Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Penny Pohlmann

Recent Posts by Penny Pohlmann:

Senior Fitness: Exercise Helps Reduce Arthritis Pain

This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann, MS. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

senior fitness, arthritis pain, senior fitness managementPain, swelling, and stiffness associated with arthritis do not make physical activity fun or easy. Research has shown, however, that exercise is a vital tool for managing discomfort associated with arthritis.

In fact, avoiding exercise can increase joint pain and stiffness as the supporting muscles get weaker. By moving and using the muscles, bones, and other tissues that surround joints, people who suffer from arthritis can expect to protect themselves from further damage and pain.

Activity such as weight training promotes joint strength and stability, while aerobic exercise can help keep body weight down, which also relieves pressure on joints. Stretching exercises are useful for maintaining joint range of motion.

Arthritis is a leading cause of physical disability in the U.S., and people who are obese and physically inactive are at higher risk for developing this chronic condition. As our aging population grows, the need for senior fitness programming and management for this group does, too. Qualified health and fitness professionals can guide senior members or residents through a safe and effective exercise program designed to improve strength, reduce pain, and maintain the function of joints among arthritis sufferers.

Topics: exercise senior wellness programs arthritis senior fitness obesity

Should Cardio or Weight Training Come First in Corporate Fitness?

This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann, MS. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

cardiovascular exercise, treadmill, corporate wellness, senior fitnessBoth cardiovascular exercise and weight training are important forms of exercise in a balanced, well-rounded workout routine. Cardiovascular exercise is great for keeping the heart and lungs functioning well, whereas weight training is best for building or maintaining muscle, preventing injuries, and improving strength.

If you perform both forms of exercise on the same day, you may have asked yourself which to perform first for the greatest benefit. Well, it depends. Don’t you love that response?

It depends on your exercise goals. If your goal is to improve your 5K race time or you’re training for a specific sport such as soccer, your primary goal is probably to get your cardiovascular system working efficiently for an extended period of time. If this is the case, performing your cardiovascular exercise first when you’re fresh rather than a bit (or a lot) fatigued from weight training ensures you perform the activity with optimal energy.

If your goal is to improve your strength or build a firmer, leaner body, the opposite will be true. You want to train your muscles before they are fatigued from other activities.

Encourage your employees to start making healthy changes, whether cardio or weight training, with a worksite health promotion program. A qualified personal trainer or fitness professional should take not only your fitness goals into consideration, but also your level of skill, to create a program that incorporates strength training and cardiovascular exercise.

Topics: corporate fitness worksite wellness cardio weight training

Why should you consider using a heart rate monitor?

ThinkstockPhotos-531429637 (1).jpgThis blog was updated Friday, February 3, 2017.

What if you could take an inside look at how fast your heart is pumping during exercise? Well, it’s not a portable EKG machine, so why should you consider using a heart rate monitor? 

Worn around your chest and against your skin, a heart-rate monitor can pick up the electrical activity of your heart and transmit your current heart rate (number of beats per minute) to a wristwatch or to a display on the cardio machine you’re using. These devices can give physical evidence regarding how fast your heart is beating during cardiovascular exercise.

So what do you do with the information it provides? One’s heart rate tells us how hard your heart is working to supply oxygenated blood to your working muscles. The faster you run or the steeper you climb, the harder your heart works. It is generally recommended that a person’s heart rate attain a certain range to gain the most cardiovascular benefits.

After consistent monitoring of your heart-rate response during cardiovascular exercise, you’ll learn that your body adapts to the work demands you place on it. In other words, your heart does not have to work as hard to walk that mile as it did a month ago. This means you’ll need to increase your intensity (time and/or speed) to continue to attain your target heart-rate range.

A heart-rate monitor can be a very useful tool to receive feedback about your workout. Additionally, a fitness professional can also provide guidance in developing a well-rounded cardiovascular and strength workout customized to your goals and needs.

Are you and your employees in need of some exercise direction? A well-rounded corporate wellness program as well as a qualified corporate fitness staff can provide the guidance you’re seeking. NIFS can help!

Find out why our clients choose NIFS.

Topics: corporate fitness NIFS heart rate monitor

Can Smartphone Apps Help Employee Health?

SmartphoneSmartphones and related devices are pretty versatile. They can remind you where you parked your car, help you locate the nearest drugstore, and provide you with the latest gardening tips. But did you also know that they could help your employees stay committed to their health and fitness goals?

