Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Employee Health: Imagine Your Fitness Success

Sometimes, it's just plain tough to get through a workout. There are times when I simply don’t feel like working out, or I get halfway through my run and hit the wall. When I find myself in a workout dilemma, I turn to imagery to get me through.

What Is Exercise Imagery?

There are three main types of exercise imagery:

  • Energy: Energy imagery refers to imagining a situation or workout that felt great and provided you with energy. For example, imagine the best run you ever had, the smell of the fresh-cut grass, the sound of your repetitive breath, and the feeling of your feet hitting the pavement in a rhythmic motion. This can provide you with an improved mental state to push through and finish your workout.
  • Appearance: Appearance imagery refers to imagining a slim, trim, and healthier you. When you just don’t feel like hitting the corporate fitness program boot-camp class, imagine yourself burning calories, gaining muscle definition, and looking great when you achieve your fitness goal. This can give you that extra push to attend the class or hit the onsite fitness center.
  • Technique: Technique imagery refers to imagining yourself with proper form. For example, when performing a squat, imagine yourself sitting back in a chair with your chest up and your weight in your heels. This type of imagery can provide you with a mind-muscle connection to perform an exercise with proper form.

According to research by the University of Western Ontario, imagery can be a key element in sustaining an exercise program.

How I Use Exercise Imagery

I use imagery in nearly every workout. It keeps me focused and motivated. I’m currently training for a half marathon. During my runs, I picture myself passing spectators, hearing music, and crossing the finish line. All of these things help me to push myself and maintain my exercise regime.

Try implementing imagery in your workout routine.

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness motivation exercise at home

Employee Health: Positive Self-Talk Can Support Your Fitness Efforts

Are there times where you find yourself saying "I can't" or putting yourself down? This negative self-talk is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you consistently tell yourself things like, "I can't do it," "I'll always be fat," and "I'm such a lazy slug," you are talking yourself out of improving and livinThumbsDowng a healthier life. You're setting yourself up to fail. It's true that everyone has failed at a new exercise program or eating plan. But that doesn't mean that you'll fail every time, or that you need to carry that guilt with you. You need to believe that you will succeed.

Turn Your Negative Self-Talk to Positive

It might sound corny, but pay attention to what you say to yourself. As a corporate fitness manager, I consistently hear people say they are fat, ugly, or horrible at an activity. What they really should be saying is how great it is that they are working out, moving their body, or trying a new activity. Focus on the positive.

Did you mess up and eat a greasy hamburger and fries for lunch? Don't beat yourself up about it. Rather, think of all the good things you've eaten in the past week. Assess why you felt you needed that hamburger and fries and devise a plan to be better prepared next time this craving arises. If you practice positive self-talk, over time it will become more the norm, and you'll be surprised at how good and successful you'll feel.

It's Okay to Stretch the Self-Talk Truth a Little

Beyond rethinking negative self-talk, I give myself positive talk even if it's not completely true. For example, when I'm really struggling or feeling the burn of a worksite fitness class, I just tell myself, "Isn't this fun? I love this workout! It's so much fun!" Even though I may not feel that 100 percent, it gives me the motivation and positive feelings I need to make it through the workout.

So nip that negative self-talk in the bud and start feeling good about you! As Stuart Smalley from SNL's "Daily Affirmations" would say, "I'm good enough; I'm smart enough; and doggonit, people like me!"

Topics: employee health overweight employees corporate fitness nutrition motivation exercise at home

Using Music in Corporate Fitness Programs to Pump Up the Motivation

When it comes to exercising, sometimes the music selections are just as important as the physical activity. I am a self-professed music junkie, so I may be biased. But nothing ruins a workout quite like an iPod dying, a CD skipping, or just plain bad music.

Music Helps with Tempo and Motivation

MusicIn the pursuit of my Exercise Science degree, one of my college courses dealt with exercise leadership. We learned how to plan a group fitness class and manage all the dynamics that went into it, music included. We learned what tempos are best for warm-ups, which beats are motivating for the bulk of the exercise, and which styles of songs are conducive for cool-down periods.

Now, after having hands-on experience teaching group fitness in a corporate fitness center, I see how important music choices truly are. Specifically in cycling classes, instructors often lead drills to the beat of the song. Instructors will say phrases like, “One pedal per beat,” as a way of keeping cyclists at the right tempo. When it comes time for a steep hill climb or a round of sprints, nothing can be as powerful as hearing the pulsing beat of your favorite song.

