Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Senior Fitness: Don't be afraid to go back to the basics

In every fitness center setting it seems that the goal is to provide the most up-to-date, “trendy” group fitness classes and personal training. And while I agree that trying to offer something new and exciting is very important, I also think that sometimes we need to bring fitness back to the basics.

NIFS | seniors seated stretching

This is very important at a senior living setting. Many of our senior living communities support active living for several hundred people and providing fitness services appropriate for every fitness level can be challenging. It easy to cater to the “most active” group of participants. But we wanted to make sure we were reaching as many different residents as possible, so our fitness center staff challenged ourselves to take it back to the basics by providing a personalized group training that focused on the “bare bones” of exercise. And let me tell you, it has been some of the most rewarding work I’ve done to date! 

While I can’t deny that fitness professionals get a thrill out of providing a tough workout in a high intensity class and hearing “that was hard,” I can honestly say that providing an appropriate workout for those who need to take it back to the basics of fitness is also just as thrilling. Being able to coach a member to stand up from his chair independently when he hasn't been able to in a long time can make your heart swell with pride for his accomplishment. 

Now I’m taking that “back to basics” challenge to you dear reader. If you work in a senior fitness setting, take a look at your membership. Start identifying the needs of your members who struggle with standing, walking, overall balance, basic strength, and most importantly their confidence! One of the criteria we used when we started evaluating who might benefit most from “back to basics” programming was to begin with members who tend to get a little behind in class and do not reap the full the benefits. 

Once you build that member list, start reaching out individually to target specific fitness and functional living needs. Then watch how your overall participation numbers grow and how the increased confidence of some of your more frail residents helps them gain additional strength for every day needs. This experience has surprised me; I didn’t expect that getting back to the basics would be so rewarding and exciting, but it has been an absolute joy. Have a similar story to share? Respond the comments below.

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Topics: active aging senior group fitness classes group fitness for seniors exercise and aging resident fitness fitness for frail seniors

Corporate Wellness: You Can Do Anything But You Can't Do Everything

NIFS | Corporate Wellness

American is the land of opportunity and from the time we are children, most of our parents have encouraged us to take advantage of these opportunities. They encourage us to understand that we can be anything we dream of when we grow up, accomplish any goal we set our minds to, and with hard work can achieve what others think is impossible. While these are great confidence boosters for children, as we become adults many of us have a hard time distinguishing between being able to do anything and being able to do everything. It is great to set your goals high but you have to prioritize to be able to achieve them.

This is something I see day in and day out as a fitness professional with my clients. I also see it in the unrealistic expectations I set for myself. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon you can’t expect to strength train three times a week, lose those pesky 10 pounds that have been hanging around, keep up with kids activities, maintain a full-time job, sleep eight hours a night, volunteer at your church, and have healthy meals prepared each dinnertime. Something has to give! This is where a dreaded word comes into the mix: “NO.”

Read More [4 Ways to Find a Healthy Relationship with Exercise]

We have a passion for so many things and a desire to please others but we have to prioritize. You can run that marathon but you may have to give up volunteering at your church to complete some long runs on the weekends. You may have to eat leftovers for dinner a few times a week to keep up with your training schedule. It is ok to say no or push some things to the back burner for a while so you can achieve the “anything” you have set out to accomplish. If different things become a priority, you can pull them to the forefront again.

Living a healthy lifestyle can be overwhelming. There are 7 different dimensions of well-being that we are constantly trying to balance. Cut yourself some slack and remember you cannot do everything, especially not all at once. Pick one or two things and make them your top priority. See how these affect your life and decide if they are habits worth keeping. Once you find a good balance, try adding another and see how you do. You can achieve any health/fitness goal but you cannot achieve all of them at once. Write down your top health/fitness goal for the month and focus on that for 30 days. You will feel a sense of accomplishment and build a confident attitude that says that you can do ANYTHING, just not EVERYTHING.

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Topics: healthy lifestyle balanced life health and fitness goals corporate wellness wellness and fitness

Why promoting wellness is the right marketing choice for senior living

The biggest threat for occupancy in senior living appears to be the family home. And as technology advances, it gets easier for older adults to remain in the comfort of their familiar surroundings. After all, it is an enormous undertaking to move from your long time family home to a new place. The physical burden of the move (and downsizing) coupled with a strong and heavy psychological undercurrent to acknowledging that this will be your last move makes it extremely challenging.

