Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Dan Walker

Recent Posts by Dan Walker:

Long-term Benefits of Corporate Wellness Programs

describe the imageWith money being tight in just about every organization these days, companies are looking to cut costs any way they can. At first glance, adding corporate health and wellness programs doesn’t seem like a very cost-effective move, especially if you're looking at building a corporate fitness center complete with an onsite fitness center. Upon closer examination, though, it’s clear that the benefits of worksite health promotion programs far outweigh the initial start-up costs of implementing them.

A recent study at the University of Michigan showed just how much a company can save over the long term by focusing on worksite wellness. The corporate wellness program of a large utility company was studied over a period of 9 years. The cost over that time period was rather large at $7.3 million, but it was found that the same “expensive” program saved the company $12.1 million over the long haul, for an overall savings of $4.8 million.

This study is believed to have found the true cost of implementing worksite health promotion programs because both the direct and indirect costs were measured. It may be a tough decision for the leaders of an organization to make because of the initial and ongoing costs of offering corporate wellness programs, such as staffing corporate fitness centers, but there seems to be a high return on the investment.

We all know the benefits of regular exercise and seeking to live a healthier life. Those who strive to live in this manner are a welcome relief to many employers. For those who need a little extra motivation, though (or even for those who don’t but like the convenience of onsite wellness opportunities), investigating how your company might be able to move forward with a corporate wellness program is a win-win situation.

Your employees are your most valuable asset. What are you doing to help invest in and protect them and thus protect your company's bottom line?

Topics: corporate wellness corporate fitness program cost conscious business fitness solutions

Employee Weight Loss and Nutrition: Quality Over Quantity?

employee food choicesIf you’re skeptical like me, you may have questioned some of the weight-loss methods you’ve seen in the media. After all, any diet that requires you to substitute steak for fruit salad is sure to be a hit, but how healthy can that really be?

Amidst all the confusion a simple question remains: When looking to lose weight, what matters more? What you eat, or how much you eat? Here are some thoughts to share with overweight employees looking to make a change.

Tell Employees to Burn More Calories Than They Consume

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Griffin Prevention Research Center, seems to offer a simple answer. Dr. Katz points out that “The fundamental truth is that energy balance, calories in versus calories used, determines weight.” Put even more simply, the only way to lose weight is to burn off more calories than you consume. There’s really no mystery about calorie balance.

But it’s not quite that easy. How do you know if you should cut out carbs, pump up the protein, or follow any one of the many other suggestions out there along with eating less?

Nutritionist Mark Haub, an associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State University, answered these very questions with a unique experiment. For one month he ate a high-fat, high-sugar, low-nutrient diet consisting of Twinkies, Nutter Butters, canned or frozen vegetables, a protein supplement, steak, and milk averaging 1,800 calories per day. Believe it or not, he lost weight--15 pounds in the one-month experiment.

Tell Employees to Eat Less but Also Eat Healthy

So how much you eat has more bearing than what you eat--unless you actually want to lose weight in a healthy way.

The major problem with any diet is that you go on it, but eventually must come off of it. So unless you plan to maintain a diet the rest of your life, the odds are you will regain the weight you lost once you resume your normal eating habits.

The long and the short of it? Eat just enough of foods that are good for you and get on with the rest of your day!

Topics: employee health overweight employees nutrition

Functional Capacity in Corporate Fitness Programs, Senior Fitness

Increasing functional capacity through exerciseIn my last post, I explained that functional capacity is exercising in a way that improves the ability to perform activities of daily living. In this post I look at how this concept is being used in senior fitness classes and corporate fitness programs--in place of more traditional but less efficient training.

Senior Fitness Management Now Emphasizing Functional Training

One arena that has begun to understand this dilemma and has sought to eliminate it is senior fitness management. Some of the problems affecting older adults are poor balance, loss of strength, and a decrease in flexibility. As a fitness professional who frequently teaches senior fitness classes at retirement home fitness centers, I’ve noticed a trend in moving away from the typical chair exercise class, which was the norm years ago, to more functional training (training the body in the way in which it typically works).

Entire classes are now designed with the goal of improving balance. Many movements designed to improve strength are now done out of a chair and on the feet because this is how we typically function in everyday life. Along with this, retirement community fitness center management heavily pursues improving residents' flexibility. Since balance, strength while on the feet, and flexibility are all major needs of older adults, fitness professionals have made a move to more directly train in ways that improve these aspects specifically. This move is a perfect example of training to improve functional capacity.

Improving Employee Health Through Functional Training

Functional capacity can also be a synonym for aerobic health or power. Aerobic health or functional capacity is often the main measure used to determine one’s overall health. Numerous diseases that afflict many Americans today can be prevented or even reversed through improving aerobic health.

Many businesses have caught on to this and are pushing to improve their employees' physical health through exercise. This leads to less employee absenteeism, less fatigue on the job, and more productive employees. Since a company’s employees are one of its most valuable assets, many organizations have developed corporate wellness programs to help protect this asset. Because this can improve an employer’s bottom line, many companies are going one step further and building corporate fitness centers for their employees to utilize.

Through group fitness classes at these centers, personal training with staff, or even simply working out on their own, employees are improving the strength and endurance needed for their job as well as their aerobic health, leading to a lower risk of disease and less time lost from work. It is easy to see how this increase in functional capacity benefits both the employee and the employer over the long haul, despite the initial cost of building such centers.

