Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Employee Health: Could You Be a "Heart Attack Waiting to Happen"?

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

heart health, employee wellness, family historyIt is no secret that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, with more than 27% of all deaths being attributed to Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). What is shocking is that apparently healthy individuals are dying of heart disease every single day. In fact, 39% of American adults perceive themselves as having ideal heart health, while less than 1% actually do.

Are you healthy? You might say “I exercise regularly and eat right,” but is that enough? Doctors agree that, in most cases, a healthy diet and adequate exercise are not enough. While both are very important, they are simply pieces of the puzzle that come together to create a picture of optimal health. It may sound obvious, but in order to get yourself closer to an ideal state of health you need to become educated in two areas:

  1. Your current state of health.
  2. What it actually means to be healthy.

One way to “grade” your heart health is through risk stratification. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) presents the following as positive risk factors for CAD:

  • Family history: Heart attack, bypass, or sudden death in first-degree male relatives before 55 years of age, or before 65 years of age.
  • Cigarette smoking: Current smokers or those who quit within the preceding 6 months.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure defined as systolic pressure (top number) being greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg, OR diastolic pressure (bottom number) being greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg.
  • Dyslipidemia: High cholesterol defined as LDL (“bad”) cholesterol greater than 130 mg/dL, OR HDL (“good”) cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL, OR on lipid-lowering medication. Having HDL greater than 60 mg/dL is considered to be a negative risk factor, and thus negates a positive risk factor.
  • Impaired fasting glucose: Fasting blood glucose (“blood sugar”) greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL.
  • Obesity: Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30, OR waist girth greater than 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women, OR waist-to-hip ratio greater than or equal to .95 in males and .86 in females.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Persons not participating in a regular exercise program or not meeting minimal physical activity recommendations.

Knowing your individual risk factors for CAD is the first step toward reaching ideal heart health. Do you know where you stand? Have you had an annual physical or participated in a Know Your Number health screening? If so, congratulations! You are on your way to better health!

Topics: employee health heart disease cardiovascular disease Body Mass Index disease prevention

Corporate Wellness: Rewarding Healthy Employee Behavior

reward, incentive, employee healthThis blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

One commonly known benefit of corporate fitness centers is that when employees are encouraged to maintain healthy lifestyles, the company’s total costs for medical insurance and absenteeism decrease. Some agencies have chosen to take this one step further and pay for their employees to exercise.

Some state agencies in Kentucky have chosen to offer paid exercise breaks. Leaders in these organizations don’t feel like they are losing productivity because, “Often these employees are discussing work issues while they are exercising.” They also see a boost in these individuals’ morale. The amount of time that employees are permitted to exercise on the clock ranges from 90 minutes to five hours per week, depending on the agency.

Other organizations have similar motives, but different ways of compensating employees for their healthy habits. One well-known bank offers employees cash for various wellness activities. Fitting in at least one workout per month earns employees $20, taking a wellness assessment earns $50, and completing blood work or a physical earns $25 each. This particular company also pays employees for preventive care, for example flu shots and mammograms. The reward money is capped at $200 per employee.

Does your company have a system to reimburse employees for their time spent exercising or otherwise bettering their health? Or perhaps a money incentive for those who utilize the corporate fitness center?

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work disease prevention productivity

Employee Health: Breast Cancer Awareness

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

breast cancer awareness, nifs, screenings, health and wellnessIn 2007, 11.7 million Americans were reported to have some form of invasive cancer. Men have a greater than 44 percent chance of developing some sort of cancer during their lifetime—this means that almost one out of every two males will be plagued by cancer. Furthermore, statistics show that more than 23 percent of men will end up dying from cancer (that’s nearly one out of every four). Women fare slightly better with a 38 percent chance of developing cancer (one in three) and a 19.6 percent chance of dying from cancer (one in five).

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Why dedicate a whole month to breast cancer awareness? Of the more than 11.7 million cases of invasive cancer, about 2.6 million were breast cancer. More than 12 percent of all American women have breast cancer right now (that’s one out of every eight). Of those women, almost 3 percent will die from breast cancer (1 in 36). Early detection and awareness provide great defense against breast cancer. Health professionals estimate thousands of lives are saved each year through regular screenings and self breast exams.

