Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Can Physical Activity Improve Your Memory?

GettyImages-1284970958We all know that exercise is great for your health, but too often we think of improving our health as being able to move better, losing weight, having more energy, decreasing stress, or even improving our heart health, which are all great benefits don’t get me wrong! However, did you know that exercise can improve our memory and cognitive function as well? If not, you aren’t alone. The benefits that exercise can give our brain often tend to be overlooked.

Studies have shown that active individuals who are middle aged or older perform better on memory tests than those who are inactive. The best part is that being physically active does not have to mean doing an intense workout 7 days a week. Many studies have compared physically active people to those who are sedentary. These physically active people could simply be getting up and walking around for a few minutes every hour or going for a 20-minute walk at a leisurely pace most days of the week. Of course, being in the health and fitness field, we like to encourage individuals to try more formal types of exercise as well, but the benefits of simply getting up and moving should not be forgotten, especially when it comes to brain health.

A recent study that was published in November 2021 in the Journal of Neuroscience* found that active individuals in their 80s scored better on cognitive and memory tests than those individuals in the same age group who were more sedentary. The researchers also found that after some of the individuals had died, they were able to look at their brains and see that the inactive individuals showed greater signs of memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease. Once again, I think it’s important to note that of the active individuals, there were few who formally exercised. Those who were in the active group simply moved more and spent less time being still.

So, what does that mean for us? It means, keep moving! If you find yourself sitting for long periods of time throughout the day, try the following tips:

  • Set an alarm to go off every hour or put up a sticky note near your favorite chair that reminds you to move.
  • Walk the halls in your community or, when the weather is nice, walk around the grounds for 15-20 minutes.
  • See your NIFS fitness staff for some stretches that you can do at home while you’re watching TV
  • If you want to really keep your memory and cognitive function sharp, try combining movement with spelling words or assigning a movement with a color. For example, you are assigned blue to stepping forward, red to stepping sideways, and yellow to stepping backwards. Have a friend say one of the colors and step to the direction associated with the color. The challenge is remembering which direction is assigned to each color. You can challenge the brain, while having fun!

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Topics: active aging memory physical activity

The Importance of Changing Up Your Workout

GettyImages-529580019Working on one’s strength, agility, form, balance and flexibility are all so very important. Building/working on one’s strength helps prevent or lessen an injury. Using weights helps to strengthen the muscles. That being said, working the same muscles every day is not beneficial. Muscles need time to recover. Doing repetitive movements breaks the muscles down and causes wear and tear which leads to injury.

An example would be a marathon runner. Many runners only run, which puts a lot of strain on the body. Some runners cross-train (cross-training is doing another from of exercise that helps your muscles work in another way. (elliptical, bike, swim)).

Cross-training helps the muscles to work differently. Some runners have this thought that if they lift weights it will slow them down. When it’s actually the opposite. Weight training helps strengthen the muscles that the pressure is putting on those joints and body parts while running.

Switching up a land based class to an aqua class

Bike > Nustep

Nustep > Elliptical

All of these things will force one to use their muscles differently.

Another thing one can do while on a piece of cardio equipment is change the resistance and or speed on the machine. Increasing the resistance for 30 seconds to 2 minutes will get the muscles to work harder. Then go back to where you started from. The same with speeding up on the bike or Nustep for 30 second intervals and then going back to the starting pace.

While using weights, the amount of weights that one uses should be changed up for 6-8 weeks or maybe earlier depending on the individual. The muscles need to be challenged, by using the exact same weight all the time doesn’t do that for a person. When the same weights are being used over and over the body is going through the motions. Even if you can’t do as many reps, build up to the amount of reps you are doing with the new weights. Do one set with heavier weights, go back to the original, then go back to the new weight.

It is important to keep track of how long you have done the same workout for. It would be great if one can remember to change it up every 6-8 weeks. This will keep shocking and challenging the body to be the best it can.

Compare this to eating the same food all of the time, one gets bored and loses the flavor. The same goes for exercise, the body gets bored and doesn’t get the results that are wanted by doing the same thing all of the time.

