Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Help Clients Overcome 3 Common Misconceptions About Exercise and Aging

It’s well known that being physically active, especially as we age, yields many physical benefits. Examples include decreasing risk factors for chronic diseases, and preserving many aspects of physiological functions, such as cardiovascular function, muscle strength and endurance, as well as balance and flexibility.

In addition to the many physical benefits that you can gain from regular exercise, there are also many psychological benefits. Some of the benefits associated with regular exercise consist of (but are not limited to) improved quality of life and cognitive functioning.

As a fitness instructor I am constantly hearing reasons why individuals feel as though it makes no sense for them to exercise. One example I have heard recently is “I’m 85 years old. What good could taking part in regular exercise do for me? I am too old for there to even be changes made to my strength or balance.” (Hint: This isn’t true!)

Following are three common “excuses” or misconceptions regarding regular exercise that I hear frequently from older adults, and how you can address these concerns.

GettyImages-929610028 (1)I’m Too Old

You might hear: I’m too old to start exercising; its too late to make a difference in my health; it isn’t safe; I don’t want to fall and break a hip; I’m going to get old anyway

To be honest, no one is ever “too old” to start a regular exercise regimen. Many older adults are not aware that regular physical activity has been shown to be beneficial to individuals of all ages, even those well into their 80s, 90s, or older. Besides, inactivity is often associated with the common signs of aging. Older adults often have a fear of falling, especially if they have experienced falls in the past. Thus, these individuals think they are safer or rather better off if they remain sedentary. However, what these older adults don’t realize is that regular exercise is going to help them build strength and stamina, prevent the loss of bone mass, and allow the individual to improve their balance.

How to address this: In addition to discussing how certain exercises are beneficial to oneself especially as we age, instructors should also go over ways to make exercises less scary and thus safer.

I’m Too Busy

You might hear: I’m too busy to exercise; I don’t have time

Many people of all ages don’t realize that exercise does not need to take place at any specific location or at any specific time. Really, exercise is one of those things that shouldn’t be made more complicated than it has to be, and can be made to fit into your daily schedule. Exercises can even be performed in smaller bouts of 10–15 minutes that are repeated a couple times throughout the day, or even simpler exercises that can be connected to certain parts of their routine. Older adults might find exercise to be easier once it is part of a routine.

How to address this: Fitness instructors should guide these older adults on how they can add simple exercises to their daily routines. One example could be practicing a single-legged stance while waiting for their morning coffee to brew.

It’s Too Boring

You might hear: Exercise is boring; exercise is not enjoyable

Most individuals today seem to dread working out and look at it as something that just needs to get done to check it off the to-do list. People often associate exercise with repetitive movements that may be viewed as boring. However, there are a lot of different ways for older adults to make fitness an enjoyable part of their everyday life.

For example, they could take up a sport (such as golf, hiking, or swimming), take a walk with a friend, play with grandchildren, work in the garden, or even take a group fitness class. The key is to at least keep the body in motion, because some movement versus no movement can still be beneficial to their health.

How to address this: Fitness instructors can easily inspire older adults to look at some alternatives that they haven’t considered before but would likely find enjoyable. Instructors can also add components to group fitness classes to make them seem more fun and enjoyable, and less like exercise.

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The next time you hear one of these excuses from an older fitness client, you’ll know how to encourage them to overcome the misconception and keep moving.

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Topics: balance senior fitness group fitness exercise and aging why older adults don't exercise

Nutrition and Exercise Are the Keys to Healthy Aging

GettyImages-482817556 (1)The more we age, the less we move, and the more we start to take our health for granted, especially if we have been “healthy” for most of our lives. We often hear about the need to exercise more as we get older, but what about the nutrition aspect? Eating healthy foods is just as important as exercising. There are some good practices and tricks to maintaining a healthy diet and exercising plan as we age.

Why Healthy Eating Is Important

The first thing you must understand is why it is so important to eat healthier as you age. The number-one benefit is lowering risk of having chronic diseases such as cancer, heart conditions, diabetes, and bone disorders. Exercising and healthy eating work together, especially when talking about weight management.