Resources for Making Playlists Easily

With that said, here are a few resources, mostly online, that make music playlists easy. You can use these in corporate fitness programs as well as for your own workouts.

  • Music For Cycling: This website includes playlists for cycling, and also actual bike workouts to go along with them. Some of the playlists are themed, such as “Around the World” or “Halloween Playlist,” making for fun, easy ways to motivate your corporate fitness members.
  • WorkoutMusic.com: Here you can purchase mp3 files of full albums geared toward certain styles of workouts—for example, running or strength training. You can download shorter albums that are great for a quick abs class, or longer playlists for extended activities like running.
  • Magazine playlists (Fitness and Shape): Shape magazine offers a monthly 30-minute playlist. The writer suggests a mix of newer pop songs as well as classic sing-alongs. Fitness magazine publishes a yearly feature in January, listing the best music for cycling, running, walking, weight training, and yoga.
  • iTunes: The iTunes music store can also be a good resource for ideas. You can search for a certain song, and often there will be a cardio remix version that makes the song more upbeat than the original. iTunes also suggests Perfect Playlists: Workout, which you can preview and download all of its songs for $9.99.  
Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program corporate fitness motivation exercise at home resources

What a Healthy Workforce Can Do About Childhood Obesity

Child BurgerChildhood obesity is on the rise. According to the CDC, in 1980 the prevalence of obesity in children aged 6 to 10 was 6.5% compared to 19.6% in 2008. Among adolescents aged 12 to 19, obesity has grown from 5.0% to 18.1%. That is a whopping 13% increase in childhood obesity in 28 years.

At this rate, some believe this will be the first generation of parents to outlive their children. Childhood obesity is an expensive employee health issue now and will continue to be so into the next generation if parents don't intervene. Let's look at the factors parents can control.

What Can I Do as a Parent?

The main responsibility of a parent is ensuring the safety, health, and well being of their child. Children come into this world knowing only what they learn from their parents and immediate surroundings. If your child is carrying around excess weight, as a responsible parent it is your job to explore any avenue you can to keep your child healthy. Here are some ideas to get your child on the road to living a long, healthy life:

  • Teach your child that exercise and play can be fun. The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Treat this as an opportunity to spend quality time together and learn more about what your child enjoys. Explore new activities together like bike riding, going to the park, walking the family pet, jumping in a local bounce house, or joining them in another favorite activity.   
  • Set an example. Children learn from their parents. Your child will generally pick up any habits that you have or practice. Use this to your advantage and keep it in mind in everything you do. If you currently have the luxury of using a corporate fitness facility, take what you have learned and incorporate it into your home life. 
  • Make fresh, healthy foods available. Ultimately, you or your spouse is responsible for the grocery shopping. Bring home a variety of fresh fruits, veggies, and healthy snacks for the family to enjoy together. If you don't buy the bad stuff, it won't be around for them to eat. Your kids don't like produce? Start with the sweeter fruits like strawberries or apples that they are more likely to enjoy. If you need to, keep around a low-sugar or low-fat dip like fat-free CoolWhip for them eat along with fruit.

Take Responsibility for Your Child's Health

Keep these tips in mind as you point your child toward living a healthy lifestyle. Don't hesitate to start taking some personal responsibility for your child's future. We don't want to outlive our children!

Topics: employee health overweight employees nutrition exercise at home control healthcare costs

Physical Activity vs. Exercise: Do Corporate Fitness Programs Care?

Most people use the terms "physical activity" and "exercise" interchangeably, even though there is a difference between the two. Physical activity is movement that causes the muscles to contract, while exercise is structured and helps to maintain or improve physical fitness.

So, is it okay to use these terms interchangeably, or should companies promoting employee health and fitness be sure to specify one over the other? (Ugh, the confusing terms of the fitness industry.)describe the image

Physical Activity Is Easy to Incorporate into Your Day

The biggest bonus to physical activity is that you can be physically active throughout the day by taking the stairs, raking leaves, or parking your car in the back of the parking lot. You can do all of these things at your own leisure when you don’t have time to schedule a workout. And, if you are being physically active to the point where your heart rate is elevated and you feel as though you are working hard, your overall health will benefit.

