits are not distributed by luck of the draw. Although genetics and family history play an important role, there are several lifestyle choices that can level the playing field. (More on those choices later.)

Caregivers Make a Difference

There are many older adults who maintain an active, independent lifestyle well into their nineties. These people are inspiring, but are often the outliers, not the norm. In my experience in the community setting, hiring an independent or agency assigned caregiver is a popular practice. These people act as employees of the individual needing assistance, helping out with anything from washing dishes to making sure all medications are taken without error. I believe that there are exceptional caregivers that invest in the lives of their employer, who can make a real difference in the aging process. I think specifically of those who regularly take the time to bring the resident they work for to the fitness center to exercise. This is not limited to hired caregivers, and can extend to family members as well. Here are some tips on hiring a caregiver.

Communities Provide an Unrivaled Social Experience

Books could be written about the pro’s and con’s of making the transition from home life to senior living life. That may be a project someday, but I’ll try to keep this one short. I think that living in a community with others who share not only your age, but interests, schedules, and perspectives has value. I cannot speak for all communities, but those that I have interacted with take great care to provide ample opportunity for social events. In fact, a complaint I often hear is having to choose which event to go to, because there is so much to do. Club meetings, exercise classes, lectures, movie showings, and meals are all popular ways to get older adults together. This makes everyone feel good. Here are some things to consider when choosing a senior living community.

Personal Trainers Have Lasting Influence

Now, about those lifestyle choices that so powerfully affect aging, namely diet, exercise, and sleep. These three tools can be used in a way that increases the likelihood of old age with a high quality of life. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, by age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity. This fact, coupled with irregular sleep habits, poor diets, and other risk factors leave many older adults at high risk for cardiovascular disease and its deadly consequences. There is hope, however, for the Silent Generation. Some risk factors for cardiovascular disease are modifiable, meaning they can be improved by lifestyle change. One of the most effective tools for lifestyle change is a personal trainer who specializes in active aging. These are educated and certified individuals who help people reach their goals and decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, falls, and other problems associated with aging. Even more good news: personal trainers can teach long lasting habits that will serve their clients for decades to come. I’ve seen it in action! Here’s a great article on how effective personal trainers can be for older adults.

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There's a lot of life to be lived long past retirement; ask members of the Silent Generation and they'll tell you as much. Providing support for healthy aging can make all the difference. If you're caring for an aging loved one, subscribe to our blog to read more about ways to help them continue living well.

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Here's What to Watch When the Farmers' Markets Come to Town

Farmers’ markets can be a great substitute for going to get fast food because you know exactly where the food is coming from. Another bonus is you get to see the producer face to face. It is also a great activity to do during the summer months because often there is live music and you’re helping your local farmers when purchasing your fresh fruits and vegetables. For those who don’t go to the farmers market often, here are some tips to ensure you make the most of your time and leave with all the right foods!NIFS | Farmers Market

Bring cash – Typically, there will be some vendors who do accept credit cards or check, but cash is always the one currency that will ensure you can get foods from any of the booths. Have a set limit of cash so you don’t get carried away, but don’t be afraid to bring a few extra bucks for those impulse buys.

Go at beginning or end of day – Knowing when to go to farmers market can make a big difference in the quality of foods you find as well as the price for those foods. Going in the morning when it first opens can help guarantee you get the freshest foods available. Alternatively, consider going during the last hour of the day so you can get discounts on any of the remaining products. Vendors want to go home empty handed, so this bodes well for a bargain when the market winds down for the day.

Take a lap – When you first arrive at the market, take a lap around before making any purchases. That way, you know all the foods available and can strategize the best way to spend your money.

Keep an open mind – When visiting the different booths, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample if there’s something you’ve never had before. This allows you to try new food, before making a purchase.

 Ask questions – The vendors should know everything about the food including; how the food was grown, if any pesticides were used, or how to prepare dishes with the food.

Buy in season – While the variety at the farmers market may not be as extensive as the grocery store, the food that is in season will be plentiful and most often will be better tasting.

Make a day of it – Going to the farmers market can be something you really look forward to each week. There’s plenty to do and lots of new foods to try, so have some fun with it! Depending on the size of the market, you can spend a couple hours browsing for the freshest foods and often enjoying some live music.

