Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Lindsay Knox

Recent Posts by Lindsay Knox:

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 group fitness for seniors senior group fitness classes resident fitness exercise and aging fitness for frail seniors

The Power of Massage Therapy in Senior Wellness

senior_back_painI am a firm believer in massage therapy because a little over a year ago, I woke up in agonizing lower-back pain that did not allow me to move. My first thought was maybe I should go see a chiropractor. I had been to one before, but was not the biggest fan because they cracked my back and sent me on my way after charging $65. 

This time, I did my research and found a well-rounded practice that offered a full evaluation prior to the treatment to be sure they could help me and not further injure my back. Here, they first did a 30-minute session with a massage therapist, applied heat while rolling the back, and then I saw the chiropractor. In my situation, I needed the full run-through. Now that my injury is better, I can maintain the relief with strength exercises, stretching, and massage. 

So when I began working at a senior living community and found that the community had a regularly visiting massage therapist, I thought, “How very lucky we are to have a certified massage therapist!” She has her own room and setup that the resident can enjoy, or she can meet them at their apartment if that is more comfortable for them. I have found, though, that many CCRC residents do not take advantage of this resource just because they aren’t fully educated on the benefits.

How Often Should You Visit a Therapist?

Believe it or not, it can be to your greatest advantage to visit a massage therapist a two or three times a month. Often, it is thought that massage is a luxury visit to a spa once in a blue moon for some rest and relaxation. While it is great for that, massage is something that can be done in a less expensive setting and more often so that you can reap the benefits. 

What Is Massage?

What exactly is massage? Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing, and manipulating the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The combination of movements and sequence in which the therapist works is meant to alleviate pain, reduce the stress we carry in that area, and treat a wide variety of conditions. And the great thing? If it isn’t your cup of tea, you can just forget about it and try something else. 

Types of Massage

There are different variations of massage, depending on what the need is. Need relaxation? You’ll want a Swedish massage. Have a pain in the low back? You may need a deep-tissue or trigger-point massage. The great thing is, the massage therapist will know which is likely best for your situation. 

Benefits of Massage Therapy

While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia related to stress
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)

Here are some additional benefits of massage therapy.

Ask Your Doctor

One last thing, massage isn’t meant to replace regular care from your physician, and when a member complains of a pain that sounds most like a muscle or ligament pain, I suggest they ask their doctor whether seeing a massage therapist would be a good idea. 

When Massage Might Not Be a Good Idea

If one of these is something you suffer from, massage may not be right for you: 

  • Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
  • Burns, open or healing wounds
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Fractures
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Severe thrombocytopenia

Before I go, I want to encourage you to take a look at this alternative medicine and the role it can play in senior wellness. It has relatively low risk and can be very beneficial. Does your community offer this onsite? Would you like for them to? If you have a leisure services or wellness department, that might be the place to start. 

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC continuing care retirement community stress relief injury prevention massage

Does This Count as Exercise? A Senior Fitness Challenge

Recently we were challenged at our senior community to increase our exercise and record it to send to our corporate office, in hopes of raising awareness of how important exercise is for those who have Alzheimer’s and those hoping to prevent it through senior fitness.

An Exercise Challenge for Alzheimer’s Awareness

The Goal: Each community needed to accumulate around 1,500 hours of exercise in 60 days, which would translate to 100,000 total hours from all communities.

The Prize: The corporate office would donate $10,000 to the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.

The great thing about this challenge is that we already have many group exercise opportunities where hours are easily accumulated, as well as a fitness center that members can utilize. But we wanted to amp up the amount of exercise residents were doing because, after all, it is a challenge to exercise more to bring awareness.  

While explaining this challenge to the residents and fielding questions the following weeks, I found that many residents and members did not know what was considered exercise. I was getting questions left and right, “Is this exercise? Does this count?” 

ThinkstockPhotos-163162703_1What Counts as Exercise?

So here is the thing: exercise doesn’t have to be a hard workout routine only in a fitness center or group fitness setting. Some folks feel as though that is what exercise is, and I am happy to break the news that it is not the only way to get in exercise! Guess what, things that you enjoy as well as activity needed for healing count as exercise!

Here is a list of the “does this count” exercises residents asked me about. 

These are just a handful of the activities residents are participating in that they weren’t sure would count as exercise. The great thing about fitness and activity is that there are many avenues to take in order to reach the level of fitness you are looking for. Exercise does not have to be a boring, long-drawn-out routine. 

If a regimented fitness center routine is what you like for your workout, that is great!  But, if you need something else to hold your interest, whether it is a game like corn toss or working long hours in your garden, it is best to do an activity that you will stick with. And if you want to add intensity or are having a hard time finding what suits your interest, that’s the best time to consult with your fitness specialist to plan out exercises or activity that are best for you!

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC senior fitness senior living community exercise and wellness exercise for elderly Alzheimer's Disease

NIFS: Gain positive thinking with practices and questions (Part 2)

Before, we discussed how a negative attitude can adversely affect a person’s health.  Luckily, experts say you can change your ways regardless of how long you have been in a negative thinking slump. 

You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking (don't miss part 1). They say the process is simple, but it does take time and practice —after all, you’re creating a new habit!

In my personal experience, when someone around me is being negative, I find that it really affects my mood.  How so?  Here is an example. 