Next: How everyday people can adjust their workouts to improve functional capacity.

Topics: exercise at work employee health healthy workforce muscle toning senior center solutions productivity improve absenteeism

Functional Capacity: Should You Add It To Your Exercise Program?

When most people begin an exercise routine, the primary goal is often weight loss. Getting rid of excess weight can benefit the body in numerous ways. Another goal that can benefit the body as well but is often overlooked is improving functional capacity. functional capacity and exercise

Working out to improve functional capacity, put simply, is when one strives to exercise in a way that will improve their ability to perform their activities of daily living. These activities of daily living vary from person to person and from age group to age group, but the goal is the same: To work out in the most efficient way so that the results transfer directly to how you live your life. As fitness evolves, this goal is becoming more and more commonplace, especially in retirement home fitness centers and corporate health and wellness.

Why Traditional Workouts Can Be Ineffective

While playing basketball during my free time in college, I learned the hard way that what may appear to be an effective workout may not necessarily be so. I had no problem running three or four miles at a time on a treadmill and thought that would help improve my on-court stamina. Once I began to better understand exercise science, though, I soon realized that even though I ran around the same mileage in a game, it was a very different demand in-game than what I was training for on a treadmill.

This same problem I ran into years ago can still be seen at any gym across America at any time. We often train our bodies in a way in which they don’t function in real life, simply because we haven’t questioned “common practice.” And as a result, our bodies aren’t functioning at their highest capacity.

Next: How corporate fitness programs and senior fitness management are using functional capacity training.

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program worksite wellness muscle toning senior center solutions

Corporate Fitness Programs: Improving Functional Capacity Every Day

Functional capacity and your jobIn previous posts, I have talked about functional capacity and how corporate fitness programs and senior fitness classes are using this concept to improve workouts and make them more beneficial to everyday life.

But what about the average person? How can they improve their functional capacity? Should they even seek to? Everyone, whether young or simply young at heart, can and should strive to improve their functional capacity.

Start By Evaluating Your Own Life.

What types of movements do you typically utilize? What does your day consist of? From here, seek out someone who can help you design an exercise program to help you improve directly on the movements and muscles you most frequently use in your day:

  • If you are on your feet a lot and on the move, starting a running or walking program can help improve your endurance, making your job that much easier.
  • If you are glued to a chair the majority of your day, you may find it beneficial to work on the strength of the muscles in your upper back, neck, and shoulders to ward off any pain and changes in posture that may be lingering.
  • If you are a recreational athlete, utilizing a program that will help you improve in a way that directly benefits your sport skills can be an exciting challenge. Fitness has evolved, and gone are the days of sitting down and doing bicep curls and triceps kickbacks every workout.

Join the movement and strive to get on your feet more, move, and train your body in the way in which it works every day. The improvements you’ll experience in both your health and your performance in everyday activities will be well worth it.

Topics: exercise at work employee health corporate fitness program muscle toning exercise at home senior center solutions productivity

Increase Workplace Health by Prescribing Exercise for Depression

Employee Health and DepressionBetween inflation, the rise and fall of the stock market, never-ending projects at work, and screaming kids, there are plenty of things in a employee’s life that can lead them to feel overwhelmed. While we all feel this way from time to time, feelings of anxiety and depression that don’t subside within a few days must be dealt with.

With the use of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications at an all-time high, most Americans seem to be taking the pharmaceutical route to deal with their mental-health issues. As effective as this might be, however, it makes one wonder whether there are other options. Is medication the only hope for your employee's health and depression issues?

Evidence Points to Exercise as Another Answer to Employee Depression and Anxiety

One tried-and-true method of improving mental health is regular exercise. Some evidence suggests it can be as effective as traditional psychotherapy and can even eliminate the need for medication in mild to moderate cases of depression. This is encouraging news for your company wellness initiatives.

If your employees are like me, though, the last thing they probably want to do is get their body moving when they’re feeling a little blue. Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic for getting started.

Once the initial discomfort of beginning to exercise wears off, I find my mind is a little more at ease and I can finally start to relax. I’m more upbeat, I can think more clearly, and I even leave feeling more energized than before. It’s not entirely clear how or why exercise can help improve mood, but it is known to do so regardless.

The Best Employee Exercises for Beating the Blues

Some employees will find aerobic exercise like walking or running to most improve their mood, whereas others find strength training more beneficial. I most enjoy running or playing basketball to get my mind off things; however, strength training has its place in my stress-relief program as well.

What Health Initiative Your Company Can Make to Assist with Employee Depression and Anxiety

As important as medication can be in a person’s life for a variety of ailments, never underestimate the body’s ability to heal itself. Whether it’s the release of endorphins that leads to the famous “runner’s high,” or the psychological benefits of setting an exercise goal and accomplishing it, performing regular physical activity can help employees deal with depression and anxiety.

So improve employee awareness through educating them on the benefits of exercise for depression and anxiety. Encourage them to grab a friend, get moving, and leave their worries behind. They might even lose a few pounds, too. And that alone can perk them up a little (as well as lower your companies health costs)!

Topics: employee health healthy workforce motivation control healthcare costs