Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Timothy Parrott

Recent Posts by Timothy Parrott:

Three Ways to Fight Belly Fat at Home

GettyImages-1124686829As a fitness manager, people frequently ask me how they can lose “this” as they aggressively squeeze their belly. In response with a smile, I ask them if they have a minute to talk about it. As common as this question is, it’s very hard to give an answer that satisfies. It’s a concern most of us have because we associate a trim belly with health. There’s no single magic pill, exercise, food, or ritual that will help bring back the desired abdominal aesthetic. Fortunately, there are several simple steps that can be taken to reach a healthier body composition. Here are three ways older adults can fight belly fat as they stay safe at home:

1. Substitute Whole Grains for Sweet Treats

Up until recently, I was never much for sweets. Brownies, cookies, and chocolate really had no appeal to me. Unfortunately, spending more time at home has made their siren song grow louder. Here are some healthy substitutes. Whole grains like quinoa, barley, and oats are naturally very filling. Filled with complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber, they are a little more challenging for our bodies to digest quickly. This is a good thing! Sugary treats are okay once in a while, but we should turn our attention to more complete alternatives when our bellies and brains are in the mood for a quick fix. This can be really challenging at first, but it does get easier for most people after a week or two. In the long run, your belly will thank you!

2. Substitute Water, Seltzer, or Diet Soda for Alcoholic Beverages

I might get some dirty looks for this one, but I’m okay with it! Alcoholic beverages are a delight for most of us, but drinking too much alcohol is a sure-fire way to gain some poundage. Fortunately, there are some tasty, although buzz-less, alternatives. Cold water can be surprisingly satisfying, and adding some bubbly, lightly flavored seltzer to the mix might just do the trick. Diet soda is not without its controversy, and I see it as a personal choice very much like alcohol consumption. From a purely belly fat fighting perspective, I think most people would be better off having a drink of diet soda compared to an alcoholic beverage. Whatever it may be, the takeaway is to consider substituting some of your alcohol intake with a lighter alternative.

3. Set a Fitness Goal

If you’re not interested in moving up in pant size, you may want to set a fitness goal that you can achieve while staying home. I’m keeping this vague because sometimes doing anything is better than doing nothing at all. The previous two ways to fight belly fat were focused on controlling the caloric energy you consume. This part is about controlling the caloric energy you put out. A great goal to work up to is getting at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity on most days of the week. Combine this with two or three strength training sessions per week, and you’re well on your way toward a trimmer waistline! If you’re ready for that goal, great! If not, work on creating a goal that’s right for your personality, experience level, and abilities. The important thing is that you set some kind of fitness goal that you can achieve. Remember, you’ll probably feel better reaching an easy goal than failing to reach a hard one.

I’ve said it before, staying home is challenging. In many ways, it is harder than ever to fight fat and weight gain at home. In a time of apparent helplessness, we can enjoy control over aspects of our health. If you’re like me and sweets are calling your name, consider replying with a hearty meal that includes whole grains and vegetables. If alcohol has been flowing with ease, think about replacing a drink or two with a lower calorie choice. If 2020 so far has left you feeling powerless, take the power back by achieving a simple fitness goal! These suggestions are meant to be encouraging, not restrictive.

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Topics: diet and nutrition goal setting

Move More: Take a Break from Sitting

GettyImages-475200500Staying home is something we are all doing more of lately due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Spending more time at home has some benefits like increased family time, less driving, and especially lowering the risk of contracting COVID-19. Unfortunately, there are also hefty drawbacks to being homebound. As we spend more time inside, we are also sitting for longer and longer periods of time. Watching movies, reading books, or napping are all fun and enjoyable seated activities. Unfortunately, doing too much of these things can have disastrous results on our health. Taking breaks from sitting every 30 – 60 minutes will improve your safer-at-home experience by reducing risk of deadly blood clots, maintaining muscle and bone health, and using up energy that would otherwise be stored as fat.

