Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Employees Experience Added Value of Corporate Fitness Centers

members_speak-1.jpgThe benefits of providing an onsite corporate fitness center at the workplace are far-reaching and they may or may not have anything to do with reducing health care costs. For leadership, it’s easy to focus on this tangible measurement and lose sight of other reasons  to support employees in their health and fitness goals.

Learn how one member at a NIFS client location has found value in using her corporate fitness center as she strives to maintain a newly established healthy lifestyle.

Was there an “a-ha” moment or life event that led you to make a positive change for your health?

I’ve known for a number of years that I needed to improve my health, but always had excuses for not doing so. When my granddaughter was born in 2016, I knew I wanted to be around to see her grow up. I also wanted to be able to keep up with her energy so I could be active in her life as she got older. She, and the future grandchildren, have been my inspiration.

What has been a key factor in helping you stick to your new routine? What is your motivation?

Staying motivated is a challenge, so I set a number of small, fun SMART goals that I was determined to achieve. For example, when work sponsored a team to run the Indianapolis Mini Marathon, I decided to run the 5K race. Our NIFS fitness center staff provided a training program to follow. I finished in the top 10% of my age group. I have signed up for five more races, with the next goal being to win my age group.

[Related Content: Why You Might Be Wrong About Outsourcing Fitness Center Management]

How has the fitness center provided a supportive environment for you to work on your health?

There are a number of benefits of having the fitness center onsite. First, it is convenient. Employees can go before work, at lunchtime, or after work; that flexibility is a huge help. I also like the personal attention that is available to help build a structured exercise program that will achieve specific goals. In our corporate fitness center there's a huge variety of activities available, especially the group fitness classes. You can try something new each week.

I really enjoy the supportive atmosphere of the coaches and my coworkers in the center. They make exercise fun. I also feel that we're lucky to have the center as one of our corporate health benefits. The fact that our leadership supports the existence of the center signals that employee health and fitness is important to our organization.

What would you tell your coworkers who still haven't tapped into the benefits of the corporate fitness center?

I spent a long time feeling like I was too tired to put exercise into my schedule. I also told myself that I just did not have the time. But, now that I am exercising regularly and feeling better, I have more energy. I also am more agile and can do things around the house that I have not been able to do in years. It’s funny that one of my excuses in the past for not exercising was thinking I did not have the time or was too busy. Now that I am exercising and have more energy, I get things done faster. So by exercising, I have more time.

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To read other NIFS "members speak" stories, click here. If your'e looking for a corporate fitness vendor to start improving your employees lives, click here to find out how we support our clients across the US.

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Topics: corporate fitness center onsite fitness center ROI NIFS Mini-Marathon employee health and fitness motivation goals

3 Ways to Use Surveys to Improve Your Corporate Fitness Program

In a seasoned corporate fitness program, sometimes it's hard to figure out where to look next for improvement in the services, staffing, or overall offering. In NIFS almost three decades of providing corporate fitness management services, we've continued to evolve our use of surveys well beyond the typical satisfaction ratings. Below are three tested survey styles that we use on a regular basis to improve our corporate fitness centers and  ensure our staff are doing everything they can to sustain a positive and inviting fitness atmosphere for employees.

The New Member Experience Survey

We know that creating a positive and welcoming first experience for employees in corporate fitness is crucial to winning loyal members. And we value customer service skills in our staff as much as we value sound exercise science knowledge. In order to capture our staff's effectiveness at using strong customer-focused skills with new members, we began implementing a new member experience survey. We use the tool in a monthly welcome email with new members to get a better picture of any potential barriers members may experience as well as to better understand how well our staff are implementing expected procedures for orienting new members. Results from this survey offer strong talking points in semi-annual review discussions or more frequently if needed to both praise and correct staff, based on member feedback.

 View a sample of our new member experience survey

The Quality Assurance Surveys

When we contract with a business to provide fitness center management services, part of the package includes managing liability within the fitness environment. We have several components in our quality assurance program that support this activity, including a monthly emergency procedures survey which our managers fill out. It provides a nudge to ensure they're checking emergency equipment, stocking first aid kits, and documenting any missing or broken supplies in a timely fashion. We also have an annual risk management survey and a semi-annual emergency survey where staff work through emergency scenarios and take an emergency preparedness quiz.

