Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Making Healthier Choices When Eating Out

GettyImages-1334022358Eating out at restaurants or on the go doesn’t have to break the calorie bank or bust your diet. Here are some tips and tricks for keeping your order healthy when eating out:

At your favorite Italian restaurant…
  • Pass on the breadbasket or limit your intake to just one slice.
  • For pastas and pizzas, choose a tomato sauce, rather than a cream-based sauce, for fewer total calories and grams of fat.
  • Top pastas and pizzas with plenty of vegetables - green and red peppers, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, and onions are all great options!
  • Order a side of seasonal vegetables or side salad with your entree.
  • Request a “to-go” box before your order arrives. When it gets there, place half of the entree in the box to take home with you.
At your favorite burger/chicken joint…
  • Stick with a single patty, rather than ordering a double or triple burger.
  • Choose grilled chicken rather than chicken that is breaded or fried.
  • Skip the soda and opt for a healthier alternative such as water, low fat or fat-free milk, or unsweetened tea!
  • Go easy on special sauces, which are often high in calories, fat, sugar and sodium!
  • Order a salad, baked potato or a fruit cup as a side in place of French fries, which are often high in calories, fat and sodium.
At your favorite Mexican restaurant…
  • Pass on the chips and queso as a starter, or have salsa or guacamole in queso’s place, for fewer calories and less saturated fat.
  • Choose brown rice over white rice, as it is higher in fiber which will help keep you fuller for longer!
  • Skip the sour cream and opt for lighter and healthier toppings such as tomato or corn salsas, or avocado!
  • Select lean proteins such as fish or chicken, rather than beef or steak.
At your favorite sandwich shop…
  • Load up on the vegetables - tomato, green and red peppers, lettuce and spinach to name a few.
  • Choose whole grain or whole wheat bread when possible. Or forgo the bread completely and ask that your usual sandwich toppings be served over a bed of greens.
  • Ask them to go easy on the high calorie toppings, like cheese, mayonnaise and other condiments.
  • Skip the potato chips and opt for a healthier side.
At your favorite Asian restaurant…
  • Skip deep fried sides and starters, such as wontons, crab rangoon, and egg rolls.
  • Choose brown or steamed white rice, rather than fried rice or noodles.
  • Avoid entrees with heavy sauces, such as those with “General Tsos”, “Sweet and Sour” or “Kung Pao” in the name.
  • Select lean proteins, such as shrimp, fish or chicken, rather than beef or pork entrees.

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Topics: healthy eating food choices Dietitian Connection

How do I describe my pain to my doctor?

GettyImages-857090084When you live with chronic pain, the only one who can know how much it hurts is you. Pain can be hard to describe because it’s both invisible and personal. If you can’t put into words how much pain you’re in or how it affects your life, your doctor, physical therapist or fitness trainer can’t prescribe the right treatment or exercises for you. Go through these questions to help you get the relief you need.  

 

What Does the Pain Feel Like?  

Be as specific as possible about how your pain feels to help your doctor figure out what is wrong.  Here are a few words you can use to describe the way your pain feels, and how your doctor might interpret them:  

  • Aching, dull: muscle strains, arthritis pain  
  • Shooting, electric, tingling, burning, pins-and-needles: nerve pain  
  • Sharp, stabbing: injuries such as a broken bone, muscle or ligament tear, or penetrating wound 
  • Throbbing: headache, abscess, gout  
  • Tightness: muscle spasm

Where do you have Pain? Describe exactly where you hurt. 

Here are a few examples:   

  • Deep in my shoulder joint or in the muscles near the surface. 
  • Under the kneecap or in the back of the knee. 
  • The outside of my hip or in my groin.  
  • Is the pain in only one spot, or does it travel?  
  • Does the pain remain steady, come and go, or only flare up when you move in a certain way? 

How Much Does it Hurt?  

Explain the intensity of your pain. That’s where the pain scale comes in. Your doctor will likely ask you to “rate” your pain on a scale of 0 to 10 – where 0 is pain-free and 10 is unimaginable pain. The doctor can use your score to help determine what type of treatment you may need.  

