Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Melanie Mitchell

Recent Posts by Melanie Mitchell:

A Simple Nutrition Checklist to Keep You Healthy and On the Move

couple_cooking-1.jpgMarch is National Nutrition Month! It may be time to revisit and reestablish your New Year’s diet resolutions. I wanted to pass along a basic guide to healthy eating and lifestyle habits that can also be used for weight loss.

Following is a checklist of six healthy habits to guide you on the path to better dietary health. If you are continually skipping any of these steps, you are probably missing opportunities to keep your weight in check or to keep your body healthy and your metabolism strong.

1. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.

Every person is different, so the need for more water comes with extra weight and increased levels of activity. But 64 ounces is a good baseline for hydration. Unsweet tea and zero-calorie drinks count. Diet sodas and coffee do not. WARNING: Don’t jump from 20 ounces a day to 64 ounces! Your bladder will not appreciate the drastic change. Instead, increase by 8 ounces every week until you reach 64 ounces.

2. Make your breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates look like the ChooseMyPlate diagram.

When trying to lose weight, go with half a plate of vegetables for meals (especially lunch and dinner) and save the fruit for snacks. Feel free to go off the beaten path and give veggies a try for breakfast. Who says you have to have breakfast food for breakfast? Try scrambled eggs with chopped veggies, or top a baked sweet potato with Greek yogurt and chopped nuts.

3. Include snacks.

If you are going 4+ hours between meals or find yourself hungry between meals, add a snack. The time between lunch and dinner is most often the biggest gap between eating during the day—sometimes 5 to 7 hours. Cravings tend to sneak up on you during this time as well. Fight cravings and trips to the vending machine by having healthy snacks readily available. Make sure they include at least two of the groups from the ChooseMyPlate diagram, such as:

  • Grain + Protein
  • Protein + Fruit or Vegetable
  • Dairy + Fruit

4. Moderate Portions.

A couple of ways to do this:

  • Use a salad-size plate instead of a regular dinner plate.
  • Track what you are eating. Use free online tools like to determine how many calories, protein, carbs, and fat you are consuming. This includes weekdays and weekends. Note: Do not go below 1,200 calories without medical supervision. 
  • Women typically stay between 1,200 and 1,800 calories for weight maintenance and weight loss. Older, more sedentary women should eat closer to 1,200 calories. Younger, more active women can eat for maintenance and weight loss, eating closer to 1,800 calories.
  • Men typically fall between 1,800 and 2,200 calories for both weight loss and maintenance. Older, more sedentary men should eat closer to 1,800 calories. Younger, more active men can lose or maintain weight eating closer to 2,200 calories. Teenagers and young guys who are very active may need well above this amount. This range is relevant to those with desk jobs who get in a decent 30 to 45-minute workout during the day.

5. Make sure you are active throughout the day.

Think 3 minutes of activity (walking, walking in place, desk exercises, taking a flight of stairs up and down) for every 60 minutes of sitting. If you have time for a longer walk or workout, great!

6. Get your sleep.

Missing out on sleep can interfere with your mental acuity as well as your weight loss/maintenance efforts. Lack of sleep increases cravings for simple and refined carbohydrates that contain little nutritional value but lots of empty, unsatisfying calories. Give up the late-night shows and get your 7 to 8 hours of Zzzz’s. The benefits go well beyond more productivity at work.


There you have it! Were you able to check off all of the above? Great! Keep up the hard work. If not, celebrate National Nutrition Month by choosing one of the above recommendations and implementing it consistently. Once this behavior becomes second nature, adopt a new habit to practice. Remember, long-term success requires sustained practice and patience. Don’t let a small or even big bump in the road discourage you from moving forward. Your health is worth the effort!

 Click below to download NIFS Top 4 Apps for Healthier Eating!



Topics: nutrition weight loss hydration water sleep calories new year healthy habits

When It Pays to Be a Chicken in Workplace Wellness

Melanie.jpgBeing a chicken is definitely frowned upon. If someone is known for being scared to take on a task or fails to address a situation because it’s too much of a challenge, chances are they have been labeled.

But what if you dressed like a chicken? It does take a bit of bravery, but it can help your mission by making a memorable statement.

We have an annual event for National Walk at Lunch Day, where employees are encouraged to walk outside over their lunch hour. This is also a kickoff event for our Fitness Challenge: a 10-week challenge for employees to stay consistently active and log their activity online in efforts to beat out other states doing the same. National Walk at Lunch Day happens around springtime when many people are stuck in their winter routine of being indoors—be that an indoor workout or, sadly, in most cases, an indoor sitting marathon.

