Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

How Caffeine Affects Your Workout

GettyImages-470296838 (1)Caffeine functions as a stimulant, which means you will experience an increased heart rate, more blood flow to your body, and more oxygen to your muscles when you consume it. Here are five ways caffeine can energize your workout routine:

1. When it comes to caffeine and exercise, a little goes a long way.

It doesn’t matter how you ingest caffeine; its impact depends on how much you consume. Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day is safe for most healthy adults, but when it comes to exercise, small amounts are more than sufficient to energize your workout. (See this NIFS blog for the content in your favorite beverages and food.)

2. Caffeine can increase endurance and make your workouts feel easier.

Whether you prefer running outside or working out on the elliptical, caffeine can increase endurance up to 30 percent as well as improve your speed by 2 to 5%. With caffeine, your body’s muscle consumption of glycogen (stored energy during exercise) decreases, which forces you to use fat reserves as energy. This helps delay muscle fatigue.

3. Caffeine may not burn fat, but it helps burn more calories.

Studies show that caffeine increases fatty acids in the blood, but the body ignores the extra fats and doesn’t oxidize them. Consuming coffee before exercise helps burn up to 15% more calories for three hours afterward.

4. Timing matters—before a long workout is best.

Caffeine takes about 30 minutes to kick in, so the time you consume it matters if you want to improve your performance. Since caffeine increases endurance, it can provide a greater training effect from the workout.

5. Metabolism varies, so listen to your body.

People metabolize caffeine at different rates. Some people do not respond positively to it and can get nervous or distracted after consuming it. Drinking too much caffeine along with working out can lead to dehydration and fatigue for some people, which will decrease the ability to perform. Always listen to your body.

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Even though consuming caffeine before a workout can improve your performance, it is important to be mindful and know your body. Don’t always rely on caffeine as an energy booster. Balance is the key.

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Topics: calories muscle endurance metabolism workout caffeine

Fabulous Farmers’ Markets: Nutrition and Healthy Summer Fun

One of my favorite things to do during summer in Indiana is to visit the various farmers’ markets around town. As a dietitian I am a sucker for the fresh fruits and veggies, but I also love the homemade desserts, candles, pasta, kettle corn, fresh flowers, and other wonderful items you can find.

The Top 5 Reasons to Shop at Your Local Market

Hfarmers-market-1ere are my top 5 reasons why visiting your local farmer’s market is a must.

  1. Support the local community. Since the produce is grown and purchased locally, the money remains in the community and stimulates the local economy. Also, when you shop at the farmers’ market you are cutting out the middle man, and the product is generally less expensive than if you purchased it in the grocery store.
  2. Eat foods that are in season. Farmers’ market produce is picked ripe and sold soon after picking. Supermarket produce, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks to travel from the farm to the store, even when it is in season. The produce tastes richer and more flavorful and the nutrients are better retained. This handout for Indiana allows you to see which produce is in season so you can plan ahead for meals and shopping on your next outing. If you don’t live in Indiana, check with your local government websites to see if they have a similar calendar.
  3. It’s good for you. The average American eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The current recommendations are 9 servings per day. Picking up multiple servings of fruits and veggies and incorporating them into recipes, meals, and snacks is a great way to get closer to the 9-serving-per-day-goal. This will guarantee you are meeting your recommended vitamin and mineral nutrition requirements, increasing your daily fiber intake, and acquiring cancer-fighting antioxidants. Locally grown produce is also lower in pesticides and chemicals.
  4. You can talk to the farmers who grew the food you are about to eat. You can meet the farmers who grew your food, ask when it was picked, how it was grown, and ways to prepare it. When else do you get the opportunity to learn so much about what you are putting in your mouth?
  5. There is certain to be one that fits your location and schedule. I love being able to go to the local farmers’ market close to work on my lunch break mid-week to grab items to get me through the rest of the week. Saturday mornings it’s off to the farmers’ market closer to my house to purchase goodies for the weekend and first part of the next week. To find out farmers’ markets close to you, check out the Farmers Market Directory on the USDA website.

An Inexpensive Place for Healthy Eating

Whether you are picking up items for tonight’s dinner or for the whole week, the local farmers’ market is an inexpensive, healthy alternative to the grocery store. Try to get there early to get the best variety and options. Not all vendors accept credit cards, so be sure to have cash on hand. Finally, bring along your own reusable grocery bag to put all of your goodies in so it is easier to carry home your fresh, delicious finds.