Who Is at Risk for Breast Cancer?

Essentially, anyone with a pulse can develop breast cancer. Following are specific risk factors:

  • Although men can be affected, being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer, as women are about 100 times more likely to have breast cancer than men.
  • Age also plays a role in breast cancer development, with increasing age heightening your risk. About one out of every eight invasive cases occurs in women under the age of 45, whereas two out of three cases are found in women over 55.
  • Five to ten percent of all cases are thought to be hereditary, or genetic, resulting from gene defects.
  • Those with a positive family history of breast cancer are also at a higher risk (approximately three times more likely) than those having no immediate relatives affected by the disease.

Visit to find out more about the risks for developing breast cancer.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

Support breast cancer fighters and survivors by participating in a “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” event. Visit the American Cancer Society online to find an event near you.

Topics: employee health cancer disease prevention

Worksite Fitness: More Muscle, Less Type 2 Diabetes!

This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

weight training, diabetes, nifsHere’s some fuel to help you crank out one more repetition, finish an extra pushup, and hold that plank just a little bit longer. Along with all of its other wonderful benefits, strength training can help prevent type 2 diabetes. This should be of interest to a significant part of the population, as millions of Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, with many more at risk due to obesity, existing health conditions, family history, and lifestyle choices.

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by a lack of insulin produced by the body or an inability of the body to properly use insulin. Weight training’s contribution to a reduction in risk for type 2 diabetes is supported by findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that the higher the proportion of an individual’s weight is muscle mass, the more sensitive the body will be to insulin. Muscle mass is efficient at handling glucose and keeping blood sugar levels steady.

This information tells us how important it is to keep body fat levels within a healthy range and that simply looking at body weight can be deceiving (ideally, you’d rather be both slim and fit, but being overweight and somewhat fit can still protect you more effectively from risk than if you are overweight and unfit).

Don’t know what your body fat is? Check with your local gym to see if they offer body fat testing (hint: NIFS and many of its worksite fitness sites do!). Some scales and other fitness tools will also measure body fat, but may have more of a margin of error.

In addition to your favorite forms of cardio, be sure to pump some iron, working all major muscle groups two to three times per week (as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine). Obviously, prevention of type 2 diabetes is most desirable, but individuals with the condition can still benefit from a consistent strength training routine because it will help them make the most of the insulin that is produced. And, you’ll reap all those other good things that strength training does toward helping you achieve a leaner, healthier, happier body!

Topics: corporate fitness disease prevention NIFS

Disease Prevention: Corporate Wellness and Flu Prevention

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

flu shot, corporate wellness, disease preventionAs soon as the fall season hits, flu shots are all the buzz. Pharmacies across the nation start advertising the vaccine and we start to provide cold and flu information in our corporate wellness centers. This year, you may want to start your planning earlier. Not only is it important for your corporate wellness clients to get the vaccine; you should get one for yourself, too.

Where to Find the Flu Vaccine

Both health care providers and pharmaceutical companies have stressed getting your flu shot earlier this year. Already, the vaccine is available at many local pharmacies and doctors' offices, and some have begun to offer it all year round. If you have an Occupational Health clinic at your worksite, check to see whether they offer the vaccine and how soon it will be available.

Additionally, ask what versions of the flu shot are available at the site you choose. Vaccine manufacturers have promised a larger supply of the flu shot in both child and senior citizen doses for the 2011–2012 season. These populations may need slightly different amounts of the vaccine.

Prevention Beyond the Flu Shot

Beyond getting a flu shot, what can be done to ensure that you and your clients stay bug-free? Since most of us spend the majority of our day at the workplace, tell clients to be sure the space around them stays clean. They should keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes handy.

In corporate fitness centers, be sure that members are instructed to clean their equipment before and after use. Think about taping small reminders onto each piece of equipment and leaving out a larger, more visible supply of cleaning products throughout the fitness center.

Lastly, wash your hands! Be sure to get under fingernails, between fingers and wrists, and avoid touching faucets, paper towel dispensers, or bathroom door handles after you’ve cleaned your hands.

Instead of spreading germs this year, teach your corporate wellness clients to spread healthy habits!