 

How Does the Pain Affect Your Life?  

Tell your doctor which activities you’ve had to adjust, and which ones you now avoid entirely because of your pain. The impact the pain has on your life is just as important as the pain itself.  

Examples of life changes:   

  • Have you been skipping your morning walk because of the pain?  
  • Are you missing out on normal activities?  
  • Can you barely get out of bed in the morning?  
  • Does the pain leave you so drained and depressed that you don’t want to be around people?  

When Do You Hurt?  

Try keeping a journal to help you track when in the day your pain is at its worst. The timing of pain can help your doctor fine-tune your treatment. For example, if you tell your doctor you have higher pain in the morning versus the evening, they can adjust your treatment. 

 

What Helps/Worsens Your Pain?  

Make note in your journal what you’ve tried to relieve the pain (rest, ice, heat, over-the-counter pain medicine). Did they ease the pain, have no effect or make it more intense?  

 

With a good description of your pain, your doctor will have a better chance of getting you the relief you need. But even when your doctor knows the cause of your pain, treatment might not be a quick fix. It a trial-and-error process that takes time. Be patient, but persistent.  

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Topics: healthy aging pain

Health Benefits of Random Acts of Kindness

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It’s Random Acts of Kindness Day!!! The “pay it forward” movement stems from this day of kindness helping to incorporate it into our schools, workplaces, homes, and communities. A random act is not premeditated and an action to offer kindness to the outside world. Choosing to perform acts of has many benefits to our health – emotional, mental, and physical. Let’s take a closer look at how choosing kindness benefits our health.

Emotional Benefits:

  • Makes people feel helpful and optimistic
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Increases oxytocin, a hormone making us feel connected to each other
  • Creates a sense of belonging therefore reduces feelings of isolation
  • Releases positivity – we feel better and those that we are kind to feel better leading them to pay it forward

Mental Benefits:

  • Reduces levels of the stress hormone, cortisol
  • Decreases overall anxiety
  • Helps improve feelings of depression
  • Reduces negative emotions such as anger

Physical Benefits:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Provides a positive outlook on life which can help you live longer
  • Decreases health problems due to the increase of oxytocin which reduces inflammation

Practicing random acts of kindness is not just about how we treat others, but also how we practice these behaviors on ourselves. We are sometimes so quick to be negative and hard on ourselves. If we change our mindset to being more positive, we can be kinder to ourselves. Act and choose kindness today: Don’t overthink it, kindness is a simple act. Check out these options as simple ways to allow someone to feel kindness.

  • Put other’s needs before your own
  • Leave an inspirational message for a friend or co-worker
  • Send a card to someone
  • Give someone a compliment
  • Hold the door open for someone
  • Practice gratitude
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Send someone flowers
  • Volunteer in your local community
  • Donate to a charity
  • Run an errand for somebody
  • Be kind to a stranger
  • Help an elderly person
  • Make someone laugh
  • Leave an extra tip
  • Donate food to the food pantry

Practicing random acts of kindness increases a person’s sense of happiness. Kindness is contagious and something we should all want to spread to others.  What act of kindness will you perform today?

Topics: health and wellness kindness

Balance Training: From the Ground Up

GettyImages-1317590065Improving balance can be tricky. Where do we start? What even is balance training? Standing on one leg? Walking more? It seems like everyone has their own idea of balance. What we do know, is that it becomes more important for active older adults to build and maintain balance with each passing year.

All of these can certainly help our balance! But a method that has seen success is building strength, endurance, and balance from the ground up. It makes sense after all. Our feet are the only part of our bodies in direct contact with the ground as we walk. It stands to reason that strengthening the foot, ankle, and muscles of the lower legs would be helpful.

We have been incorporating lower leg and foot/ankle exercises for the past year but two of the most practical ones (in my experience) have been the short foot drill (invented by Dr. Vladimir Janda) and the tibialis raise (popularized by Ben Patrick the “knees over toes guy”).