  • First, sitting for extended periods of time negatively affects your body’s ability to circulate blood. When you spend too much time sitting, blood pools in the legs which can cause blood clots to form. This is known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Some DVT’s are small enough to not cause any harm, but it is possible for the clot to dislodge and travel to the lungs. This can lead to a deadly pulmonary embolism. Older adults are at a higher risk for blood clots like this, especially in combination with a medical history of cancer, obesity, or recent lower body surgery. To combat the risk of DVT’s and pulmonary embolisms, take frequent breaks from sitting.
  • Second, being immobile causes your muscles to shrink. The saying “use it or lose it” is true in this case. When you regularly stay seated for too long, your body adapts. The body’s ability to adapt is a marvelous thing, but it can unfortunately lead to some very negative side effects in this case. Muscles are responsible for movement. If we don’t move or exercise, there is no reason for our bodies to hold on to muscle tissue. All of this applies to bone tissue as well. If your bones do not frequently bear your weight, they will lose density and strength. This can lead to a condition called osteoporosis. Fortunately, there is a simple remedy. Get up, move around, and use your bones and muscles!
  • Finally, you should take breaks from sitting because it will help you maintain a healthy weight and body composition. When we are resting in a seated or reclined position, our bodies are not using very much energy. Long periods of inactivity lead to excess storage of energy, which in this case will be body fat. If your body holds on to too much stored fat, this can increase your risk of diseases like hypertension, type II diabetes, and cancer. To properly manage the amount of fat your body stores, it’s incredibly important to use up the energy that you consume (calories). The human body naturally uses energy from food to maintain its complex systems, but physical activity is the best way to burn more calories. To fight off excess body fat and the risk of disease that comes with it, manage your energy intake and output!

Optimal circulation, lean mass maintenance, and a healthy bodyweight are all goals that we should aim for during the COVID-19 epidemic and beyond. As we reduce our risk of contracting the virus, we should also aim to reduce our risk of serious inactivity related diseases. One extremely effective way to do this is taking breaks from sitting. At least once per hour, stand up and walk around for at least 5 minutes. Use your muscles by completing a few basic exercises like marching, wall push-ups, or chair stands. All of this together will help you stay healthy and strong as you stay at home. If you find yourself sitting down for a long period of time, remember to take a break from sitting every 30 – 60 minutes.

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Topics: senior fitness improving senior fitness movement

Walking Group Safety for Retirement Communities: Have Fun and Be Safe!

HarrogateBelieve it or not, warm weather has arrived in some parts of the country, and is quickly approaching in others. As the sun peeks out from behind the clouds and nature begins to call, many older adults will be heading out the door for a walk outside. This is a very good thing, and should be encouraged for most people. Some retirement communities may even establish walking groups, which can be an extremely rewarding and fun activity for everyone.

If you plan to start, or join, a walking group near you, this blog is for you! Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare to walk.

Prescreening

If you are responsible for heading up a walking group, keep prescreening in mind. Walking, like any form of exercise, does carry risk. Prescreening is a great tool used in all fitness programs to ensure participant safety, identify risk, and reduce liability of fitness professionals. It is very likely that most people who will want to participate in your walking group will have already been screened during their membership application, and are good to go. However, it is important to make sure everyone in your group has been prescreened and understands the risks involved in exercise prior to joining. This is the first step toward protecting others and yourself.

Plan Ahead

Before you embark on your first walk as a group, make sure everyone knows where you’re going. If you’re the group leader, be sure to go over the route with your participants before you leave. If you’re a participating member of the walking group, be sure to ask where you’re headed if you don’t already know. By sharing the route with all participants, you’re reducing the chances of anyone getting lost along the way. As the leader, you should also share your planned route with someone who will not be joining you. This way, in the event of an emergency, your group will be accounted for.

Don’t Go Empty-handed

Speaking of emergencies, they do happen. Walking is very safe for most people, but health and safety issues can arise quickly. In these cases, it would serve yourself and your group to be prepared. I recommend taking a few important things with you on a walk. If you are a member of the walking group, make sure to bring weather-appropriate clothing, water, and a cell phone with emergency numbers easily accessible. If you are leading the group, I recommend bringing the following:

  • Water for yourself
  • Extra water for others
  • A cell phone
  • Emergency phone numbers
  • A map of your route
  • A first-aid kit
  • A light folding chair

That last one may sound strange, but it is important for anyone experiencing a health issue or needing to rest on the trail to have the option of sitting down. Benches may not always be available in an emergency situation, so bringing another seating option along with you is a good idea.