Some of the most popular smartphone applications that are available (for purchase or for free) can help you design a fitness routine or report the calorie content of the jumbo java you’re eyeing. Here are a few apps your employees might find useful for staying on track and improving their health and fitness.

Do your employees need help designing a beneficial fitness routine?  

App: iFitness
Available for: iPhone, BlackBerry, iPod Touch
Price: $1.99

Ranked the number-one paid fitness application for iPhone, this application is like a personal trainer in your pocket. iFitness enables you to view up to 100 exercises (pictures and instructions included) by muscle group or select one of the 12 predesigned workouts to follow. Once you’ve mastered the preset routines, you can create your own. You also have the ability to track your progress by making notes; recording sets, reps, and weight lifted; and other achievements like weight and inches lost.

Help overweight employees take off those unwanted pounds.

App: Lose It!
Available for: iPhone and iPod Touch
Price: Free

This app is a calorie-tracking tool that uses a predetermined equation to establish what your daily calorie intake should be based on your target weight goal. The large database allows you to enter the foods you’ve eaten, including the portion size, and track your intake each day. Lose It! hasn’t forgotten about exercise, either. Enter an activity like playing Frisbee or mowing the lawn, and it is factored into your daily caloric allowance.

Chill Out: Help employees relax and de-stress.

App: iRelax Melodies Lite and iRelax Premium
Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad
Price: Lite—free; Premium—$3.99

iRelax Melodies is the self-titled “Sleep & Meditation & Yoga & Relaxation Helper.” Listen to one of four looping sounds on the Lite version designed to help you relax or sleep. Other features allow you to mix any of the sounds yourself for a personalized melody as well as a timer that ends the melody at the time you decide. Save and replay your favorite melodies anytime you need to escape. The premium edition includes 36 melodies as well as binaural beats known to help the brain reach a particular relaxation state.

Improve employee health one morsel at time.

App: Morsel
Available for: Apple devices, Android, and BlackBerry
Price: Free

Move toward a healthier lifestyle one daily, healthy suggestion at a time. This application from GE offers up simple daily tasks, or “morsels,” that everyone can do. “Morsel empowers you to take control of your well-being, one step at a time,” says the app description. Examples of the daily tasks include

  • "Drink and refill a water bottle."
  • "Don’t put extra salt on anything you eat today."
  • "Walk backwards for 10 steps."

Help your employees stop smoking.

App: No Smoking
Available for: BlackBerry
Price: $9.99

Thinking about quitting smoking? This app may be for you. No Smoking is designed to slowly wean you off cigarettes by first learning your smoking pattern. The app records your smoking frequency and severity. Then, when you’re ready to quit, it really goes to work. The app uses the information it learns and tailors a smoking schedule that slowly decreases your smoking frequency, lowering your nicotine level over time until you’ve completely quit.

App: iQuit
Available for: Apple devices
Price: $1.99

Not only does this app keep track of the number of days it’s been since you quit smoking, it displays the extra life you’ve gained and the amount of money you’ve saved by not buying cigarettes. When you download this app to your iPhone, you’ll be able to see how your health has improved with stats like, “After 2-12 weeks, your circulation improves, making walking and running a lot easier.”

Does your company offer Weight Watchers for Employees?

App: Weight Watchers Mobile
Available for: Apple devices and BlackBerry
Price: Included with Weight Watchers fee

Weight Watchers Mobile makes searching and tracking point values (the units associated with the Weight Watchers weight-loss program) simple and convenient. This app can help you make selections that fit within your point budget when you’re eating out at a restaurant or picking up some groceries on your way home from work. Don’t forget about those activity points, either. When you’ve completed your two-mile walk, enter it in your activity log for easing tracking.

Other health-related apps your employees could use:

Topics: employee health healthy workforce overweight employees technology

Nutritious Choices at Work Play Important Role in Wellness Programs

Your employees probably eat at least one meal at work every weekday. Unfortunately, there's a good chance that their break-time meal isn't geared for optimal employee health or productivity. You can help your employees keep that afternoon crash at bay by providing them wellness education and easily accessible healthy food selections. Consider these suggestions as part of a well-rounded employee health and wellness program.

Healthy Vending Machines


Chances are, your worksite already offers vending machines so your employees can grab a quick snack. However, did you know there are vending companies that specialize in healthy vending products? These specialized machines offer a variety of snacks that are low in sugar and fat such as pita chips, fruit bars, energy bars, dried fruit, and organic crackers and pretzels. Additionally, there are also specialty vending machines that offer refrigerated snacks. These machines offer products such as milk, fresh fruit, yogurt, and pre-cut veggies to employees looking for that afternoon pick-me-up.