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Topics: active aging fitness programs for seniors senior fitness

Engage with Your Age

GettyImages-1319025789As we age there are many different changes that start to happen to our brain such as shrinkage, vasculature and cognition. With age, the brain shrinks and changes occur at all levels, from chemicals to morphology. Stroke, lesions, and dementia are all more common as people get older, as is memory impairment. Fortunately there are quite a few things we can do to help prevent or slow the process of some of those changes from happening. Regular exercise, a good diet, and low to moderate alcohol consumption, all of which minimize cardiovascular risk, appear to help the aging brain, as does increasing cognitive exertion in the form of schooling, games or meaningful activities. Physical and mental health may be the best defense against the effects of aging on the brain.

When you start to engage in personally meaningful activities whether it be volunteering, exercise, games or hobbies they are known to make you feel healthier and happier. As we age it can be easy to give into that mindset and feeling that we may not be able to do all the same things we used to and leave you feeling discouraged and hopeless. It’s important to remember that really this the perfect time to find new activities and hobbies to try. Learning new skills can improve your thinking ability and memory. Some research on engagement in activities such as music, theater, dance and creative writing has shown promise for improving quality of life and well-being, from better memory and self-esteem to reduced stress and increase social interaction.

Another way to get involved in new activities is to reach out to a friend or neighbor for ideas and for company. Social interactions and social activities are great ways to keep your brain active and engaged with the community around you. Participating in personally meaningful and useful activities with others will leave you happier, and feeling more purposeful. These activities appear to assist and maintain your well-being and may even improve cognitive performance.

Take the time to reach out and spend time with family and friends or donate your time to a local charity or maybe to join a group dedicated to a pastime you enjoy. Join a walking group for senior citizens. Check out what local community organizations have to offer and give them a try. There are more and more groups that meet online, providing a means to interact with others who share your interests or obtain support from the comfort of your own home. Trivia quizzes, sudoku, arts and crafts, word puzzles, learning a new language, starting book club, trying a new workout class are all great ways to keep your mind engaged and busy. Go out of your comfort zone and try something new and take a friend with you.

Other ideas to keep you on your toes:

  1. Use your non-dominant hand for everyday tasks ( brushing teeth or eating).
  2. Test your memory by creating a list, it could be grocery list or 10 movies you want to watch and then memorize them. See how may you can recall by the end of the day.
  3. Jigsaw puzzles are a great brain workout using strategy and problem solving skills.
  4. Exercise is a great way to combine physical and mental workouts. They don’t have to get you sweaty you can go walking, take a tai chi or yoga class.
  5. Reading is a fantastic brain exercise that stimulates your brain and can slow cognitive decline. Pick up a book from your local library, a magazine at the salon or even read the posters on the walls around you.

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Topics: active aging brain health brain fitness

Dietitian Connection: Is Your Supplement Safe

Dietitian Connection logo_ColorDid you know federal law doesn’t require the potency, purity, efficacy, or safety of dietary supplements to be proven prior to being put on the market? In fact, most dietary supplements are already being sold before the Food and Drug Administration’s safety monitoring role begins. This means you could be taking a supplement that doesn’t even contain what is listed on the label, or that contains significantly different amounts than it claims to contain. This is concerning, as data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2017-2018 revealed that close to 60% of U.S. adults reported taking a dietary supplement within the last 30 days, and this percentage is predicted to be on the rise.


So how do you tell if the supplement you’re taking is safe? Fortunately, there are
independent (not involved in the sale or production of the supplement) third-party organizations that test dietary supplements to ensure their safety and quality, such as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and US Pharmacopeia (USP). Products that have been third-party certified typically have a stamp of certification somewhere on the label. However, prior to taking any supplement, you should always speak with your primary care physician/health care professional to ensure it is necessary, safe, and will be beneficial for you, as many supplements can have unintended side effects or may interact with other drugs or dietary supplements. You can visit the Food and Drug Administration’s website to learn more about dietary supplements and how they are regulated.

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Topics: supplements vitamins Dietitian Connection

Barre is not just for the young, but the young at heart!

GettyImages-656954108Barre, a fitness regimen, has recently gained a lot of popularity over the years. This low-impact exercise does not require any fancy, expensive equipment and people of all ages can do it. It is a workout that combines elements of Ballet, Pilates, and Yoga. It focuses on low-impact, high repetition, and small isometric movements to strengthen and tone your body.