The farmers market can be a great place to discover new foods as well as find the freshest foods you already love! Start a new tradition with friends and family. It can be a great place to find those clean eating foods, sweet treats, local treasures and make a boring day not such a snore. So, go check out your local farmer’s market, support the community and have a great time!

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Topics: Farmers' Markets

5 Reasons Spring is the Season to Walk

Need some inspiration to get moving this spring? Here are five reasons walking may help you kick start your spring fitness routine and your commitment to moving again after a long winter. No matter if you’re a beginner or a lifelong lover of walks, sometimes you need new reasons to lace-up and move.   

NIFS | Neighborhood Walk with Dog

Nice Weather

Typically springtime means it’s warming up, but it's also just cool enough to enjoy the sounds of nature before the sweltering heat sets in for the summer. Springtime weather also means the walker can experience the flowers and trees blossoming into those bright beautiful colors that make us fall in love with this special time of year! Use the opportunity to get out and soak up some Vitamin D (just don't forget your sunscreen) and increase your serotonin levels, which is known to put some pep in your step and a smile on your face.

Social Connections

Starting a springtime walk is a great opportunity to interact with other people, and research shows that social connections can positively influence your health. In addition, fitness trends predict that most people are more likely to start a new habit right after the New Year and just before summer, making spring the peak time to invite a friend for a walk. The support gained through social connections can also make getting outside on a regular basis more fun and consistent.

Fight Depression

Winter is the season correlated most highly with depression. Many believe there are three major factors behind this. First, there is the holiday season with all the stresses of shopping, travel, and overspending. The second reason may be the dearth of sunlight and the scarcity of vitamin D that people are accustomed to absorbing from the sun. Lastly, people are just less active in the wintertime due the frigid weather. Therefore, springtime is a great time to shake off your dibble downer dumps by walking outside and smelling the fresh spring air! Try three 30-minute walks a week and you may be surprised how effective it is; in many ways, it can be considered the cheapest antidepressant!

[Read More: Tips for easing seasonal depression]

Burn Off Winter Weight

Yep, winter’s over and just maybe you had your share of dessert and the occasional extra helping of your favorite dish. No finger pointing needed; springtime is here, and daylight savings time has arrived, so it’s time to put this in the past where it belongs. This means that you will have all the sunlight needed for a late afternoon fat burning session. Like any form of exercise, walking burns calories and, therefore, fat. Try the walking routine below to maximize your fat burning efforts.

  • Warm up at a comfortable pace for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Walk quickly for 1 minute.
  • Return to a comfortable pace for 1 minute.
  • Repeat this pattern for a total of 30 minutes.
  • Cool down the last 2 minutes at a slow pace and then stretch.  

Spring Back, Move Forward

Spring back is only an expression but ask yourself this question. Have you fallen off the wagon of activity and making healthy choices? Well, don’t fret! Take time this season to spring back! The answer for any good knock down is a greater comeback. Spring in definition means, to leap, to jump, or to arise from. Take the term to heart and commit to spring walking. 

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Topics: walking tips spring back walking for health beginners walking program starting a walking program

Half Marathon Training and Nutrition Tips from a Beginner

NIFS | Half Marathon | Race TipsI was looking for fitness challenge. I had already been running 5k races and had either won or placed in every race (6) within my age group, so I felt like I was ready for more. My mother suggested I race a half-marathon. Truly, running 13.1 miles sounded awful and I had no desire to run that far for pure enjoyment. Suddenly, I found myself logging longer runs on the weekends just to test my endurance. When early registration came for the Indy Mini Marathon, I went out on a limb and signed up. I had no experience with longer distances, but I learned a lot along the way.  Below are some tips that helped me through the half-marathon training as well as some keys for a strong race.

Training suggestions

Give yourself enough time to prep for the event; remember, it’s a “marathon, not a sprint.” I recommend giving yourself 16-20 weeks of preparation for a half marathon, especially if it’s your first time running one. If you’re a seasoned runner you could likely get away with a 12 week plan.

Research or have a professional design a training program that increases mileage each week. Throughout your training, you want to slowly progress and build upon the miles to increase endurance. Every fourth or fifth week, mileage should be reduced for recovery purposes and increased the following week to continue your journey. During the week (Monday-Friday) I did some speed work and concentrated on shorter distances (5-8 miles), and then I used one day on the weekend for a slower-paced long run (8-15 miles) in length.