Until there is a strong enough push (or pull) for older adults to leave their home, marketing and sales staff are left in a difficult battle with inertia, because the truth is, most of us don't make changes (in any area of life) unless the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of making the change. So you have two choices, you can wait for the push of a health crisis that forces older adults to leave their homes, or you can activate a pull message that shows the community as a place where active, engaged living is very much the norm.

[Read More: Using Wellness To Combat Someday Syndrome]

Your wellness program (life enrichment program, activities program...) is the tangible representation of how life is lived in your community and it is the best way to show prospects all the ways they can connect with opportunities FAR beyond what they could cultivate for themselves at home. Here are three opportunities to make the most of your community lifestyle in a pull message with prospective residents.

#1: Fix your fitness center.

Fitness, your fitness center, exercise classes, etc. are only one component of your overall lifestyle program. But, this aspect of living at your community is arguably one of the most visible and recognizable elements (maybe a close second behind dining). If your program consists of a gym with some equipment, classes on the calendar, and possibly fee-based personal training, then you're no different than the gym the prospect already belongs to. Nor are you likely much different from your nearest senior living competition. There is no pull in your services to stimulate the idea of change for a future resident.

Here are some blogs to help you rethink your exercise offerings:

#2: Change your calendar.

There's a good chance your calendar looks old and it's just as likely that your enrichment team is NIFS | Residents learn how to paddleboardblissfully unaware that there's room for growth in what and how they plan. If you're in a community leadership role, it may have been a while since you took a close look at the activities and events that are planned for your residents. So, maybe you're not sure if your calendar needs more life. The simple exercise below will shed some light on whether your programming represents an area of opportunity. 

  • Print the last 3 months of calendars.
  • Cross off all events that are repeats within the month: exercise classes, card games, happy hour, book club, birthday lunches, weekly shopping trips, worship services, etc.
  • If you don't see at least five to six unique events per month (and that's shooting low), then it's time to rethink how programs and events are planned in the community.

Check out this blog for a fresh perspective on putting purposeful living at the center of life enrichment programming.

[Read More: Top 5 reasons your residents don't engage in wellness]

#3: Adjust your thinking about resident engagement.

I'm intrigued by the Holleran Consulting model for the four domains of resident engagement. (Grab the whitepaper here). My early thoughts were all around how much the domains are the responsibility of a community's life enrichment director. However, the more I digested the content, the more I realized how deep the idea of resident engagement really runs. 

There are lots of ways to improve traditional activities in communities, and many of those opportunities rest squarely with your life enrichment staff doing their jobs differently. Yet, beyond the prominent role your activities department plays in facilitating opportunities for resident engagement, it is the entire community supporting those opportunities, connecting with residents, and communicating with each that is the foundation for engagement. Residents also have to be present at a fundamental level. We should not be simply filling an activities calendar and calling it done. For strong engagement, we have to invite residents into their own life story and then step back to allow them to live it.  

How you build those pathways for residents to choose the ways they want to engage is the story you sell to prospects when they ask what it's like to live in your community. And, it takes more than your fitness manager and/or your life enrichment director to pull this off. It requires a strategic approach to building a community full of life and then creating a thoughtful approach to sharing that living experience with those who aren't even aware of what they're missing while they reside in their own home. 

Simply put: You court a more vibrant consumer when you offer a message that speaks to the ways they engage with life. Stop selling health care and start focusing on how residents can live well in your community.

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: resident engagement improve your fitness center activities calendar senior living marketing in senior living stop selling health care in senior living

Corporate Fitness: Why we stopped offering weight loss challenges

NIFS | Weight loss frustrationIt's hard for me to believe that the first season of the reality show Biggest Loser aired in 2004. The popularity of that show has inspired all manner of weight loss competitions held under the banner of workplace health. Over the years, as a corporate fitness partner for businesses across the US, we've hosted our share of weight loss challenges. Sometimes the program was straight up 100% about weight loss. Other times, the challenge would have a lot of pieces and participants could choose a weight loss component or another element as their focus.

All of it was well-intentioned, but as I've come to learn, we may have done more harm than good. That said, we don't offer those kinds of programs anymore, and here's why:

Weight loss challenges are based on bad science.

Such programs are typically short term (6-8 weeks) and focus almost exclusively on calories. The idea is that if you consume fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight. (Or, as we fitness folks prefer: burn more calories than you take in.) On paper, the math makes perfect sense. But the reality of calories in versus calories out as it relates to body weight is far more complicated. Fitness professionals often assume that people are fat because they either aren't moving their bodies enough or they're eating too many calories. Fix one or both of those and the weight will come right off.