Scheduled Exercise Makes Employee Health a Priority

I think the biggest question among corporate wellness promoters is, "Will a daily exercise routine benefit employees more in the long run compared to physical activity?" I have mixed emotions on this. By scheduling time to exercise, individuals are making their health a priority and have taken the step to improve their overall well being. But being physically active, beyond activities of daily living, can make a difference in an employee’s health as well.  

If companies want to see the benefit of incorporating corporate fitness into their organization, they can start by encouraging employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator. I can guarantee that once employees make this a habit, their productivity will increase, stress levels will decrease, and they will start asking for more ways to increase physical activity throughout their shift. Or they might even start asking for an onsite fitness center!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program corporate fitness exercise at home

Three Ways to Create Worksite Fitness Opportunities with TRX

TRX is billed as "the original bodyweight Suspension Training system consisting of 12 feet of nylon-webbed straps, handles, and various anchors that can be attached to any sturdy weight-bearing base." Here are some ideas for using it in your corporate fitness program.

  1. TRX adds a new and fun way to take workouts to the next level. At my corporate fitness center, we just bought a TRX for our members, and it’s created quite a buzz both for Man PullUp resized 600members and my staff. In fact, the first time I ever used it I couldn’t walk very well the next day due to muscle soreness. I had worked my muscles in a new way and it was a great feeling (at least to me!).
  2. TRX doesn’t take up much space. It can be placed around a secure post or pole, or you can purchase door anchors for the unit. You can put it up and take it down easily. You really only need enough space to complete the exercises. If you have available meeting room space or a storage closet, the TRX is a great way to convert that space into a worksite fitness center.
  3. TRX is great for cardio and strength. For example, you can do a one-leg burpee followed by a pushup, and then go into a knee tuck for an abdominal exercise. These unique upper- and lower-body exercises will help keep your body from reaching a plateau.
Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program worksite wellness exercise at home

Choose a Corporate Fitness Program Over Exercising in High Humidity

Protect Employees from Dangers of HumidityIf you don't exercise on a regular basis, a hot and humid summer day is not the time to start. Don’t get me wrong; I think you should start exercising as soon as you have the motivation. But maybe you should do it inside if it’s extremely humid outside. Exercising in the humidity intensifies everything and can also be dangerous.

Humidity's Effects on Your Body

You need to be careful because if your body is not used to exercise, the humidity can put you at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Your body produces heat during exercise which, combined with the heat outside, can inable your body to cool itself down.

I have experienced humidity first hand living in Indiana all my life. I run outside a lot. Just when I think I’m improving with speed or distance, I go out and run on a humid day and that puts me back in my place. This past summer it was extremely hard for me to run outside. Each try was a struggle, which took away my motivation.

I spent a week in South Carolina over the summer and if I didn’t get up to run by 8 am, I couldn’t because of the humidity. Humidity breaks down your body, causes difficulty with breathing and makes you sweat profusely. That is why it’s important to drink plenty of water prior to, during, and after your exercise.

Consider Your Worksite Health Options on Humid Days

Your worksite exercise staff should have a temperature chart to determine the degree of danger for outdoor exercise. If it’s dangerously hot, check out your worksite health options. Take it inside on the elliptical or treadmill at your onsite fitness center or even in your living room with a DVD. Check with your corporate fitness center staff for other indoor options. Get a schedule of the classes they offer or new equipment that will keep you safe and out of the heat and humidity.

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program exercise at home

Managing Stress Increases Productivity, Employee Health

manage employee stressAlthough each day may technically be a new day, today brings the stresses of yesterday and the preparations of tomorrow. Nowadays a 40-hour work week is hard to come by, and going home without work is even harder to swing. With all of this added work comes added stress.

Untreated Employee Stress Is Bad for Business

Stress that is not dealt with properly can lead to negative outcomes. The outcome you will be least excited about is loss of productivity. Along with loss of productivity comes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, headaches, upset stomach, and chest pain, and it can even worsen certain ailments employees already have.

According to an annual Harris Interactive Attitudes in the American Workplace survey, 83% of Americans reported they are at least a little stressed at work, and nearly half said they need help in learning how to manage stress.

Consider the following tips to keep your stress at bay.

Develop a Wellness and Fitness Program or add Stress Management to Your Offerings

If your company doesn't offer a worksite wellness program, get busy creating one! Worksite wellness programs offer great resources for employees to better their health, including stress management. A healthy and stress-free employee equals more productivity for the company, so it's a win for both! (See the Wellness Council of America's site for tips.)