Wellness Incentives in the Cafeteria

Drive home your support for employee wellness by subsidizing healthier choices in your cafeteria. Spotlight items such as salads, bottled water, baked chips, grilled chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, fruit, and whole-grain wraps.

Healthy Prep Areas

Consider creating a lunch-prep area at work that encourages employees to eat well by bringing healthy foods to work. Provide a refrigerator so that employees can store fresh fruit and vegetables, leftovers, low-fat salad dressings, and deli meats to enjoy at mealtime.

Local and Healthy Food

Worksite wellness can be good for your community. Invite local vendors to provide a farmers' market at your worksite for a few hours once a week or once a month. This enables employees to purchase seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables on their lunch break. Not only does this show your company's support for eating a healthy diet; it also contributes to your local economy (not to mention the environmental benefits of eating locally produced food).

Encouraging a healthy diet is just one part of a well-rounded worksite wellness program; however, it can make a major contribution to employee health and productivity.

Topics: corporate wellness healthy workforce nutrition

Workplace Wellness Programs Can Recoup Billions Lost to Obesity

It is not news that obesity is a major health concern in our nation. Not only is obesity responsible for billions in healthcare cost each year; it can also mean billions lost in terms of work productivity.

UnhealthyManA recent study estimates that $73.1 billion dollars in workplace productivity are lost each year due to obesity. These numbers highlight the value of employee health. The study cites an increased number of sick days taken and presenteeism (lost performance while at work) as the main reasons for lost productivity from obese employees. Examples of presenteeism can be additional time needed to complete job responsibilities or more problems meeting physical demands at work.

How can employers save money that might be lost due to obesity? They can invest in workplace wellness programs and health improvement plans. Promoting healthier lifestyles and providing wellness education can be just the support your overweight employees need to lose weight and get healthier. Even small weight losses by individuals classified as obese by BMI (body mass index) can mean millions of dollars saved for your company.

Topics: overweight employees productivity

Fat Freezing: A Quick Weight-Loss Solution?

Fat freezing, a new cosmetic procedure also known by its technical name, cryolipolysis, may be considered the newest alternative to liposuction. The method involves a special device that applies very cold temperatures to pockets of excess fat. The cold temperature causes the targeted fat to die, which is then eliminated by the body over a course of months.

ObeseScale resized 600Is this new procedure the answer to our nation’s ever-increasing weight problem and associated health care costs? Not at all. This procedure is only for small amounts of fat or “problem areas.” Cryolipolysis will do little if anything reduce overall weight, and it certainly won’t decrease health risks associated with excess body fat. In fact, without a proper diet and exercise plan, the fat previously frozen and removed can come back elsewhere.

Although this new procedure sounds like a simpler and safer substitute for liposuction, the healthiest and time-proven way to decrease weight and improve health is a balanced diet and regular exercise. Encourage your employees to commit to a healthy lifestyle by adding an onsite fitness center to your organization’s building. Ensure that the wellness center is staffed with qualified health and wellness professionals who are skilled in exercise program design and nutrition coaching. Promote the idea of improved health with behavior change rather than quick fixes.

Topics: corporate wellness overweight employees nutrition

Unhealthy Beverage Choices Derail Employee Health

BottledWater resized 600A few weeks ago, one of my worksite fitness center members felt the need to defend his absence from the worksite fitness center by showing me that he was at least making healthy dietary choices. He showed me his lunch beverage, a 20-ounce Gatorade. He was disappointed when I didn't affirm his drink choice.

Sports Drinks Are Not a Healthy Alternative

Ads for sports drinks, vitamin-infused waters, and even vitamin-infused sodas want consumers to believe these beverages are a healthy alternative to other sweetened beverages. The fact is, they often contain just as many, if not more, calories and sugar as regular sodas and sweetened drinks and have no real health benefits.  

One study found that Americans get 22 percent of their daily calories from their drink choices. These calories are almost entirely from sugar. Excess sugar in the diet is a major contributor to obesity, insulin sensitivity, and tooth decay, and can also contribute to decreases in immune function, depression, and many other health concerns.

Educate Employees and Provide Healthy Choices

You can help create a healthier workforce by minimizing sugary drinks available at your office as well as educating your employees about the health risks associated with excess sugar consumption. Employing registered dieticians and personal trainers at your corporate fitness center is a great step toward guiding your employees to adopt a healthy diet and exercise program.