I personally love barre and believe it is such a good workout. I try to implement it into my own weekly fitness regimen! When I started working at my community, I thought why not introduce Barre to our residents? It’s a fun and low impact workout choreographed to upbeat music, they might just like it. We introduced the class and added it the schedule and have gained a good group of “regulars” since then.

Here are a few reasons why I believe Senior Barre is a must try workout to add to your schedule:

  • Appropriate for those of all ages: The small range of motion and low impact workout is a great option for those with limited mobility. Barre is modifiable for all fitness levels yet can still be challenging enough to push yourself further than you thought was possible.
  • Improves strength and balance: Certain exercises may be done on one leg which allows balance and strength to be tested. A lot of exercises will require you to use multiple muscle groups at the same time while engaging your core. Barre also targets a lot of the smaller, intrinsic muscles in your body that are often ignored when performing other strength training workouts.
  • Creates a sense of community: Going to a Barre group fitness class gives people an opportunity to see their neighbors and friends while still being healthy. Attending these classes help create a sense of support, teamwork, and commitment!
  • Improves posture: The class spends a great deal of time focusing on proper spinal alignment form the top of your head to the tips of your toes. It especially includes a focus on the hips, spine, neck, and shoulders.
  • Improves flexibility: You don’t have to be a flexible Ballerina to enjoy Barre, but it will help improve your range of motion. Maintaining good flexibility can help you stay mobile and participate in all different types of activities.
  • Reduces anxiety or stress: Regular exercise can help divert you from thinking about what you are anxious about. Your body also releases endorphins during exercise which can help keep your mind sharp.
  • Can be done at home: With everything going on with COVID and with a lot of gyms and studios shutting down or having extra restrictions, Barre is the perfect workout that can be done at home. It’s doesn’t require any crazy equipment and since most homes do not have an actual ballet bar, most exercises can be done using a chair. Also, if you don’t have a set of weights at home, you can use soup cans or water bottles. 

Barre’s functional training component can help give seniors the proper form to help them with everyday activities of daily living. It also has a great number of positive physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. There are so many fun and challenging ways to keep your body moving during these classes, so the next time you are thinking of changing up your fitness routine, try a Barre class!

 

Topics: senior fitness group fitness for seniors senior group fitness classes barre

The Importance of Evaluating Progress

GettyImages-598549636Progress is defined as “forward or onward movement toward a destination,” and in fitness it is usually related to a specific fitness goal. Evaluating progress allows you to track your accomplishments or if you are not making the progress you hoped for, it can help determine what you can do better to reach your goal. Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle mass, improve your 5k time, etc. tracking and evaluating your progress throughout your fitness journey is beneficial.

Tracking is the first big step in evaluating your progress. Based on your goal, you may want to track your everyday strength workouts with sets/reps/weight or how many minutes of cardio you did per day or how many steps you took each day. Whatever it is, you want to keep track of what you are doing. Some people like to use an app on their phone or maybe a journal; anything can work!

Tracking also allows you to challenge yourself from week to week or month to month. Our bodies like to adapt so if we continue doing the same things without “shocking the system” then we won’t see any progress. We can also track how we are feeling during an exercise, if you had a bad day and your strength routine for the day was not great, then write it down. It is important to know why you may not have made progress that week. If you get to a point where you are not making any progress, then reevaluating your goal would be the next step. Determine what can be changed and why was it difficult to accomplish in the first place. How can you avoid those barriers this time? Resetting your goal to be realistic and fit your lifestyle is totally fine. You want to set yourself up for success!

If you accomplish your goal and have made steady progressions, then it is time to create a new goal! For example, let’s say your goal was to run a 5k race in 24 minutes by running 3x/week and strength training 2x/week. And you accomplished this goal in 23:30 in a recent race, then what? You could set a goal to run a 5k race in under 23 minutes then increase your running days to 4x/week and keep strength training 2x/week. You could set a totally different goal and focus solely on strength training to build muscle mass. Determine your plan for accomplishing this goal and what steps you need to take to be successful.

Evaluating your progress is necessary in your fitness journey, even if you aren’t seeing forward progress. You can always reassess goals and determine what needs to be done be successful. If you are seeing forward progress, then challenge yourself again and work towards the next goal.