Enter the Chicken Costume

As employees made their way outside, I strutted around greeting people with exclamations of “Bak, Bak, Bak!” and my versions of the chicken dance.

It’s a fun adventure to catch people off guard. Costumes often make that happen because they are unexpected. And you know you’ve done your job when you get smiles in return or people shaking their heads in surprise.

Of course bottled water, fruit, trail mix, and sandwiches helped our cause at the event, but the chicken-themed messages were just beginning because the Fitness Challenge was only Day One. Over the next 10 weeks, our motto was “Don’t Chicken Out.” We encouraged people to join the fitness challenge through email blasts with subject lines laced with chicken references or cartoon or movie quotes from Chicken Little, Chicken Run, or Looney Tunes’ Foghorn Leghorn. Just a few:

  • We Are Chicky for the Challenge!
  • Chick It Out! We’re in First Place!
  • I’m Chicken’ on You! Don’t Slack Off!
  • We Are Down to the “Chicken” Wire. This Competition Is Close!
  • Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? To finish the Fitness Challenge.

What I Learned

By the end of the challenge, I had learned several things:

  • People were responsive to the program because they enjoyed the humor.
  • The theme allowed for more creative ways to communicate than standard, monotonous program updates.
  • Employees anticipated the next email, instead of dreading or deleting it without reading it.
  • I was asked to “speak” at department meetings in costume, advertising the program and encouraging participation. Most just wanted to see a chicken, but it opened doors to promote the challenge.
  • Sometimes during the challenge, I wanted to email-yell or nag employees to get a move on, but funneling that competitiveness into catchy, humorous characters and slogans was more effective at getting people’s attention—and their increased participation in the activity.
  • I was able to enjoy sending out communications and I loved the responses I received from those who were also entertained by them. I got a lot of “Thanks for the laugh. I needed that!” messages.

Bottom line: Being a chicken in your workplace isn’t always bad.

It can go a long way in giving employees the motivation to take action in corporate fitness. Just make sure you pick the right breed. Spring is right around the corner, how do you plan to engage employees to participate in activities such as Walk at Lunch Day, or Bike to Work Day?  Download our whitepaper: 5 tips for maximizing employee enagement below to find the best ways to get your employees involved in your wellness strategy!




Topics: corporate fitness motivation participation workplace wellness

Unexpected Results with Corporate Fitness Incentive Programs

money_gift_ThinkstockPhotos-179330649.jpgDuring the holiday season, making consistent visits to the Fitness Center can be a challenge. Most gyms see a drop in attendance as members take time off for vacation or travel to visit family. They are consumed with Christmas shopping, baking, and entertaining. 

As with most corporate fitness incentive programs, we naturally gravitate towards rewarding members with prizes for attendance and participation in particular programs. Gift cards, t-shirts, trinkets all come to mind. But this year, I opted for a different strategy to motivate our corporate Fitness Center members.  

For November, we implemented a program where each visit to the Fitness Center earned money towards a donation to charity. Each new member who signed up earned more money towards charity.  We used our budget money that would typically go towards prizes for members and applied it toward a charity chosen by those who visited the Fitness Center at least 15 times during the month. 

When giving to the community is challenging due to personal budgets and money spent for family Christmas presents, this program provided an opportunity for members give without opening their wallets. Bonus for them - they also improved their health!

This program spoke to my heart and love of giving, so I was hopeful that it would attract the attention of members who enjoy doing the same. I must say, it worked well beyond my expectation… but in a way I wasn’t anticipating.

Even though it was November, we maintained a slightly higher visit rate than October. October had 22 business days; November only had 19.  Not to mention, most people take off the whole week of Thanksgiving. One would anticipate a significant drop of 100 – 300 visits. Instead we had a small increase!  We were able to raise $320 that would be sent to the Angel Tree Program through the Salvation Army.  

But here’s the unexpected BONUS! The moment I sent out the email with the results, I received an email from a member requesting to meet with me. Sure thing! I went to meet her only to have a check handed to me?! What?! It was a check for the same amount - $320. The member wanted to match the amount we had raised. I stared at her dumbfounded. She explained that she had made the decision to match our donation when the program was advertised. On top of that, she has a special place in her heart for the Angel Tree Program. So when I notified every one of the chosen charity, she said it was more confirmation of her want of giving. 

WOW. Warm fuzzy feelings. Heart swelling. People do care!

These results with corporate fitness incentive programs encourage programs like this  tostick around for a while. Even if we have no matching donation, it has proved positive for the Angel Tree Program, holiday Fitness Center visits and my heart! 