View a sample of our monthly emergency procedures survey

The Satisfaction Survey (with a twist)

I suspect that most vendors like us provide a satisfaction survey to share with clients how the staff, services, and spaces are being received by their employees. It's foundational to measuring our commitment to the client; in fact, portions of our satisfaction survey sometimes translate into service level agreements between us and the client. We've made tweaks to our standard survey over the years, and we recently added a Net Promoter Score question as a new twist that provides us with more of an industry benchmark for the way our staff are connecting with members to build loyalty. 

NPS.png

Even if you're unfamiliar with NPS, there's a good chance you've answered a product or service survey question that generated an NPS for the provider. It's usually worded to ask how likely you are to recommend X service/product to a friend and the answer is given on a 0-10 scale. The responses then are broken down into three categories:

  • Detractors, rate their likelihood to recommend between a 0-6. They are considered likely to stop using your product/service and/or share negative feedback about your product/service.
  • Passives, rate their experience as a 7-8. They’re neutral to your brand; they might continue to use your product/service, but they aren’t likely to invite others into the fold.
  • Promoters, rate their experience as a 9-10 and they are considered evangelists for whatever you’re selling; they LOVE you and will tell others about how great you are.

The industry average NPS for fitness centers as tracked by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub association (IHRSA) is 43. That score includes commercial gyms, so it’s not quite apples to apples, but we are talking about a very similar scope of services where members are entrusting their physical health to the fitness center staff and carving out their very precious personal time to spend time at the gym.  Since we added an NPS question to our survey over the last few years, we have far exceeded that industry benchmark and we are regularly looking at strategies to continue growing member loyalty.


This overview provides a good snapshot of the types of information we gather through surveys, but I haven't touched on how we use the survey responses to coach our staff, improve our client relationships and manage customer liability. To dig more deeply into these topics, grab our white paper.

Make better use of surveys in your fitness program >

Topics: corporate fitness center employee health and fitness service level agreements for corporate fitness corporate fitness survey tips

Should We Still Use BMI and Body Composition in Corporate Fitness?

GettyImages-844045822.jpgFor years, fitness professionals have been trained to use Body Mass Index (BMI) as a prescreening tool when individuals join a fitness program. It was part of the recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for evaluating health risks; tobacco use, cholesterol profile, and family history for cardiovascular disease were also part of that process. In 2015, the ACSM updated their guidelines, and guess what? No BMI screening was included.

(Find out more about the changes to exercise prescreening in this FAQ.)

Why Is BMI No Longer a Screening Tool?

The changes to the ACSM guidelines were positioned largely around decreasing barriers for individuals to start an exercise program. After years of research, what they found was that BMI was not a driver of cardiovascular events during exercise. Anecdotally, I can say from experience that I had a lot of (sometimes angry) individuals wanting to join the corporate fitness center who needed a medical release because their BMI was "too high" and they had one other risk factor, such as not knowing their cholesterol or current tobacco use. So for our staff and their members in corporate fitness environments across the country, I thought this was a positive change.

But it leaves me wondering if we should be looking at BMI at all. There's a lot of back and forth in the wellness community about the "value" of BMI. The screening tool was always meant to be a field test to determine appropriateness of weight for a given height. And truly, it's an easy measure to determine; there are BMI calculators all over the internet. But that may be the end of its utility as a screening tool. There are a lot of questions about how meaningful the information really is to either the individual being assessed or the practitioner with whom they're working.

If We Don't Use BMI, What Should We Use?

This is something of a loaded question and points to our cultural obsession with "healthy" body weight. Do we need to screen for fatness? What's the value in those figures? Certainly measuring percent body fat or circumference might provide more meaningful ways to track an individual's desire to lose weight. But there are caveats on providing that information, too. Our staff members are providing those measures as field tests in our clients' corporate fitness centers, and the accuracy can be questionable, particularly for body fat assessed by skinfold testing.