Topics: corporate wellness disease prevention

Wellness Center Manager Advocates Exercise for Preventing Alzheimer's

This blog was written by Sean Holbrook. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

senior fitness, weights, aging wellIt’s probably just my desire as a wellness center manager at a Continuing Care Retirement Community for the National Institute for Fitness and Sport to recommend exercise for most questions I get. But when I speak with residents, one of their major concerns as they age is losing their cognitive function, which is most commonly associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease. A growing body of research is emerging to support my answer that exercise is one of the best medicines, especially in regard to exercise's ability to prevent Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's disease continues to grow in prevalence worldwide, expected to affect 1 out of 85 individuals over 65 by 2050. With the cause of Alzheimer's still unknown, much of the current research is being focused on lifestyle and behavioral habits that decrease the risk of developing it. 

So how much does exercise help in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease? Deborah Barnes, a mental health researcher at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC), analyzed data from studies around the world involving hundreds of thousands of participants about modifiable lifestyle habits that can prevent Alzheimer's disease. Barnes found that the biggest modifiable risk factor in the United States was physical activity. She stated that the most exciting thing about the study was that some very simple lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity, could prevent more than half of the Alzheimer's cases.

Other modifiable risk factors that were identified by the study included smoking, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, most of which can also be modified by increased physical activity.

So what steps can you start to take to increase your physical activity?

Topics: exercise disease prevention senior fitness

Effects of Smoking and Obesity on Employee Health and Life Expectancy

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

obesity, smoking, smoking cessation, weight lossLife expectancy in the U.S. in comparison to the rest of the world is quite impressive: 78.7 years versus 69.2 years. Much of this difference is due largely to advanced medical and preventative care; however, many analysts worry that this number will soon plummet due to a high population of American smokers and the ever-alarming prevalence of obesity in the U.S.

What would our life expectancy stats look like if it weren’t for smoking and obesity? When you look at each factor individually, it’s plain to see that we would boast one of the highest—if not the highest—expectancies in the world. The facts below speak for themselves.

Tobacco Use in the U.S.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that longtime smokers lose about 14 years of their lives to their addiction.
  • Tobacco use accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths in the U.S.  
  • Tobacco use is responsible for nearly one out of every five deaths in the U.S., and is the largest cause of preventable death.
  • Secondhand smoke causes nearly 3,500 nonsmokers to die of lung cancer and 46,000 nonsmokers to die of heart disease each year.

Obesity in the U.S.

  • Accompanying obesity are numerous risks and ailments that pose serious threats to one’s health and well-being.
  • Researchers have discovered that overweight and obese cancer patients are at a greater risk of experiencing complications related to treatment as well as premature death.
  • In general, overall mortality increases with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more, and a BMI greater than or equal to 30 multiplies one’s risk of premature death—especially from cardiovascular disease—by 50 to 100%.

Is your corporation a tobacco-free workplace? How do your workplace wellness programs help promote tobacco cessation and quitting smoking? How can weight-loss programs help your employees live longer, healthier lives?

Topics: corporate wellness overweight employees disease prevention tobacco cessation

Employee Health: How Does Your Spouse Impact Your Health?

This blog was written by Lisa Larkin. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

spouse support, exercise, employee wellness,corporate fitness center managementI work at a corporate fitness center where spouses are eligible to use the facility. Although I do work with several couples/spouses/partners, I would like to see more getting fit together at the fitness center. There is no cost, and no restricted hours, so that takes away some of the excuses. Spouses need to motivate each other and make changes toward a healthier lifestyle.

The Health Benefits (and Detriments) of Being Married

Some studies have shown that married individuals are healthier than singles. Married couples usually have more money, which improves health status. Studies also say most spouses depend on each other more (wages, childcare, etc.), so they take better care of each other. (That’s not to say single people don’t care about someone they’re dating; they just don’t depend on them as much as married couples do on their spouses.)

Females can usually promote males to seek medical advice, which is why married males tend to be healthier than single males.

One bad thing about being married and living together is the risk of passing illnesses and viruses back and forth. This can cause both to have to see a physician.

What if Your Spouse Isn't Living a Healthy Lifestyle?