The short foot drill can be complicated to learn and teach but I have found it to be highly beneficial for seniors. It might take a few extra minutes to explain the nuances of the drill but once they have their “lightbulb moment” this drill can be beneficial for essentially any standing movement one encounters. The idea is to spread the toes wide to widen the base of the foot. Try and find the “foot tripod”. This means the 1st metatarsal (by the big toe), the 5th metatarsal (by the pinky toe) and the heel. Then gently (think 20% effort) press the tips of the toes into the ground until the 1st metatarsal head lifts up.

This movement can be further complicated, but I find that this is a good starting point for most people. This movement trains the intrinsic foot muscles which are responsible for building and maintaining the arch of the foot. For those who have flat feet or collapsed arches, this can be an essential movement.

While some residents are still in the process of learning the short foot drill, the ones who have “got it” speak about the benefits. They have noted that it applies to standing exercises as well as balance and stability while walking and standing throughout the days. Some have said it has lessened their knee pain. My personal favorite bit of feedback was from one of our most consistent class attendees who said the short foot drill felt like it was “waking up” her feet and legs. I think it is a very important drill to put time into learning and teaching.

The tibialis raise is (fortunately) a good deal easier to teach and explain. While the typical version is performed standing, I almost always use a modified seated version with our senior fitness classes.

The basic concept behind tibialis raises is to strengthen the often neglected and underdeveloped anterior tibialis muscle. This muscle is responsible for “dorsiflexing” the foot which is a technical term for saying “this muscle lifts the foot up”. When practicing this exercise, I instruct our residents to put their fingers on the tibialis anterior muscle so they can feel it contract as they lift the front of their feet upwards. This has been the most useful method for allowing them to feel the muscle contract. Activating and strengthening this muscle seems to have a positive effect on knee and ankle healthy. The tibialis anterior can be thought of as one of the “braking” muscles of the lower body. When one is walking or changing direction, some of the forces from the ground should be absorbed by the tibialis anterior. When this muscle is weak or inactive that can lead to extra forces irritating the knees or ankles. Having strong and healthy tibialis anterior muscles can protect the legs and increase balance.

As for results, well it depends. There isn’t an exact way to track how effective these exercises are. As mentioned, I have heard great feedback from my residents. When it comes to balance, I think incorporating these two exercises to strengthen and activate the feet and lower legs as part of a comprehensive exercise plan can be highly beneficial to almost anyone.

Find out how we help residents improve their balance >

 

Topics: active aging balance training balance training for seniors

Fall Prevention Week gets an Upgrade

GettyImages-526312285If you’ve ever worked with older adults you likely know about this love/hate relationship everyone has with any program labeled “Fall Prevention”. Residents are certainly interested in learning about how to prevent falls. They have a healthy fear of falling. But often times, they don’t want to move outside of their comfort zone to practice the things that will actually improve balance and fall prevention.

So what better way to face a fear than head on, right?

That’s what NIFS fitness managers did during Fall Prevention Week. With an average of 50 program participants at each site, there was certainly interest in the topic! Here are some tips for the basics of planning a robust Fall Prevention Week:

Get other departments involved

The week may have been okay without any other staff support, but I think you have a better investment from the community and from the residents when other departments get involved. The first department that comes to mind for this topic is Physical Therapy. Many PT departments were happy to work with NIFS staff in bringing presentations, device checks, and even home safety checks to residents. I think it goes without saying that partnering with Food & Beverage is always fun because who doesn’t like to have snacks? Fortunately, many of our communities also have a dietitian on-site and are able to take it one step further with an event centered on balancing nutrition along with balancing the body. The possibilities are really endless.

Have a mix of interactive and educational events

One of the most popular events across the board was the Fall Prevention Presentation with the Getting Up From a Fall Workshop. During this presentation, NIFS staff members discussed ways to avoid falls in the first place, but they also took the time to demonstrate how to safely fall and (where appropriate) how to get back up off the floor. Participants then had the option to work one-on-one with staff and learn how to safely get themselves onto the floor and back up into a chair without falling. Residents appreciated the chance to learn and then to try things themselves.