Everyone Is Different

Individuality is a key component, and it’s very touchy when talking about exercise and the nutrition that goes with that because everyone responds to certain foods and exercise differently. Talking to a medical professional about a healthy weight based on age is a good starting point.

Choosing the Right Foods

The best and worst part of nutrition is deciding what foods to eat and which ones you will need to avoid from now on. The more we age, the more our plates should look like a salad bowl rather than an egg carton. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk, seafood, and lean meats are all good food sources to consider when taking a better approach to healthy eating. Avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar, salt, and butter, and fewer nutrients.

Portion Control

Before thinking about a healthy exercise plan, understand that you do not need to eat as much as you did when you were younger. Portion control is very real and can be the deciding factor when it comes to gaining or losing weight. Tips for avoiding overeating include

  • Don’t let yourself be distracted by entertainment and lose track of how much you’re eating.
  • Read about the nutritional facts on food labels.
  • Once you are full, stop eating.
  • Avoid going out to eat because restaurants give more food than they should.
  • Try to cook meals at home that look like a salad bowl.
  • Store leftovers in the fridge before you make plates.

Evaluate Your Physical Activity Needs and Find an Activity You Like

Aging happens every day, so take a step back and evaluate what needs your body has when it comes to physical activity. The first step of being active is talking to a physician about precautions you should take, especially if it has been a while since your last physical activity session. Aerobic endurance, resistance training, and balance should be the focus when it comes to being active and aging. The ACSM guidelines for adults and aerobic endurance is at least 150 minutes of moderate activity. Older adults should strive for at least 2 days of strengthening their muscles, and they should practice improvements on balance at least 3 days a week.

Physical activity does not have to be in a fitness center; finding something to enjoy is the key, such as corn toss, pickleball, shuffleboard, water aerobics, Tai Chi, yoga, or pool volleyball. Of course a balance class also helps meet goals for active older adults who are driven to exercise.

Aging can be challenging and unpredictable, but with both healthy eating and exercise, it can be easier and more fun.

Click below for our free download on the benefits of meeting with a nutrition coach.

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Topics: nutrition weight management healthy eating exercise and aging healthy aging

Water Volleyball Tournament Is the Definition of Active Aging Week 2018

Active Aging Week is always an exciting time for the NIFS Active Aging team. Our team members work hard to create opportunities for the residents ranging from sports, recreation, and trivia to meditation, education, and beyond with the goal of celebrating a positive view of aging. NIFS staff members across the country went above and beyond this year to encourage residents to step outside of their comfort zones and celebrate actively aging all week.

This spirit was most certainly demonstrated by the water volleyball tournament that took place between our senior living sites in Chicago, IL, and Lincolnwood, IL this year. I had the opportunity to speak with both Ruth, the NIFS Fitness Manager at Lincolnwood, and Leah, the NIFS Fitness Manager at Chicago, to see how the day went. Check it out!

NIFS | Seniors playing water volleyball

Q: What inspired the idea of a water volleyball tournament between Lincolnwood and Chicago?

Ruth: I really wanted to put together more activities between our Illinois sites, and water volleyball seemed like a great way to get our residents together and get to know the other community. Leah did a great job of getting her residents to practice and actually come with their A game this year. I really would like to host chair volleyball tournaments to include Wyndemere as well since they don’t have a pool.

Leah: Last year, Lincolnwood came to the Chicago site to play water volleyball. We assembled a team for the event without ever practicing. The Lincolnwood players told the Chicago players that they “skunked us,” and that didn’t sit so well with our competitive residents. A rematch with Lincolnwood was one of the first requests I received when I started in Chicago last March. From there it was just a matter of timing, and we thought tying it into Active Aging Week was a great idea!

Q: So, let’s get the obvious question out of the way…who won?

Leah: I’m proud to say we brought the Poinsettia Trophy home this year. We had several residents who had played last year say they would only play this year if we practiced first. I put four practice times on the schedule, and the players enjoyed it so much they requested two additional practices. They were taking no chances this year and their hard work showed…we “skunked” them!