Want to do wellness better for your employees in 2016?  Click below to download our whitepaper: 4 Reasons Fitness Initiatives Fail in Corporate Wellness Programs and plan for success next year.

CORP Initiatives

Topics: corporate fitness programming wellness programming

NIFS Nutrition News: Malnourished and Loving It, Or Are We?

What is your food doing for you?  Is it fighting for you or is it fighting against you?  We often make fun of the party-goer who sticks by the vegetable tray and intentionally avoids the wings.  We try to persuade the guy who piles his plate at the potluck with the grilled chicken and veggies to have a little fun and eat dessert.  Most of us see food as either making us fat or helping us lose weight.  We see ‘bad’ foods as those that are high in fat and calories.  Good foods are those that taste like rabbit food or cardboard, but will help us lose weight.  Healthy seems to be synonymous with weight loss.  And to a degree it is.  But what most people do not realize is – healthy eating goes way beyond dieting and watching the scale.  Those ‘health foods’ aka fruits and vegetables also contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants that could actually help you lose the weight you want, give you energy that you feel you should have, and/or clear your foggy brain.  Many Americans are overweight, yet malnourished.  We can’t escape our addiction to the unhealthy food that feeds our emotions and pacifies our taste buds.  We fill our pantries with chips and cookies and our fridge with soda – all empty calories that end up hurting us on the inside way more than they do on the outside.  This junk food does not provide the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function and over time, our bodies react from the inflammation that processed, unhealthy food creates in our bodies.   

healthyfoodAnswer these questions:

  • Do you suffer from headaches?
  • Do you have joint pain or arthritis?
  • Do you have skin problems like eczema?
  • Are you tired more often than you think you should be?
  • Do you have digestion issues? 

What if you went to the doctor and instead of prescribing a drug, he wrote, ‘Eat 1oz of walnuts every day’.  Would you be mad?  Would you move to another doctor that would shell out pills?  What if we spent the money we use towards drugs on better food choices instead?  I’m going to guess it would be cheaper in the long run and a lot less physically impairing. 

Consider your diet as a contributor to your symptoms or maybe even the root cause of your condition.  If you were to discover the cure for your illness, wouldn’t you jump on board?  What if the answer was as easy as the food you eat?

Understand that supplements do not contain all of the phytonutrients and antioxidants that real food contains.  Are they a bad thing? No.  They may contain vitamins and minerals, but not the huge network of these phytonutrients and antioxidants that are the major ‘supporting actors’ making the movie a blockbuster, not just a great movie.  Take a look at the examples of super foods below and how they fight for your health. 

  • Broccoli:  Besides Vitamin C, fiber, and B Vitamins, broccoli contains lutein, sulforaphane, carotenoids, kaempferol, glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin, and glucobrassicin.  Big words here equals big rewards for your body. These strange words are phytonutrients and antioxidants that help your body fight off cell damage that could lead to cancer.  They get rid of toxins that threaten inflammation and damage to tissues, protect your eyes from degenerating, and protect against inflammation to joints associated with osteoarthritis.
  • Walnuts : contain the amino acid L-arginine and the omega – 3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid, both of which help in the prevention of heart disease.  ALA works to prevent blood clots and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.  Walnuts also contain quinone juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, and the flavonol morin. Pronunciation please!  What I can tell you – these antioxidants prevent cell damage and liver damage.  Walnuts also contain Vitamin E, folate, and melatonin to support optimal brain health.  Shall we say better memory?

These are just two examples.  Blueberries, kale, wild caught salmon, dark chocolate (72% or higher cocoa content), and beans are other examples of super foods that help your body fight inflammation and work at its finest.  Now, compare these to the ingredients of the foods you eat.  Do you see ingredients like monosodium glutamate, partially hydrogenated oil, sodium benzoate, red 40 or other dye colors, or acesulfame potassium in the foods that fill your plate?  All of these have been speculated as harmful to our bodies , not helpful. 

Questions to ask yourself at the end of the day:

  • Did you fill your body with disease and inflammation fighting foods or did you fill it with more foods that create inflammation and disease? 
  • Are there foods that could help you in your fight against arthritis, high cholesterol, diabetes, chronic fatigue, etc?  What are they and how do I fit them into my diet?

It’s time to see food differently.  Food can be your functional friend.   Healthy food equals a better functioning body, mind, and spirit.  It’s worth the investment.   

For tips from our registered dietitians, follow #NIFSNutrition on Twitter!

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Topics: Food for Thought nifs nutrition news