In fact, the weight may come off for the duration of the challenge. Sustained weight loss is also a possible outcome (there are success stories out there), but it's not a likely one.  

[Read More: The Long Strange History of Fad Diets]

Weight loss challenges motivate the wrong health behaviors.

Early in my career one of my most memorable encounters with a fitness center member occurred when she came in for her appointment to talk about an exercise plan tailored to her goals. Weight loss was her primary goal so we started talking about what might be a reasonable initial target. Quickly into the appointment, she dissolved into tears and through the rest of our conversation, we didn't talk about exercise, we talked about her body image and how deeply connected that was to her self worth.

That kind of desperation lends to poor health behavior choices when we're talking about weight; it's not a stretch to go from a weight loss challenge at work to dysfunctional eating habits. The restrictive nature of the challenges often leaves participants grumbling about when they can eat their next cheeseburger. I'd cringe when I heard something like that. I'm not anti-cheeseburger, cheesecake, or cheese for that matter. I am against the idea of labeling foods into good/bad categories as a strategy for eating better, and I am against the idea of restriction as a tactic for improving health.

Weight loss challenges perpetuate a negative body image narrative.

The story I shared above about the member crying in my office because of her weight wasn't an isolated incident. It happened regularly. And while I was honored that people would feel comfortable getting real with me, I also felt horribly ill-equipped to counsel, recommend, or even respond. (There was no training for this in my bachelor's or master's programs). So I practiced empathetic listening because it was the only tool I had in my toolbox. After several consults like this, I adopted a mantra: "Your weight on the scale is not related to your value as a human being" in the hopes that my members would internalize a tiny piece of that to understand that regardless of their weight, body fat, jean size, or relationship to food they had immense value to me and others in their lives.

When we focus on excess weight as something that MUST be addressed, we imply that individuals who aren't at a "healthy body weight" must need fixing. That's a pretty rich message coming from a group of professionals who love exercise so much, we choose to do it for a living.

So what do we do when someone comes to us with weight loss questions?

We will still work with individuals on reasonable weight loss goals if they come to us 1:1 for that kind of support. But, we do it from the foundation message that good health is primary. If weight loss occurs as a natural outcome of healthy choices, then so be it.

We do still get asked by businesses if we'll help them run their weight loss challenge. The answer is no. Sometimes they'll respond to other creative health-related programming and other times, they're committed to their Biggest Loser-style weight loss competition and we have to bow out.

* * *

If you're looking for a corporate fitness partner who is committed to helping your employees live well and work well, click below to find out how we can help.


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Topics: weight loss corporate fitness programming corporate fitness program healthy living wellness programs weight loss challenges at work Biggest Loser-style program

Senior Fitness: Common Myths about Fitness as You Age

Aging is a natural and guaranteed process. You can’t stop getting older. This doesn’t mean you have to concede to the idea that getting older means being less than what you were in younger decades of life. Being regularly active is an important part of aging well, and yet, working in the active aging fitness industry, I have seen many older adults have come up with a plethora of excuses to not exercise. Here are some common myths that older adults use to avoid exercise and my tips for how to address them.

NIFS | Seniors Stretching

I’m too old.

I think we can agree that this is very outdated; the research tells us you're never too old to move your body. There have been many studies showing that staying physically active all of your life positively outweighs aging while sitting still. But, I think there is a hidden meaning in “I’m too old.” i think it's more about change than it is about age. People like to stick to their routines, older adults are no exception, and what folks often mean when they say, “I’m too old” is that exercise is out of their comfort zone. It’s a blanket answer to get the fitness monkey off their back.

In reality, they are scared to change and may need a boost from you to help get them thinking more positively. One of the ways that I help the residents who use this saying as their mantra is by engaging them in a non-physical meet and greet activity. I introduce them to other active aging residents who enjoy classes, recreational offerings, and the fitness center. The idea is not to talk to them the whole time about why they should join the fitness center and all of the great benefits, because, deep down, they already know. The idea is to get them around a group of people that they can turn to and make friends with. They are more likely to commit if they have a buddy.

[Read our Senior Fitness blog: What's the Point of Exercising]

I have an injury.