With two weeks remaining before your race, you want to slowly decrease the amount of weekly miles you're completing. The taper will give you the proper amount of time to recover so you're ready on race day.

Nutrition tips

You can’t put cheap gas in a high-performance vehicle and expect it to perform well; neither can you expect that with the human body. Not only does your training have to be focused, so does your nutrition. Well-planned nutrition and meal-timing is key with half-marathon training.

Pre- and post-run nutrition is important during training and on race day. Some foods may sit well with some people, but not so well with others, so you'll have to do some experimenting to find what works best for you. I would eat the same pre-training meal every day because I knew it settled well on my stomach, and I didn’t feel bloated or sluggish while running later in the day. My meals gave me great energy and gave me enough fuel to finish training sessions. Post-training hydration was a key in recovering as well. 

My Race Day Food Plan

(It's worth noting that the comments below are simply my experience; they probably wouldn't be highly endorsed by a registered dietitian, but these are foods that work for me.)

A couple days leading up to the race I would increase my carbohydrate intake. I did this to provide my body proper glycogen (energy) stores. I would continue to eat the same food sources, but only increase the amount of food and calories I was eating.

The day before the race I continued with the same nutrition protocol, but I switched from a complex carb source to a simpler carb source to eliminate the fiber found in most complex carbohydrates. I also increased my hydration as well. I would consume food sources such as pasta and white bread with jam or honey.

On race day, I would have a huge plate of pancakes from a “just add water” pancake mix and add a scoop of peanut butter 3-4 hours before. I wouldn’t count any of the calories in this meal. A lot of people think pancakes would not settle well but they actually do for me. They aren’t too heavy and I stick with a limited amount of sugar-free syrup.  I would eat till I was satisfied, but not too full.

About an hour before the race I would have a large Rice Krispie treat, and follow that up with 10-12 pieces of some sort of candy (Sour Patch Kids or Trolli Worms) 30 minutes before the gun was fired. Hydration was limited to 16 ounces of water from when I woke up to about 30 minutes before the race (I didn’t want to have to use the restroom during the race). I would just take small sips of water when I felt like I needed it. I would also keep about 10-12 pieces of candy in my pocket during the race for simple and fast fuel as the race went on, and hydrating only once or twice during the whole race at water stations.

Running 13.1 miles is a great accomplishment if you ever get the motivation or desire to run that far. I found it to be a great challenge for myself. Since the 2017 Mini, I've completed another half marathon and I plan on running many more. Each race I have found is a learning experience. Find what you enjoy. Commit. Be consistent. Eat. Train. And Run!

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Topics: running half marathon training nutrition running nutrition

Is Exercise Getting Left Behind in the Evolution of Corporate Wellness?

NIFS | Exercise ReminderThere is more and more discussion in corporate wellness today about doing wellness for (with?) employees, creating thriving workplace environments, shifting toward programmatic choices that allow for volunteerism and financial literacy, engaging employees with more purposeful work, and using job crafting to create more meaningful work.

It's an interesting time to engage in discussion about what these paradigm shifts really mean when it comes to practical, on-the-ground-application for employees. I agree with much of the dialog; I think it's past time to consider a shift and to take action on it. And yet, I'm concerned that we may be packing away some key elements for "old school" corporate wellness that should not be left out of the mix. One of those program options that is on the fringe is physical activity.

If the basis of your corporate wellness initiative is to help employees live well so that they can bring their best to work each day, then you cannot leave exercise behind. While you consider things like living wage, job crafting and other areas that impact individual well-being, you also need to keep the idea of making the healthy choice the easy choice at the top of mind. Here's how exercise maintains relevance in corporate wellness even as the concept of such offerings continue to evolve. 

The workplace is a prime place for making exercise easy

The research about the benefits of regular activity are clear. What remains elusive are effective strategies to nudge employees toward a more active lifestyle. But, that doesn't mean we should stop creating easy ways for the workers to move their bodies. Time and money (access) remain the two biggest barriers for adults when asked why they don't engage in regular exercise. Like it or not, the workplace becomes a prime location for employees to fit in some activity.  