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Topics: nutrition diet and nutrition well-being nifs staff

Help Clients Overcome 3 Common Misconceptions About Exercise and Aging

It’s well known that being physically active, especially as we age, yields many physical benefits. Examples include decreasing risk factors for chronic diseases, and preserving many aspects of physiological functions, such as cardiovascular function, muscle strength and endurance, as well as balance and flexibility.

In addition to the many physical benefits that you can gain from regular exercise, there are also many psychological benefits. Some of the benefits associated with regular exercise consist of (but are not limited to) improved quality of life and cognitive functioning.

As a fitness instructor I am constantly hearing reasons why individuals feel as though it makes no sense for them to exercise. One example I have heard recently is “I’m 85 years old. What good could taking part in regular exercise do for me? I am too old for there to even be changes made to my strength or balance.” (Hint: This isn’t true!)

Following are three common “excuses” or misconceptions regarding regular exercise that I hear frequently from older adults, and how you can address these concerns.

GettyImages-929610028 (1)I’m Too Old

You might hear: I’m too old to start exercising; its too late to make a difference in my health; it isn’t safe; I don’t want to fall and break a hip; I’m going to get old anyway

To be honest, no one is ever “too old” to start a regular exercise regimen. Many older adults are not aware that regular physical activity has been shown to be beneficial to individuals of all ages, even those well into their 80s, 90s, or older. Besides, inactivity is often associated with the common signs of aging. Older adults often have a fear of falling, especially if they have experienced falls in the past. Thus, these individuals think they are safer or rather better off if they remain sedentary. However, what these older adults don’t realize is that regular exercise is going to help them build strength and stamina, prevent the loss of bone mass, and allow the individual to improve their balance.

How to address this: In addition to discussing how certain exercises are beneficial to oneself especially as we age, instructors should also go over ways to make exercises less scary and thus safer.

I’m Too Busy

You might hear: I’m too busy to exercise; I don’t have time

Many people of all ages don’t realize that exercise does not need to take place at any specific location or at any specific time. Really, exercise is one of those things that shouldn’t be made more complicated than it has to be, and can be made to fit into your daily schedule. Exercises can even be performed in smaller bouts of 10–15 minutes that are repeated a couple times throughout the day, or even simpler exercises that can be connected to certain parts of their routine. Older adults might find exercise to be easier once it is part of a routine.

How to address this: Fitness instructors should guide these older adults on how they can add simple exercises to their daily routines. One example could be practicing a single-legged stance while waiting for their morning coffee to brew.

It’s Too Boring

You might hear: Exercise is boring; exercise is not enjoyable

Most individuals today seem to dread working out and look at it as something that just needs to get done to check it off the to-do list. People often associate exercise with repetitive movements that may be viewed as boring. However, there are a lot of different ways for older adults to make fitness an enjoyable part of their everyday life.

For example, they could take up a sport (such as golf, hiking, or swimming), take a walk with a friend, play with grandchildren, work in the garden, or even take a group fitness class. The key is to at least keep the body in motion, because some movement versus no movement can still be beneficial to their health.

How to address this: Fitness instructors can easily inspire older adults to look at some alternatives that they haven’t considered before but would likely find enjoyable. Instructors can also add components to group fitness classes to make them seem more fun and enjoyable, and less like exercise.

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The next time you hear one of these excuses from an older fitness client, you’ll know how to encourage them to overcome the misconception and keep moving.

DOWNLOAD: Importance of Exercise for Seniors >

Topics: balance senior fitness group fitness exercise and aging why older adults don't exercise

How to Move More at Work and During the Day

GettyImages-905323392 (1)Let’s face it, daily life can be very busy and sometimes overwhelming to many of us. Trying to fit in exercise every day can seem like a chore and many times gets put at the bottom of the “to-do” list even though we all know it should be near the top. Just because you can’t fit in a trip to the gym or attend your favorite exercise class doesn’t mean that you can’t get exercise or at least some movement time throughout your day. Your body can even benefit from little bits of movement at a time if that is all you have time for, so there really should not be any excuses not to get some movement or exercise in your day.

Exercise at Lunch

Lunch breaks are a great time to fit in exercise. Bring your tennis shoes to work and take a walk. It can be around the building inside or outside, through a neighborhood nearby, or on a treadmill if that is available to you. Walk for as much time as your schedule allows. If you don’t have time for a shower afterward, just don’t push yourself quite as hard. Walking is great for your body!

Getting in Extra Steps During the Workday

You can fit in exercise in your office! Take the stairs between floors—skip that elevator! Park far away on purpose so you get a 5- or 10-minute walk in and out of your office. That could potentially add up to 20 minutes of movement or exercise depending on how fast you walk. Here are a few other tips for getting more exercise at work.