Injuries are not to be taken lightly and as a fitness professional, I definitely have a medical release secured prior to engaging a resident in exercise. If you receive an “all clear” from the doc, an older adult client who is still leaning on the injury excuse may be in fact fearful that their injury is going to get worse or come back if they embark on regular exercise. But if you present yourself as an educated professional (because you’ve done your research), you can coach the individual in safe and effective exercises. Despite your efforts, not everyone will get on board, but the more they trust you in your profession, the more likely you are to have them participate and start leading a healthier lifestyle.

I like to keep to myself.

This can be a difficult one. Introverts, especially older introverts, may need a little extra push to get moving. The best way I have found to engage with these individuals is by finding out what they enjoy doing. When speaking to them one-on-one, I relate to their interests and try to form a bond. Slowly, they start to come around. These residents normally enjoy one-on-one appointments or scheduled times when not too many people are in the fitness center.

Knowing your population’s needs is half the battle. Establishing a positive connection with your audience is how you are going to get them to be more active and engaged. Remember, it can be really scary to start something new. Being understanding and taking the time to help them find their niche is one of the most important things you can do as a fitness professional.

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Topics: senior fitnes active aging myths about aging exercise and aging why older adults don't exercise

How Our Staff Celebrate Independence Day

We’re fitness people, so you might think our holiday traditions are packed full of fun runs and other healthy traditions. Do we avoid grilling due to the cancer risks associated with charring meat? Maybe we pass on the ribs, corn on the cob smothered in butter and potato salad? If you answered yes to these questions, you guessed wrong. We engage in the delightful indulgence of all the traditional staples, whether they are calorie laden or not. Some do shoot for moderation and head towards healthier choices but most seem to just enjoy all the offerings of the day regardless of the calorie count.

Do we actually still get a workout in on the 4th of July? Well, this is a little different. It may not be the standard workout but many of our staff enjoy the day by engaging in activities with family and friends. 

We Like Sweet TreatsNIFS | Milkshake

  • Corey in Pennsylvania indulges in a mountainous heap of sugar and dairy called the Star Spangled King Sized; Cookies and Cream Milk Shake, topped with a star shaped brownie and pop rock filled cupcake.
  • Bethany’s choice each year is a simple trifle layered with delicious berries, instant vanilla pudding and whipped topping.
  • Keith in Indiana has a deep seeded taste for watermelon, (see what I did there?) so anything with that fruit is up his alley. Check out the Watermelon Salsa below that he’ll be making this year. Looks pretty tasty to me!
    • 3 cups chopped watermelon
    • 2 jalapenos finely chopped – seeds removed (use one if you like it more mild)
    • 3-4 tablespoons chopped onion
    • Add a splash of lime juice, serve with your favorite corn chips.

We Go To Cool Places

  • Bethany had a once in a lifetime chance to see the 4th of July fireworks in Washington DC years ago that still ranks as her favorite fireworks display of all time.
  • Kara heads to Tennessee with her family to enjoy long days on the lake that close with an eagerness to do it all over again the next day.

Activity Is Usually IncludedNIFS | paddleboarding

  • Lisa in Indiana has a tradition of starting the day at the lake in South Haven, Michigan, taking an easy jog with her dad to enjoy the cool breeze off the lake.
  • Christy keeps it simple by enjoying a simple ride to her local park on the 4th of July.
  • Dan in Indiana also mixes activity into his day with his family such as volleyball, lawn games, and wake boarding.
  • Joy makes her way across the lake with her son for some paddle boarding and then back to the campsite for the evening.
  • Reggie in Georgia goes all out and participates in the 10K Peachtree Road Race every year. (Way to outdo the rest of us Reggie.)

We Do Tradition

  • Lindsey is ready to run with the baton and take on the family party at her house this year after 20 years of it being hosted at her parents’ house. There they will celebrate with up to 50 people by enjoying a fish fry, badminton, croquet and corn-hole. She’s get our hostess with the mostest award.  
  • Cathy’s brother-in-law in Florida is on the local fireworks crew so their family gets an up close experience every year.
  • Plenty of our staff enjoy the traditional parade as well. I think we all love to see the marching bands, festively decorated floats, horses and most of all our military marching with pride.
  • My daughter and I place small flags on the headstones of those who served in our military and then go to any fireworks show in Denver and spend time with friends and family.

On behalf of the NIFS organization and our staff, we salute our men and women who serve our country and give us the opportunity to enjoy our daily freedoms. We offer our most sincere THANK YOU and are extremely grateful for your service.

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Topics: independence day activities celebrate independence day