Follow up with participants

A key element to Fall Prevention Week is tracking who participated so we know who to reach out to afterwards. There’s always a “next step” available so it’s nice to be able to personalize that according to the needs of the specific participant. For some people, it’s a balance evaluation, for others it might be a 1-on-1 exercise prescription, and for others it’s simply going to be a class recommendation. No matter what the recommendation is, just following up with each individual makes the week more personal and gives them more buy-in to continue working on their own fall prevention skills.

 

Read Now: Basics for Effective Fall Prevention

Topics: active aging fall prevention balance training

NIFS High Five: Andre McCormack

We say it with pride quite regularly, our amazing staff in corporate and senior living fitness centers are what help us serve our clients so well. Their strong educational background in health and fitness helps us set the bar high while their exceptional creativity and relationship building skills allows them to keep their members engaged and asking what’s coming next. Since we have the privilege of getting to know our staff across the country, we thought our followers might like to as well. Join us monthly as we throw a different NIFS team member a High Five.

  • Name: Andre McCormackAMcCormack
  • City, State: Kalamazoo, MI
  • Years with NIFS: 8 months
  • Position: Fitness Manager
  • What brought you to NIFS: I enjoy working with the active aging population!
  • What is the most impactful moment you have shared with a member: The most impactful moment so far was when a resident stopped me to tell me that the motivation they consistently received led her to losing 10lbs and helped her get back to the weight she was used to being at. Other moments are similar, I get a big smile on my face whenever I recommend something and the person comes back telling me how much it helped.
  • What separates a NIFS fitness pro from the rest: The difference with a NIFS Fitness Pro is that they have a great ability to adapt and excel with all levels, interests, environments, and situations that may come up.
  • What is your favorite thing about working at your client site: The best part of my role is interacting with the residents. They truly do become a second family to you. Most of the residents are hungry for new knowledge and that creates great discussions on a number of topics. On top of all that, the residents show their appreciation more than any other population and it means the world to know you are doing a great job helping.
  • What motivates you: I want to be able to have an impact on as many people as I can. There truly is nothing better than helping flip the direction of someone’s afternoon, day, week, or better yet…life!
  • What is your favorite hobby: I love to travel to places with amazing sights and love to learn about new cultures, foods, history, and more. In addition, I absolutely LOVE sports. There nothing better than watching or playing in a good competition.

Interested in learning more about our staffing services? Click below for what best fits your needs.

ACTIVE AGING   |   CORPORATE FITNESS

Topics: nifs fitness management staffing nifs staff

Nutrition for a Healthy Heart: Are all fats bad?

GettyImages-1279631867 (1)When it come to health, certain fats can have a positive effect, whereas other can negatively impact your health. All fats are equal from a caloric standpoint meaning they all contain 9 calories per each gram of fat no matter the type.  There are 3 main types of fat - saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that the
average individual aim to consume around 20-35% of total daily calories from fat. For an
individual who consumes around 2,000 calories each day, that is anywhere from 44 to 77 grams
of fat per day. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of fats and their effect on your
health and the food sources in which they are found!

Saturated Fats - The “Not So Healthy” Fats

Decades of research have shown that, when consumed in excess, saturated fats can
increase the LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood, which could increase your risk of
heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death for adults in the US. Saturated fats
are primarily found in animal-based foods such as beef, poultry, pork, full-fat dairy products
(butter, cream, cheese, whole milk) and eggs, but can also be found in “tropical” oils such as
coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises healthy individuals to consume less than
5-6% of total daily calories from saturated fat. For example, someone who consumes 2,000
calories per day should try to stay below 120 calories from saturated fat, or about 13 grams (9
calories/gram). You can decrease your saturated fat intake by opting for lean cuts of meat and
poultry without skin, choosing low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and swapping tropical oils for
vegetable oils, such as olive or canola oil.

Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats - The “Healthy Fats”

For optimal heart health, the AHA recommends making the majority of the fats you
consume monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, while limiting saturated fats.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are both found in high amounts in various plant
based oils. Monounsaturated fats are rich in olive, canola, peanut, safflower and sesame oils, as
well as avocados, peanut butter, and many other nuts and seeds. In contrast, polyunsaturated
fats are found in soybean, corn, and sunflower oils in addition to walnuts, sunflower seeds,
soybeans and tofu. Polyunsaturated fats provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, nutrients
the body is unable to produce on its own. Additionally, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated
rich oils are a good source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant, which is often lacking in the standard
American diet. To increase your intake of these “healthy” fats - try consuming fatty fish
like mackerel, salmon and sardines at least twice a week, opting for plant-based oils over
“tropical” oils such as coconut and palm oils and incorporating more nuts and seeds into your daily diet.

Benefits of meeting with a nutrition coach >

Topics: diet and nutrition heart healthy healthy choices Dietitian Connection

Exercise and Heart Health

GettyImages-866222478Exercising and having a healthy diet are key components to maintaining or even improving heart health. A heart healthy diet consists of food low in cholesterol, sodium, and high in fiber. Following the DASH diet is a great guideline to discuss with your doctor if you are in need of improving your diet for heart health. With the ideal diet, that not only helps with maintaining or lowering body weight, but it also helps with preventing diabetes,  and improving your blood pressure as well as your bone and joint health.

What can exercise do for your heart health? A lot! Combined with the appropriate foods, here is what exercise can do for the heart and vascular system as a whole:

  • Prevents Diabetes. Over time, the nerves and blood vessels of the heart can be damaged by the effects of diabetes. When you exercise your cells are more sensitive to insulin and results in utilizing it better. Regular exercise reduces chances of developing the disease even if there is family history.
  • Decreases likelihood of cardiovascular diseases. When the heart is not strong enough to pump blood through the body the result can be heart failure. Exercise not only strengthens muscles, but it also strengthens the heart.  Other cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure can be caused by stress.  Regular exercise has shown to release "feel good" hormones that aid in lowering stress levels and therefore reducing blood pressure.
  • Aids in weight loss.  Regular exercises can aid in weight loss efforts due to regular movement helping the body to burn calories.  With less weight to carry around you relieve pressure on your bones and joints helping you feel less aches and pains.
  • Improved Cholesterols levels.  Lower LDL (low density lipids, what clogs your arteries) levels have been shown in people that maintain a healthy weight for their height. Higher HDL (high density lipids) levels increase with weight loss and exercise. These lipids are responsible for the formation of hormones and cellular repair.
  • Decrease in medication use.  With regular exercise you are likely to reduce your need for medications. This also results in saving money and allows you to live without being dependent on medications.

Have you started your own exercise routine?  Reach out to your onsite fitness center staff to get started on right program for you and your goals.

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Topics: heart healthy exercise and health wellness and fitness

The Healthy Exercise Pyramid

Pyramid

As Fitness Centers and gyms have opened back up after closing from the Pandemic, it’s a good time to restart our exercise routines and habits. There are many components to meet the healthy recommendation for exercise in older adults such as cardio, strength or endurance training, balance, and flexibility. To break it down, I decided to use the same model as the food pyramid and create an exercise version of that pyramid. Over the years the food pyramid has been used to simplify what quantities to eat of what food groups. Larger quantities shown in the bottom of the pyramid and the least quantities at the top. In this model the same concept applies. All components of exercise are necessary for a healthy exercise lifestyle but the exercise components on the bottom should be done more than the quantities at the top.

Cardio can be done almost every day. It is the base foundation of a healthy exercise lifestyle. It should be done about 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes (or 150 minutes/week). It helps strengthen one of the most important organs of the body: the heart. Luckily, it can be done simply through walking, biking or using cardio machines in your local Fitness Center.