Walking groups are a wonderful way to experience nature when the weather finally lightens up. Whether you are leading the group or joining it, be sure to take some precautions. By making sure everyone in your group has been prescreened, you make the walk safer for yourself and others. Planning and sharing your route before you leave reduces the chances of navigation issues, and ensures that your whereabouts are well known. Finally, by bringing along a few key items on your walk, you’ll be much more prepared for an emergency if it should arise. All of this together will make your walking group experience safer and more fun. Enjoy your walk!

Interested in how NIFS can help your community improve your fitness program?  See how we helped a client turn their program around, click below.

How we improved an already successful fitness program

Topics: senior wellness prescreening tools safety senior living activities starting a walking program

4 Things I've Learned from the Silent Generation

The Silent Generation are older adults who were born between 1928 and 1945. Their generational name “Silent” originally came from a 1951 TIME magazine article, in which they were described as a generation that “does not issue manifestos, make speeches or carry posters.” They were raised in a time when children were generally favored as seen, not heard. In 2018, we know them as those 73 to 93 years old. My perspective comes from working closely with these individuals for about two years. Here are four things that I have learned about this generation.

NIFS | Grandmother reading to grandchild

Aging is Not “One Size Fits All”

Aging is a mysterious natural process which manifests differently from person to person. You may hear of someone who has “aged well,” or another who is really “slowing down.” The fact is, those two people may well be the exact same age, but are experiencing aging very differently. Levels of mobility, independence, stamina, strength, and balance are all factors I’ve seen vary widely in individuals that are about the same age. Fortunately, these traits are not distributed by luck of the draw. Although genetics and family history play an important role, there are several lifestyle choices that can level the playing field. (More on those choices later.)

Caregivers Make a Difference

There are many older adults who maintain an active, independent lifestyle well into their nineties. These people are inspiring, but are often the outliers, not the norm. In my experience in the community setting, hiring an independent or agency assigned caregiver is a popular practice. These people act as employees of the individual needing assistance, helping out with anything from washing dishes to making sure all medications are taken without error. I believe that there are exceptional caregivers that invest in the lives of their employer, who can make a real difference in the aging process. I think specifically of those who regularly take the time to bring the resident they work for to the fitness center to exercise. This is not limited to hired caregivers, and can extend to family members as well. Here are some tips on hiring a caregiver.

Communities Provide an Unrivaled Social Experience

Books could be written about the pro’s and con’s of making the transition from home life to senior living life. That may be a project someday, but I’ll try to keep this one short. I think that living in a community with others who share not only your age, but interests, schedules, and perspectives has value. I cannot speak for all communities, but those that I have interacted with take great care to provide ample opportunity for social events. In fact, a complaint I often hear is having to choose which event to go to, because there is so much to do. Club meetings, exercise classes, lectures, movie showings, and meals are all popular ways to get older adults together. This makes everyone feel good. Here are some things to consider when choosing a senior living community.

Personal Trainers Have Lasting Influence

Now, about those lifestyle choices that so powerfully affect aging, namely diet, exercise, and sleep. These three tools can be used in a way that increases the likelihood of old age with a high quality of life. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, by age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity. This fact, coupled with irregular sleep habits, poor diets, and other risk factors leave many older adults at high risk for cardiovascular disease and its deadly consequences. There is hope, however, for the Silent Generation. Some risk factors for cardiovascular disease are modifiable, meaning they can be improved by lifestyle change. One of the most effective tools for lifestyle change is a personal trainer who specializes in active aging. These are educated and certified individuals who help people reach their goals and decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, falls, and other problems associated with aging. Even more good news: personal trainers can teach long lasting habits that will serve their clients for decades to come. I’ve seen it in action! Here’s a great article on how effective personal trainers can be for older adults.

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There's a lot of life to be lived long past retirement; ask members of the Silent Generation and they'll tell you as much. Providing support for healthy aging can make all the difference. If you're caring for an aging loved one, subscribe to our blog to read more about ways to help them continue living well.

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