Because I manage an onsite corporate fitness center, I work out on a regular basis and try to eat healthy. It can be challenging when you have someone in your life who doesn’t live the same lifestyle. If you are the more active one in a relationship, keep up the motivation and try little steps at a time to influence your loved ones. Stay focused to change for the better and take your spouse on the journey, too!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness disease prevention

Employee Health: Help Your Kids Build Healthy Habits

This blog was written by Dan Walker. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

If you thought your child’s grades and college choice were the most important things to worry about in their adolescence, think again. Unhealthy habits picked up during the preteen and teen years can lead to health problems later in life, a recent study found. The most notable problem among these is high cholesterol levels, or dyslipidemia.

Smoking, poor cardiovascular fitness, and carrying around extra body fat were all significantly correlated with dyslipidemia later in early adulthood. If you think your child might be heading in this direction, here are three keys to help turn them around:

  • Get active together as a family. Go for bike rides, play in Active Family resized 600the yard, and move in other fun ways to show them how much fun exercise can really be when you find something you like. Now is the time to ingrain the habit of regular physical activity in their life.
  • Practice what you preach. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so if you are carrying around a few extra pounds yourself or you smoke, how likely is it that your children won’t?
  • Encourage a healthy, nutritious diet whenever you can. You can’t control your child’s eating when they’re not at home, but odds are you can when they are (unless they want to fork over the extra money to buy their own groceries!). Get them used to eating healthy foods lower in fat and cholesterol while they are young so they will hopefully stick with them as they age.

Although it may seem your children can eat anything and everything under the sun without gaining any weight, they may in fact just be setting themselves up for disaster later in life. Help them establish healthy habits now while not picking up unhealthy ones.

You want to help and guide your kids in their schooling and set them up for a secure future. But what are you doing to help guide them away from having to take medications such as Lipitor? See your corporate wellness program for more help.


Topics: corporate wellness employee health disease prevention

Fasting for Weight Loss: Is It Effective?

This blog was written by Dan Walker. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

(part 2 of 2)

Last time we took a look at the proposed health benefits of fasting, such as lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, detoxification of harmful substances, and a lower risk of developing various diseases. This time we’ll look at fasting for weight loss to see just how effective it can really be for managing weight.

Many people feel that they are exercising consistently and are eating right, but Empty Plate resized 600have either hit a plateau in their weight loss or haven’t been very successful at initiating weight loss over the years. Because of this, many have turned to fasting for weight loss. The logic is that although it will cause a little pain and discomfort initially, it will indeed result in weight loss as the body is forced to burn stored fat for fuel.

But is that what really happens? And if so, will it produce lasting weight loss?

Problems with Fasting

Although I have never tried fasting for weight loss personally or talked with anyone who has, I along with many others feel the proposal is flawed in a few key ways:

  • Our bodies are designed to maintain homeostasis and resist change. If you dramatically cut your caloric intake and don’t provide your body with what it needs to function properly, it will fight back by slowing down your metabolism to prevent starvation.
  • Any fast you go on (along with any diet) can’t last forever, so you eventually will have to come off of it. Even if you did lose a little weight, what happens now that you are off the fast but have no plan in place for maintaining your weight loss?
  • Fasting doesn’t address the real problem underlying your weight gain: too little physical activity and/or too many calories consumed each day. Fasting for weight loss is only treating the symptom of a much larger problem. It might help a little, but there is a bigger underlying issue that should be addressed if you are looking to maintain a healthy weight for a lifetime.

Instead of Fasting, Make Appropriate Diet and Exercise Changes

Fasting has its place in the lives of those who, after talking about the decision with their doctor, would like to try it periodically to see if it can improve their health. It can even help you learn to control your desire for food as you learn to go without it for a period of time. But your best bet for permanent, healthy weight loss is to carefully examine your life and make the appropriate changes.

Start by writing down what and how much you eat each day and see if any patterns arise. A Personal Nutrition Coaching session with a NIFS dietitian can help you analyze your diet and give you a plan for weight loss.

If you feel that you can’t find enough time in the day to exercise, analyze how much time you spend watching television, surfing the Internet, and other fun but unnecessary pursuits. Even some worthwhile activities and hobbies may need to be scaled back a bit if you’re just too busy to work out. Exercise might from time to time take you away from other things you’d much rather be doing, but it won’t matter if you’re not around anymore to enjoy those things.

Topics: nutrition weight loss disease prevention