Either strength training or endurance should be done at least twice a week on nonconsecutive days and includes exercises for each large muscle group of upper and lower body. Not as often as cardio but still a firm foundation to the body and upkeeping muscle strength to perform ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) like cooking, cleaning, getting around the house or other buildings and activities that make life more enjoyable like hobbies or recreational activities.

Balance and Flexibility are recommended about 2-3 times a week for maybe 10-15 minutes. This becomes important the older we get as every day injuries become more apparent due to falling and low flexibility. It is also important for seniors because as the risk of falling increases and the chances of getting severe injuries from falls increases.

The top category is Rest Days. Everyone’s rest time looks different but is important to everyone’s body. Rest can include proper sleep, rest from exercise or rest from an injury. With rest from sleep, it helps us function better during the day, being more aware of our surroundings to help reduce falls and giving us energy to exercise. Rest from exercise helps prevent an injury from over training. There is a reason strength training isn’t recommended every day. To repair the muscles from training they need to rest to recover and build back up. Rest from injury is another important element to a healthy active life. By not allowing injuries to properly recover decreases the benefits from future exercise as you aren’t able to do it 100% and it may cause more injury due to overcompensation.

There’s no one category of exercise that can help fulfill the benefits of all the different categories combined throughout the week. When residents come to ask what specific exercise, they can do to better their life, is like asking what food they can eat to decrease weight quickly. It must all be combined to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. There are a lot of elements to a healthy lifestyle but broken down into a week, picking just one or two a day will help fulfill a weeks’ worth of exercise recommendation. Just like we need to eat and supply our bodies with energy every day we need to utilize the energy created in the most optimal way to better our life for the next day, week or month.

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Topics: active aging physical activity exercise and aging

GOOD SLEEP IS AN ACHIEVEABLE DREAM

GettyImages-1218234483Sleep is an essential need that the human body requires. It is vital for the infrastructure of good health. Not getting enough sleep can have a great effect on the body physically and mentally.   

 

The two basic types of sleep are rapid eye movement (REM sleep) and non-REM sleep. Deep sleep is known as non-REM, while dreaming state typically occurs during REM. Generally, non-REM and REM sleep present themselves in a regular pattern of 3–5 cycles each night. 

 

Your body’s effectiveness to operate and feel well during the day relies on whether you are getting enough total sleep AND adequate amounts of each type of sleep. It also depends on whether you are sleeping at a time when your body is prepared and ready to sleep. 

 

Health Conditions Linked to a Lack of Sleep  

Adults typically need a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. When the minimal amount is not met, health conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity can occur or worsen.  

 

  • High Blood Pressure: Blood pressure levels go down during normal sleep. Staying awake longer or having problems sleeping means your blood pressure is staying higher for a longer amount of time. 
  • Type 2 Diabetes: Diabetes causes sugar to build up in your blood. Getting enough sleep may help people regulate blood sugar levels. Researchers believe that sleep restriction may affect blood sugar levels due to its effects on insulin, cortisol and oxidative stress. 
  • Obesity: The part of the brain that controls hunger needs a healthy balance of the hormone's ghrelin (makes you feel hungry) and leptin (makes you feel full). Not getting enough sleep may cause more ghrelin levels to increase, which will make you feel hungrier than when you are well-rested.  

 

How Do I Get Better Sleep?  

 

  • Stick to a routine - A regular sleep schedule will cause your circadian rhythm to stay on track. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Try not to vary too much, even on the weekends.
  • Physical Activity - Get enough exercise during the day. Try not to do too much physical activity within a few hours of your regularly scheduled bedtime. 
  • Don’t eat or drink within a few hours of bedtime - Eating or drinking too much within a few hours of bedtime causes your organs to “wake up”. It may impair your sleep cycle and cause you to have trouble managing your blood sugar. 
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet - This type of environment is the most welcoming environment for your body to prepare for sleep. 

What do you do to prepare for sleep?

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Topics: sleep sleep habits healthy lifestyle