Exercise doesn't require as much guess work as other initiatives

I know a lot of organizations have taken on wearables as the hallmark of their wellness program's physical activity component. It may be tempting to go that route - it seems relatively easy, and if the cost to implementation isn't a barrier for the organization, you can simply give everyone a Fitbit and get on with it. There are however, many reasons to exercise caution with the use of wearables in your wellness program, not the least of which is privacy.

[Read more: Why Wearable Fitness Trackers Aren't Your Wellness Program]

Outside of the wearable marketplace, there a host of ways you can make physical activity an easy choice in your work environments. We're partial to a corporate fitness center, but that's not the right fit in every business. While you need variety, you don't have to spend a ton of money to execute this well. Group fitness classes can be run with modest cost (or no cost - employees can fund this if you simply make the opportunity available). Painting out safe walking zones in your parking lot, providing resources for stretch breaks, and offering solid education on opportunities for exercise in the community are examples of low-cost initiatives that can easily be developed.  

Leading the way is required

Sometimes, the best way to communicate that movement is important for your workforce has less to do with programmatic offerings, but instead is focused on shifting your culture so that walking breaks are repeatedly encouraged and modeled.

[Read more: 5 Tips To Help Your Employees Move More]

Leaders in the organization have to adopt a mindset where taking a break for physical activity during the day is not just accepted, it's encouraged. One of the best ways to do that is by modeling (yes, that means you need to take your own breaks!). You also have to be mindful of workplace policies (clock in/out policies, productivity quotas, etc.) that may send a different message than the supportive communications you've issued. If words and actions don't match up, employees aren't likely to adopt new practices. 

At the end of the day, you can't really legislate that employees exercise. The motivation to move has to be an inner drive in order for it to be a sustained choice. But, you can make it easier for your workforce to have access to physical activity by creating both spaces and support for regular exercise. 

Tips for adding exercise

Topics: corporate wellness programs corporate wellness success corporate fitness programming corporate fitness exercise at work wellness programming

What's Missing From Your Resident Fitness Program and How To Fix It

NIFS | Senior Group Fitness

I hear from a lot of leadership in senior living communities who know that there's more that could be done with their resident exercise program, but they aren't sure how to get their staff to ramp things up. If you find yourself in this situation, check out the list below for common challenges and opportunities to do better for your residents.

Our participation is lower than it should be.

There are a few reasons that participation in your fitness program might run lower than it should.  The first thing to determine is whether you have reliable data about who is participating. When we  start working with a community, we often learn that they may have total (or estimated) counts for group fitness class participation and that's the end of their program data.  

  • Start by tracking participation per resident. You'll have more reliable information about who is participating, how frequently they attend, and what they participate in. You'll also gain knowledge about who isn't coming to the fitness center and/or classes.
  • If your staff can deliver on individual services for residents, add fitness and balance testing along with exercise prescriptions to provide residents who aren't participating with the support they need to feel safe and inspired to begin an exercise program.

[Read More: 4 Strategies to Engage More Residents in Your Exercise Program]

Our group fitness class calendar needs a do-over.

It's common for the group fitness class calendar to get set on autopilot without critical evaluation of what needs to be updated.

  • Start by using the participation data to figure out which classes really deserve a spot on your calendar.
  • The balance classes our staff teach in our client communities are by far the most popular format. If you don't have dedicated balance training classes on the calendar, add them now. It's not enough to have balance training mixed in with a strength class or another blended format.
  • Carefully consider class descriptions; how you word group fitness opportunities for residents can make a big difference in what resonates with a previously inactive audience.

We need to be offering more fun programs.

Creating fun and inspiring programs to invite more participation in the fitness center is one of the best parts of the job! It's really central to how our staff are supporting residents in the client fitness centers we manage. Consider that engaging programs should be more than just fun; they should be built strategically to meet a specific goal. For example, NIFS Fitness Freeze program was a solid solution to combat the traditional fitness center visit decline we see in December each year. Or, think more holistically about Active Aging Week and use National Senior Health and Fitness Day to offer non-traditional options for physical activity.

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If you're committed to keeping your fitness staff in house, then they need some support to start improving what they're offering your residents. Our eBook on how to turn your fitness center from vacant to vibrant is a great next step.

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Topics: senior fitness group fitness for seniors fitness for seniors senior wellness programs