Move While You’re Waiting on the Kids

If you are a parent, chances are your kids are or will be involved in activities. So many times parents just drop their child off and sit in their cars to wait, or just leave to do something else. Your child is getting their exercise, why not get yours as well? You can take a walk, run, or ride your bike around the area they are practicing in so as to maximize your time. For those days when there are games, the kids usually need to be there early to warm up, so you can use that warmup time to move your body as well instead of sitting in your chair or car for that extra 30 to 60 minutes.

Work Out at the Park

If you frequently take your kids to parks, work out at the park while they play! Park benches are great for pushups, dips, lunges, squats, and step-ups. Monkey bars work well for pull-ups, and running up the steps and sliding down the slides is a little cardiovascular work—not to mention fun! Don’t forget, you can use your kids as little (or big) weights and resistance machines, too!

Plan Active Gatherings

Plan family and friend time as active gatherings. Take walks, go on bike rides, or go swimming (or sledding, ice skating, or skiing in winter) together. You can still talk while doing many of those activities. Join a gym with a friend so your social time also becomes your exercise time.

There is no rule that says all exercise has to be at a gym or that you have to set aside 30 to 60 minutes every single day to purposely do one set workout. You should find an activity that you enjoy doing and incorporate that into your daily life. Everyone has different goals and will have different needs for exercise, but with a few modifications in your daily routine you should be able to start moving more and sitting less throughout the day.

Interested in how you can add exercise to your wellness program?  Check out our whitepaper for tips to be successful.

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Topics: exercise at work staying active counting steps exercises I can do with my kids movement

Why Spending Time Outdoors Is Good for Physical and Mental Wellness

GettyImages-1138813719 (1)If you’re looking to improve the overall happiness and well-being of your residents—and even yourself—try taking your offerings outside of the fitness center and straight into nature!

Many of our NIFS fitness staff members schedule outdoor activities as a key component of their wellness programming, when and where weather permits. Some of the most popular open-air activities we have offered include walking groups, hiking trips, snowshoeing, yoga classes, mindfulness and meditation events, recreational sports, gardening, and outdoor socials. Exercise-related health benefits are already widely acknowledged, but did you know that the additional advantages of immersing oneself in nature may far surpass exercise alone?

Let the Sun Shine In!

Sunlight can help boost your Vitamin D levels, which is essential in calcium absorption to keep bones healthy and strong. Those who aren’t getting enough Vitamin D are much more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, weight gain, Alzheimer’s, and a whole catalog of cancers. In addition, getting sufficient sunlight can aid in preventing type-2 diabetes and some autoimmune disorders.

Get Active

Physical activity typically increases as we spend more time in natural environments, and the two together help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls how the body responds when at rest. Not only does this provide a relaxing, calm feeling, but it also reduces resting blood pressure, strengthens immunity, and can help decrease the risk of developing chronic disease.

Just Being Outside Is Beneficial for Mental Health and Wellness

Not in the mood for a “workout”? That’s okay, too! You can still fight mental fatigue, tension, and stress by simply being in nature. A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that spending as little as 20 minutes either sitting or walking in nature was enough to significantly reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone commonly used as a stress marker. The greatest rate of reduction in cortisol levels was observed in those who spent between 20 and 30 minutes in green spaces.

Anxiety and depression, too, have been proven to be lessened by spending time in nature’s powerful restorative environments—so powerful, in fact, that researchers at Stanford University call time spent in nature a mental health prescription.

Mental health disorders can contribute to poor sleep, and poor sleep can equally contribute to mental health disorders. Not only can time spent in nature improve overall mental health, leading to better sleep, but it can also play a fundamental role in improving sleep patterns, leading to better mental health. Sleep patterns are intrinsically regulated by circadian rhythms—this is commonly referred to as the body’s internal clock—which is directly tied to the sun’s schedule. Spending too much time in the absence of natural light, or in the presence of artificial light, can alter a person’s circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep patterns. Lucky for us, this balance is easily restored by getting back to nature and spending time outside.

Are you taking advantage of all that nature has to offer and sharing it with everyone you know?

NIFS staff love helping create Active Adventures with the communities where we help do wellness better.  Click below to see if outsourcing and having a vendor partner with you is a right fit!

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

Topics: disease prevention senior wellness programs bone density emotional wellness depression vitamins anxiety nifs staff nature outdoor exercise