Topics: wellness and fitness fitness tips health and fitness goals

Food and Your Mood

GettyImages-1084344284There is a very clear, well understood relationship between food and physical health, but
are you aware of the connection between food and mental health? You’ve probably found that feeling happy, sad or bored can make you more (or less) inclined to eat, sometimes even triggering cravings for specific foods. However, not only does your mood affect your food choices, but your food choices can affect your mood! For example, did you know that more than 90% of serotonin, the hormone that plays a role in controlling sleep, digestion, mood and more, is produced by bacteria in the gut? Low levels of serotonin may contribute to depression, anxiety and other mood problems, which is why it is essential to maintain a healthy gut!

One of the most important things you can do to balance your gut microbiome is to ensure you consume plenty of pre- and probiotic rich foods, such as the following:

Prebiotics (“food” for already existing beneficial bacteria in the gut; helps to increase the
good amount of bacteria in the gut) found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as:

  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Beans, chickpeas and lentils
  • Garlic
  • Oats
  • Onions

Probiotics (beneficial bacteria in the gut) found in many fermented foods, such as:

  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt
  • Certain cheeses

Consider keeping a food journal if you find your food choices are a result of your mood.  When logging your food along with how you are feeling at the time you select the food may give you insight to your own connection between your mood and food.  Consider speaking with a registered dietitian or your physician for assistance with your food habits.Don't miss the next Dietitian Connection Subscribe to our blog

Topics: food Dietitian Connection

Taking Time for Your Mental Health

GettyImages-1307095695Mental health has been a growing topic of conversation over the last few years, and for good reason. The first step of mental health awareness is being comfortable enough to talk about it. This topic is no longer taboo, and people are learning to prioritize their mental health. According to the CDC, “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” Mental illness effects millions of people in the U.S. each year. It’s important to measure how common mental illness is so that we can recognize that no one is alone in their battles.

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34.

 

Mental and physical heath are equal components of overall health, and they often go hand in hand. For example, chronic exposure to stress hormones can cause an increased risk for heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes as well as many other negative health effects.

It is important that we take time to focus on our own mental health, and here is a list of ways you can prioritize your mental well-being:

  1. Get Active - Exercise has been proven to boost your mood, improve self-esteem, improve sleep, reduce stress, and diminish feelings of anxiety and depression.
  2. Establish Boundaries - If you agree to everything, you won’t have time to relax and decompress. If you say yes to everything and are constantly on the go, you won’t have time to prioritize your mental health. You need to set boundaries.
  3. Avoid Negative Self-Talk – Negative self-talk will increase feelings of anxiety and depression. It can cause an increase in stress levels and lower self-esteem.
  4. Create Support System - Keeping your mental health struggles from loved ones doesn’t help anything. The sooner you open up about these struggles, the sooner you can receive treatment.
  5. Become Aware of your own feelings – Many people will ignore and avoid their feelings and go about their day like nothing is wrong. If you don’t address your feelings, it will build up until you reach a breaking point.
  6. Eat nutritious meals – A healthy, well-balanced diet can help us think clearly and feel more alert. It can also improve concentration and attention span. A poor diet can lead to fatigue, impaired decision-making and attention span. It can lead to an increase in stress and depression.
  7. Reach out to a professional – Therapy is a great way to help identify your stressors, learn about your emotions, and receive a plan to address those issues.

Getting stressed out at work if perfectly normal, but when stress and anxiety is persistent and overwhelming, it needs to be managed properly. It is important to seek help when these feelings are taking over your daily life.

Topics: employee wellness mental health selfcare

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Seniors, Do they Mix?

GettyImages-1293496205High intensity interval training (HIIT) sounds like something that is best for the 20-40 year old or athletes, however research begs to differ. Studies show that high intensity interval training is good for all ages, even if there are chronic health issues and you’re not a lifelong exerciser. In fact, HIIT workouts may be able to provide more benefits than other less-intense modes of exercises, such as steady state cardio.