We have a responsibility in our clients' fitness center environments to help the members live well in the ways that are meaningful to each individual. That might mean helping someone work on gradual, healthy weight loss. It might also mean working with someone to help them learn to appreciate the difference between feeling good when they move their body and feeling bad when they step on the scale.

The goal for our staff is to help the members they serve improve their health in all the ways that are articulated. When tools like BMI are so limiting (and potentially harmful to the psyche), we have to take a hard look at whether those tools are helping us achieve that goal. With so many other fantastic programs in our books to help people move more, try new areas of healthy living, and even remember what it felt like to play at recess, I think we have just what we need to create positive, successful, healthy environments for our corporate and senior living clients.

Check out our creative and effective programming to help keep your members active.

Improve your programs >

Topics: BMI corporate fitness center body composition prescreening tools risk factors weight loss healthy living senior fitness

Avoid an Empty Corporate Fitness Center with These Ideas

B130001.jpgThere are a variety of reasons for you, as a business owner, to set up a corporate fitness center for your employees; employee recruitment and retention are certainly among them. Increasingly, access to some form of exercise at work is becoming an expectation. It’s also not unreasonable to build a corporate fitness center because you actually expect it will help your employees be more active, which can lead to a variety of individual health benefits and possibly some productivity and loyalty benefits for the business.

But establishing a corporate fitness center for your employees is not an “if you build it, they will come” phenomenon. After all, only about 15–17% of the U.S. population owns a gym membership. If you want your employees to have opportunities to exercise, dedicating some space on campus for exercise is a good first step, but it’s not the end of the story. Following is a checklist of steps you need to carefully consider to avoid an empty corporate fitness center and ensure your fitness center is set up for success, both for your business and for your employees.

Do you have the right collection of equipment and amenities in your fitness center?

I've seen corporate fitness centers that run the gamut from fairly bare-bones to spaces that would rival high-end clubs. Fancy matters much less than function. If you don't intend to provide expert staff in the space, you need to have equipment that your employees can use without instruction. Some of the newer functional training equipment isn't all that intuitive; be careful what you buy or only the most sophisticated exerciser will be able to put your equipment to effective use.

If you want to offer group fitness classes in your space, you'll need to have enough room to host the classes; consider 40–60SF per participant (don't forget to count the instructor!). Also keep in mind that your classes will increase volume in the fitness center and you'll want your locker room spaces to accommodate those peak-use times fairly well. With 28 years in the business, I can assure you that employees will stop coming if the locker room situation involves fighting for space.

Do you have the right leadership for the corporate fitness space/programs?

The single best way to maximize employee use of your corporate fitness center is to provide staff who manage the environment. Yes, there is a cost for that, but before you assume you don't want to pay it, consider the ramifications because here's how it plays out. Without staff to support and educate employees, the same 10% of your employees who exercise now are the ones who will use your fitness center. And the employees you're really trying to serve won't try something new in your corporate fitness space because they aren't sure what steps to take.

So committing to the fitness center space but not the fitness center staffing is building a gym for the employees who are exercising anyway. That's a pretty substantial investment for the employees who don't really stand to benefit from it.

Finding the right corporate fitness management partner doesn't have to be hard, and before you assume hiring out for that role is a horrible idea, check out this blog that addresses common misconceptions on outsourcing corporate fitness management. If you're still convinced your business is better off managing your fitness program in house, here are some suggestions for hiring your own corporate fitness manager.

Do you have a healthy culture that supports employees choosing to exercise during their time at work?

Employees spend more time commuting to and from work and actually at work than they spend anyplace else. Inviting them to exercise while they're already at the office may be our best hope for helping adults move more. But if taking a full 60-minute lunch break to work out is frowned upon by management, your corporate fitness center will stay mostly empty. If employees don't see their leadership making healthy choices a priority, your fitness center will remain a ghost town. It's not enough to have "break-time" policies written into your handbook. You have to lead by example and you have to make it okay for your management team to engage in the behaviors you want to see.

 Webinar Series: The Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers

Topics: corporate fitness corporate fitness managment corporate fitness center equipment nifs fitness center management health culture staffing