Encourage Employees To Use Deep Breathing Techniques

Deep breathing counteracts the increased heart rate and blood pressure that happen when the body is under stress. It is one of the best ways to stay calm when the body wants to do the opposite, and it can be done anywhere. When you breathe deeply, you are sending a message to your brain and body to relax. Next time your employees feel stressed on the job, have them try these steps:

  1. Sit up straight and exhale completely through your mouth.  
  2. Place your hands on your stomach and slowly inhale through your mouth, pushing your hands out with your stomach.
  3. Hold the inhale for two to five seconds and slowly exhale.
  4. Repeat until you feel relaxed.

Encourage Exercise As A Lifestyle, Including at Work!

We've all heard about how exercise can help you maintain heart health and manage a healthy weight, but exercise can also be a great form of stress relief. Physical activity not only boosts the release of those feel-good endorphins (and in turn boosting your mood); it can also improve sleep that can so often be disrupted by stress.

If you or your employees aren't currently exercising, start slow. Choose an activity that you enjoy and maybe even consider including your friends. Making it a social activity can give you a stress-relieving social network and make you more likely to stick with the program.

The Results Are Worth the Effort

Learning to manage stress in healthy ways will keep your employees producing the work your want to see as well as keep them sane during the process. You are only as good as your body allows, and it needs to be healthy in order to perform at the top. Make every day a new day by dealing with the stresses of yesterday and breathing through the thoughts of tomorrow.  

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work employee health healthy workforce corporate fitness worksite wellness exercise at home productivity

Corporate Fitness Programs: Improving Functional Capacity Every Day

Functional capacity and your jobIn previous posts, I have talked about functional capacity and how corporate fitness programs and senior fitness classes are using this concept to improve workouts and make them more beneficial to everyday life.

But what about the average person? How can they improve their functional capacity? Should they even seek to? Everyone, whether young or simply young at heart, can and should strive to improve their functional capacity.

Start By Evaluating Your Own Life.

What types of movements do you typically utilize? What does your day consist of? From here, seek out someone who can help you design an exercise program to help you improve directly on the movements and muscles you most frequently use in your day:

  • If you are on your feet a lot and on the move, starting a running or walking program can help improve your endurance, making your job that much easier.
  • If you are glued to a chair the majority of your day, you may find it beneficial to work on the strength of the muscles in your upper back, neck, and shoulders to ward off any pain and changes in posture that may be lingering.
  • If you are a recreational athlete, utilizing a program that will help you improve in a way that directly benefits your sport skills can be an exciting challenge. Fitness has evolved, and gone are the days of sitting down and doing bicep curls and triceps kickbacks every workout.

Join the movement and strive to get on your feet more, move, and train your body in the way in which it works every day. The improvements you’ll experience in both your health and your performance in everyday activities will be well worth it.

Topics: exercise at work employee health corporate fitness program muscle toning exercise at home senior center solutions productivity

Exercising at work - use music to move more

 

Working Out with MusicI have always wondered how people can exercise without music. Music is one of the main reasons I exercise! When I get a break at work or on a Saturday morning, I look forward to listening to my music while I burn a few calories.

Working in onsite corporate fitness management, I see a lot of different types of people on a daily basis. While some members want only the TV on for noise, most have their own iPods and headphones so they can hear whatever type of music motivates them. Sometimes, while I’m looking out the window in my office watching people work out, I try to imagine what type of music they are listening to. I think it’s entertaining because I’m sure most of the time I’m way off.

Music Can Help Your Workout

I personally find music very motivating. It helps to take my mind off the sweat running in my eyes and my lower-body muscles fatiguing out. I can also play mind games with myself using my music as motivation. For example, I will speed up the treadmill or increase the resistance on the elliptical for the length of the song. This helps me to work harder and in turn burn more calories.

Music Tempo Can Affect Your Workout

I have discovered that I need to have mostly upbeat music because I move to the tempo of the song. For example, on the stair climber I find myself slowing down or speeding up according to the beat of the music. That’s why most group fitness CDs have warm-up and cool-down songs. This helps to get the body and brain in the mode to exercise and then to relax afterward.

Your Music Challenge

Discover tunes that motivate you and make a playlist that includes slower tempos for warm up and cool down and faster tempos for working hard and burning calories. (Add links to some sample playlists).

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