What steps are you taking to cut down employee access to sugar-sweetened beverages at work?

Topics: corporate wellness overweight employees nutrition

The Role of Workplace Wellness in Nutrition

Helping Employees choose the right supplementsThe other day one of my wellness center members approached me about my advice regarding vitamins and supplements. She had been feeling extremely tired and fatigued while at work and wanted to know if there was something she could be taking to combat her exhaustion. I was happy to see that she was increasing her activity in hopes of boosting her energy, but she said she was still feeling tired even after a 15-minute walk on the treadmill.

Supplements Can Fill In Your Employee's Nutritional Gaps

Vitamin and mineral supplements are a great backup plan for when our diets may be lacking in all the recommended fruits and vegetables we need. If you’re like me, this is pretty frequent. Although they are not necessary, it is nice to be able to fill in the nutritional gaps in our day-to-day diet choices with a supplement. This is especially true if you are on a diet that eliminates an entire food group or you are a vegetarian.

Encourage Employees to Speak to a Professional When Taking Supplements

It is best to speak to your doctor or a registered dietician when considering supplements so he or she can tell you which supplements are best. Additionally, if you are already taking a daily supplement, you should notify you doctor or pharmacist because some can interfere with your medications.

Supplements Aren't Always the Answer

Sometimes exhaustion can be caused by something as simple as eating too few calories or too much sugar. After a few questions with my member, we discovered that she was drinking almost no water (or any other liquid, for that matter). I encouraged her to keep a regular sleep/wake cycle, to continue exercising and I recommended that she increase her water intake.

Follow up with this member found her feeling much better! I was thrilled. She said her exercise routine is getting easier and she has drastically increased her H20.

A Health Professional Could Benefit Your Company

Many people suffer from fatique and exhaustion. Your company could benefit from offering employees the resources of a degreed exercise specialist or registered dietician as part of its employee health benefits. An exercise professional can assess your employees needs and, if necessary, refer them to a registered dietician who can not only assess one’s diet and make recommendations for improvement, he or she can suggest appropriate supplements if necessary.

Topics: corporate wellness nutrition

Can Short Workouts Improve Employee Health?

Employee Exercise BreakHave you ever heard the recommendation that healthy adults should try to do 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise most days of the week to help maintain health and reduce the risk of heart disease? If you want to lose weight, you'll need to tack on an additional 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. But who has time for even 30 minutes of exercise?

To Improve Company Health Culture, Encourage Short Spurts of Exercise

Although it's ideal to aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, it's not always possible or practical. Between commutes, packed work schedules, and other demands on our lives, many employees find it difficult to fit in three meals in a day, much less 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise.

So, if employees can't exercise at least 30 minutes at a time, should they skip it altogether? The answer is definitely no. Physical activity has benefits even if you can only do it in 10- or 15-minute segments.

Short Bursts of Exercise Benefit Employee Health By:

Improving Employee Cardiovascular Fitness

Research has shown that even 10 to 15 minutes of walking at 2 to 3 mph can improve cardiovascular fitness. This means employees can improve their heart's ability to pump blood and oxygen to the rest of their body. People who currently have a sedentary lifestyle see this benefit most.

Boosting Employee's Calorie Burn

Ten minutes of exercise can give your employee's metabolism a boost for up to an hour.

Lowering Employee Blood Pressure

Hypertension Journal reports that individuals can decrease their blood pressure for several hours by taking a few short, brisk walks each day. In fact, individuals can lower it for 11 hours after completing four 10-minute walks.

Relieving Stress

Exercise, even if only for a short period of time, increases endorphins (the feel-good hormone), decreases cortisol (the stress hormone), and provides an outlet for frustrations.

Giving Employee Brains a Much-Needed Break

Employees can clear their head and prepare to focus on the next task at hand after only 10 minutes of exercise. Based on the answers to a questionnaire, study participants said a 10-minute bike ride helped them "feel more clear-headed" and "reduced feelings of fatigue."

Controling Cholesterol

Ten minutes of activity can help lower triglycerides and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Where Does Your Company Go From Here?

Encourage employees to look for opportunities to exercise in three or four 10-minute segments. This could mean giving them a few minutes of paid time during their lunch break to exercise, or encouraging a 10-minute walk before they go into their afternoon commute.

Consider this fact: People who begin a routine of regular physical activity by walking only 10 minutes a day are more likely to stick to the routine and add to it than are new exercisers who start with a 30-minute-per-day goal.

Topics: exercise at work employee health healthy workforce