Ruth: Yeah, yeah they beat us...this year! We have an ongoing water volleyball group here at Lincolnwood that meets on Saturday mornings. They have a team resident leader, and honestly they were overly confident this year and really didn’t play to their full potential. Nonetheless, we loved having the Chicago team here and enjoyed the time together since we do a lunch afterwards as well.

Q: What do you think the residents enjoyed the most about the tournament?

Leah: Play is one of the best things you can do for your mind, body, and soul; and unfortunately, it seems like we lose sight of that as we age. This tournament gave our residents the opportunity to reconnect with their younger selves, become part of a supportive team, play, and have fun! Our team is a competitive bunch. They were jumping, leaping, and diving for the ball. One resident told me after the tournament that being on this team was the best workout and the most fun she had had in years.

Ruth: Definitely promoting water volleyball is a way to reach out to our residents as another form of exercise beyond the standard fitness classes. They love the competition aspect and really enjoy developing as players, regardless of their age! Many of them played volleyball throughout their life.

Q: Were there any surprises? Anything that stands out from the day?

Leah: My residents were shocked and not too happy to find the beach ball at Lincolnwood was quite a lot bigger and heavier than the ball we have at Chicago. It really threw the team off during the first game (which is the only game we lost at the tournament). It was fun to see them adjust their style of playing.

Ruth: We actually were equally surprised last year when we had to play with a smaller-version volleyball; perhaps we need to come up with an in-between ball. I think the biggest surprise for us was how prepared the Chicago players were, their setups were definitely practiced.

Leah: There were many highlights of the day, but the thing that stood out to me most was the game-winning point of the final game. There was so much tension in the air as our resident made the final serve. When the ball dropped to the water and scored the final point, the Chicago residents just erupted with a cheer. On our way home the team asked if we could continue to play once a week and open it up to all senior living residents. It is now on our schedule every Wednesday at 1 pm!

Ruth: The good news is that our players surprised me by not being upset over the loss; they embraced the camaraderie among both communities. They also appreciated the positive comments regarding the pool size and the luncheon, but they are excited about next year and heading back to playing at The Clare.

Q: Do you have any advice for fitness staff who want to host a similar tournament in their community?

Leah: I definitely recommend having a few practices before playing an actual game and communicating with the other facility about towels and water. The site in Chicago provides towels at the pool, but Lincolnwood does not, so I was thankful Ruth let me know that in advance so we were prepared.

I’d be sure to clarify the rules with the players before the game.

Ruth was kind enough to coordinate a buffet lunch after the tournament so all of the players got to enjoy a lunch together. Timing wise, we allowed 30 minutes between arriving at Lincolnwood and starting the game, and 30 minutes between the last game and lunch. We could have done 20 minutes between each instead because our residents transitioned more quickly than expected. In addition to the Poinsettia Trophy, Ruth also prepared a laminated certificate for the winning team, which we framed and will hang in our pool area. The residents are extremely proud of the certificate and have brought their grandkids in to show them.

Ruth: Ditto on the above. Have those rules laid out in advance so all the players understand before the tournament and set up practices months to weeks before the actual game! It really is just a fun way to bring communities together and showcase NIFS’s work in providing programs that continue to encourage a “healthy lifestyle” for both the mind and body to equal active aging!

Thanks for sharing, Ruth and Leah!

To learn more about partnering with NIFS to manage your senior living community, click the link below. 

Partner with NIFS to improve your senior living community

Topics: water active aging week, competition senior living activities exercise and aging activities calendar senior living adding fun to senior fitness

Senior Fitness: Don't be afraid to go back to the basics

In every fitness center setting it seems that the goal is to provide the most up-to-date, “trendy” group fitness classes and personal training. And while I agree that trying to offer something new and exciting is very important, I also think that sometimes we need to bring fitness back to the basics.

NIFS | seniors seated stretching

This is very important at a senior living setting. Many of our senior living communities support active living for several hundred people and providing fitness services appropriate for every fitness level can be challenging. It easy to cater to the “most active” group of participants. But we wanted to make sure we were reaching as many different residents as possible, so our fitness center staff challenged ourselves to take it back to the basics by providing a personalized group training that focused on the “bare bones” of exercise. And let me tell you, it has been some of the most rewarding work I’ve done to date! 