My husband is a third shift worker and when he is just getting off of work, I am heading to work.  This means we are on opposite schedules 90% of the time.  Think of your regular work day.  Everything that went on at work, usually sticks with you till the end of the day when you can finally talk to someone about it.  If my husband had a rough night at work that resulted in a bad attitude, it typically spills over into our conversation.  Let me tell you, the last thing I want to hear at the start of my day is how bad his day was.  Sometimes, because of his bad night, it affects his thinking and before you know it the whole conversation is negatively affected and I’m annoyed by the time I’m off the phone.

Because of our schedules, I have had to adjust my way of thinking and create new habits when it comes to our morning conversations.  I can’t hold it against him for being in a bad mood, but sometimes I ask him a couple questions to try to bring what happened into perspective.  Sometimes this works, while other times it doesn’t and I have to be the one who changes my way of thinking and let him be in a negative mood while I remind myself this doesn’t have to affect the rest of my day. 

What works for me when trying to think positive?  

roadrageWhen service is slow at a restaurant: I often try to remind myself what it must be like to work in a place where what other people do affects how quickly you can get your job done.  For example: getting upset at the waitress when really something in the kitchen is what held up your food.

When someone is tailgating you while driving:  Instead of being that person who taps my breaks or purposely slows down to make that person more aggravated, I get into the other lane or wave them around me when the road is clear.  They must have somewhere to be that’s very important, right?!

When I am sore or do not feel the greatest: I think to myself that there are far more people that have bigger things going on.  My back hurts? What about the person who can’t walk because of back problems?  I’m tired?  Put on a smiling face and maybe that will make it easier to wake up and get through the day.  In my opinion, it’s better not to pout.  And like I said before “fake it till you make it”.

If you find it hard to find the other side of a story or think that there is no way you can be wrong, there are also questions that you can ask yourself to help you get on the path to positive thinking.  Carthage Buckley is an experienced learning and development professional who specializes in mentoring, coaching, and providing people with motivational skills.  He has had great success in giving people the ability to empower themselves to make the positive changes they are looking for.   On his website, Carthage listed “14 Questions to help you overcome your negative thinking”.   Listed below are great questions for everyone to ask themselves.  

  1. Is this fact or just my opinion?
  2. Could I be wrong?
  3. Why am I so certain of the conclusion I have reached? 
  4. What assumptions am I making?
  5. What evidence is there to support/dispute my thinking? 
  6. Who says things should be this way?
  7. When I felt like this before, what did I do to change my viewpoint?

My Challenge to you:  For the next 5 days, try to take a sour situation and put a positive spin on it.  Just today, I read this quote on a friend’s social media account, author unknown “Be selective in your battles for sometimes peace is better than being right.”  Meaning you ask?  When I have a conversation with someone that has a negative tone, it seems like that person is battling the other possibility, the other side of the story.  When I try to show light or perspective on the other side, I am told why I am wrong.  Pick your battles, believe it or not, you will find you’re more calm and comfortable when you’re not constantly upset about something.  Put any frustration into your workout and visit your corporate  or senior fitness center for some exercise!

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Topics: wellness

NIFS: How does positive thinking impact your life?

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln

I don’t know how many conversations I have had with people about their health and exercise routines that often turn into conversations about why they cannot participate in a certain activity.  When I try to put a positive spin on the situation, the response I get is “You are young, you don’t understand.”  I realize I am younger than the folks I work with and do not totally understand what it means to get older with a body that wants to do the opposite of what I want to do.  But, I shouldn’t be totally disregarded, as I do have an idea of how difficult it can be.  After all, I have worked with people with ailments since I was old enough to have a paying job.  Plus, I have experienced the unfortunate event of orthopedic surgeries and physical therapies to get back on my feet.

I have been told multiple times that I smile a lot and they wonder why I am in such a good mood so early in the morning.  My answer is typically “Why not?”  I am lucky that I have been given the “upbeat” predisposition.   Whether it’s through helping someone with their exercise routine or stopping to have a conversation that strikes their interest, I will do what works to help a person’s day go a little better.  Too often do people walk through the halls to their apartment with their head down or worse, responding to a “good morning” with “oh is it?”  There really is a term that works, which is “fake it till you make it”.  Which means do what you have to do to make yourself believe it really is a good day.    

positive_thinkierSo what does this have to do with anything health and wellness related, you ask?  Well, there have been numerous observances and studies focusing on how a positive or negative attitude affects a person’s health and recovery. 

The Mayo Clinic has given us a list of health benefits that come with positive thinking

Researchers continue to explore effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. The benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

It's unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It's also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity and follow a healthier diet.”

Think of the most negative thinker you know… Now, take into consideration the list above.  When I think of the negative thinkers in my life, once something “bad” has happened, they are immediately ranting about it, even long after the situation is over.   The more they talk about it, the more intense the story tends to get.  When they dwell on it, it seems as though they become distressed over the situation.  Sometimes it seems like the same thing tends to happen to them and they become depressed saying “why me?”  If depression becomes a factor, then as time goes on, depression starts affecting our health.  It’s easy to think negatively about most situations, which causes stress because you are upset about it, that can cause the person to have high blood pressure, high blood pressure results in heart conditions, which is detrimental to your overall health.

Basically, negative thinking can have a snowball effect.  Once one part of your life is affected, multiple parts may fall into the same pattern.  Before you know it, it has caused much more trouble than you ever thought it would with your personal health and worksite wellness. 

After reading this, do you think you are negative or positive thinker?  Do you agree with the affects a negative attitude has on your body?  Stay tuned for part two, where we will offer questions to ask yourself to help determine if you are negative thinker and what to try to turn your mindset around.  Until then, stay positive! 

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Topics: health and wellness