Steady state cardio vs Interval training vs HIIT

When most people go to the gym, they get on their favorite piece of cardio equipment set the speed and move at the same rate throughout their workout. This type of cardio is known as steady state cardio. Sometimes, people will use the different functions on the machines such as hills, weight loss or interval training. All of these have a different levels of high and low intensity. This is known as interval training. HIIT workouts are similar to interval training with the primary difference being the intensity of interval. With a HIIT workout the intensity is between 80-95% of your maximum heart rate. (220-your age= your maximum heart rate)

Benefits of HIIT Workouts

Increases Muscle Size and Strength

Did you know it is common to lose eight pounds of muscle as we age? Maintaining or improving muscle mass is not only important for everyday physical tasks like picking things up, reaching for something, getting up out of chair, but healthy muscles are essential for organ function, skin health, immunity and your metabolism.

Stronger Heart and Better Lung Capacity

Numerous studies have found that HIIT workouts are more beneficial than steady state cardio at improving cardiorespiratory. A study published in Cell Metabolism found that cycling between short periods of intense exercise and periods of recover, improved both cardiovascular and respiratory health in older adults. The over-65 group specifically experienced an impressive 69 percent increase in their ability to take in oxygen.

In addition, research shows that HIIT and interval workouts put less stress on the heart when compared to steady state aerobic exercise.

Lower blood sugar and insulin resistance: We know exercising is beneficial for losing weight, however according to a report by the Aarhus Hospital in Denmark, a short 10 minute HIIT routine three times a week, is one of the most effective forms of exercising for reducing type-2 diabetes risk and lowering blood glucose levels to healthy levels.

Improves Memory: Memory loss is something that can affect us all, however as we age our memory recall seems to fade. HIIT exercises are very beneficial for improving memory. Specifically, it improves the high-interference memory—the kind that helps you tell two similar things or memories apart.

Ready, Set, Go: Before starting any new exercise regimen, make sure to get clearance from your doctor. The best way to integrate HIIT workouts into your current exercise plan is to start with longer rest periods, such as 1 minute high intensity followed by a 3 minute recover. As your recovery improves, work on shortening the recovery time. Remember to have an effective HIIT workout, giving yourself time to recover is key.

Some ways to add HIITS to your current workout routine

Walking: Start by walking at a comfortable pace. Then for one minute walk as fast as you can and pump your arms and/or raise your knees. If you’re on a treadmill, increase the elevation. Then walk at a pace that will allow your breathing and heart rate to come down.

Swimming: Swim a few laps at your normal speed, then swim one lap at an all-out sprint. Go back and swim at your normal or a little slower speed.

Bike/Nu Step: Start by peddling with little or no resistance. To raise the intensity you can either increase your speed, increasing resistance or both. After your sprint, go back to the speed/resistance you started with.

Looking for some other ways to increase the effectiveness of your workouts? Subscribe to the NIFS Fitness blog.

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Topics: active aging senior fitness improving senior fitness

Finding the Right Shoe for You

GettyImages-525863765The correct footwear plays a vital role in your time running on the road or just walking around at home or work. But what makes a good running shoe? With a wide variety of options it can be hard to determine the best fit for your foot type. Knowing if your foot is normal, flat, or high-arched can play a role in the type of shoe best for you.  An employee at a fitness store should be able to help you determine the best type of shoe for your foot.

Here are some tips for finding the right fit:

  1. You should look for a shoe with a low heel to toe drop. This means the heel cushion should not be significantly larger than the toe cushion. A Larger difference places stress on the front of the leg and can cause imbalances in the front and back of the lower leg, which may lead to pain or discomfort while running.
  1. All shoes don't fit the same. Your shoe size may be different depending on the style and brand of the shoe. You should have a thumbs width, or about ½ inch of room in the front of the toe box when the heel is slid to the back of the shoe. Anything less can put unneeded stress on the toes and foot, and a larger space may allow the foot to slide, causing blisters and inflammation of the foot. Be sure to wear socks you plan on exercising in to have the right thickness and consider trying shoes on later in the day when your feet are naturally more swollen.
  1. Find a shoe with a neutral fit. There should not be extra pressure on your arch or the outside of the foot. This can alter your normal foot running pattern and can lead to pain and injury in feet, ankles, and even your knees.
  1. Replace your shoes every 500 miles or so, depending on your activity. When shoes wear, the sole can become more rigid. This can change movement mechanics and may lead to pain or injury. Pay attention to how they feel, if you aren't feeling the same support, it might be time for a new pair.

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Topics: shoes wellness and fitness fitness tips