While I can’t deny that fitness professionals get a thrill out of providing a tough workout in a high intensity class and hearing “that was hard,” I can honestly say that providing an appropriate workout for those who need to take it back to the basics of fitness is also just as thrilling. Being able to coach a member to stand up from his chair independently when he hasn't been able to in a long time can make your heart swell with pride for his accomplishment. 

Now I’m taking that “back to basics” challenge to you dear reader. If you work in a senior fitness setting, take a look at your membership. Start identifying the needs of your members who struggle with standing, walking, overall balance, basic strength, and most importantly their confidence! One of the criteria we used when we started evaluating who might benefit most from “back to basics” programming was to begin with members who tend to get a little behind in class and do not reap the full the benefits. 

Once you build that member list, start reaching out individually to target specific fitness and functional living needs. Then watch how your overall participation numbers grow and how the increased confidence of some of your more frail residents helps them gain additional strength for every day needs. This experience has surprised me; I didn’t expect that getting back to the basics would be so rewarding and exciting, but it has been an absolute joy. Have a similar story to share? Respond the comments below.

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Topics: active aging group fitness for seniors senior group fitness classes resident fitness exercise and aging fitness for frail seniors

Senior Fitness: Common Myths about Fitness as You Age

Aging is a natural and guaranteed process. You can’t stop getting older. This doesn’t mean you have to concede to the idea that getting older means being less than what you were in younger decades of life. Being regularly active is an important part of aging well, and yet, working in the active aging fitness industry, I have seen many older adults have come up with a plethora of excuses to not exercise. Here are some common myths that older adults use to avoid exercise and my tips for how to address them.

NIFS | Seniors Stretching

I’m too old.

I think we can agree that this is very outdated; the research tells us you're never too old to move your body. There have been many studies showing that staying physically active all of your life positively outweighs aging while sitting still. But, I think there is a hidden meaning in “I’m too old.” i think it's more about change than it is about age. People like to stick to their routines, older adults are no exception, and what folks often mean when they say, “I’m too old” is that exercise is out of their comfort zone. It’s a blanket answer to get the fitness monkey off their back.

In reality, they are scared to change and may need a boost from you to help get them thinking more positively. One of the ways that I help the residents who use this saying as their mantra is by engaging them in a non-physical meet and greet activity. I introduce them to other active aging residents who enjoy classes, recreational offerings, and the fitness center. The idea is not to talk to them the whole time about why they should join the fitness center and all of the great benefits, because, deep down, they already know. The idea is to get them around a group of people that they can turn to and make friends with. They are more likely to commit if they have a buddy.

[Read our Senior Fitness blog: What's the Point of Exercising]

I have an injury.

Injuries are not to be taken lightly and as a fitness professional, I definitely have a medical release secured prior to engaging a resident in exercise. If you receive an “all clear” from the doc, an older adult client who is still leaning on the injury excuse may be in fact fearful that their injury is going to get worse or come back if they embark on regular exercise. But if you present yourself as an educated professional (because you’ve done your research), you can coach the individual in safe and effective exercises. Despite your efforts, not everyone will get on board, but the more they trust you in your profession, the more likely you are to have them participate and start leading a healthier lifestyle.

I like to keep to myself.

This can be a difficult one. Introverts, especially older introverts, may need a little extra push to get moving. The best way I have found to engage with these individuals is by finding out what they enjoy doing. When speaking to them one-on-one, I relate to their interests and try to form a bond. Slowly, they start to come around. These residents normally enjoy one-on-one appointments or scheduled times when not too many people are in the fitness center.

Knowing your population’s needs is half the battle. Establishing a positive connection with your audience is how you are going to get them to be more active and engaged. Remember, it can be really scary to start something new. Being understanding and taking the time to help them find their niche is one of the most important things you can do as a fitness professional.

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Topics: active aging senior fitnes myths about aging exercise and aging why older adults don't exercise