Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Creating Purpose for Residents in Senior Living

MMFC_Becca with member-1Fitness management is the cornerstone of our business. Recently we have seen an uptick in clients requesting our support in developing broader wellness programming for their residents through the continuums of care. Sometimes the need arises due to challenges with community personnel who don’t have the tools and resources to cultivate the desired lifestyle for residents. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have a point person to pull everyone together out of their silos across the continuums. Sometimes it’s both! Sound familiar?

How Well Is Your Community Collaborating on Purposeful Programs?

Ask yourself a few questions about how well your community is collaborating and building programs with purpose and intention:

  • Do activities staff collaborate regularly on program and service options across departments and disciplines such as dining, fitness, health services, the chaplain, and the social worker?
  • Do activities staff across all continuums of care collaborate regularly on programs and services and work toward common goals together?
  • Is your calendar full of activities to keep your residents busy (for example, cards, movies, speakers, shopping trips, and so on), or is your calendar crafted with activities that create purpose for residents?

A Visit with a Senior Living Client in New Jersey

I provided a solution to these answers during a recent visit with a senior living client in New Jersey. We have been providing our traditional fitness management services to this client for the past four years. The approach we discussed was shifting our degreed and certified staff into a Wellness Director role, who maintains fitness duties in the fitness center while also facilitating a strong collaborative approach with activities personnel in independent living and health care.

This particular client has come to expect creative and diverse program offerings from our Fitness Manager. Events offered last month for Active Aging Week included Yoga Poses and Doggy Noses (yep, that’s yoga with dogs folks), a Blood Drive, and Movies & Smoothies. Past events included their Polar Plunge, Mind Moves, and Healthy Habit Bingo. As the client recognizes the experiences we create for residents that promote engagement and movement versus sit-and-listen events, they begin to lean on us to support them more broadly outside the realm of fitness. We are also seeing a strong desire for the standard of programming cultivated within independent living to carry consistently through assisted living and health care environments. But we are aware of the struggle communities have to bring that to fruition.

NIFS Staff Members Make the Difference

Our strength lies in the people we hire—in their ability to build exceptional relationships with the residents who participate in their programs and also with the staff at the community with whom they collaborate regularly. Their background as health and fitness professionals empowers them with program solutions to support whole-person well-being. The tools and resources they have behind them from NIFS create the space for strategic planning with key stakeholders in resident well-being.

We essentially become a champion for your community by fueling ideas, breaking down the silos, and getting everyone working from the same playbook on a new standard of program and service offerings. If you are interested in hearing more about NIFS's support of broader wellness programming within your senior living communities, contact me or read on.

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Topics: senior fitness management functional movement resident engagement senior living activities activities calendar senior living nifs staff

Focusing on Flexibility in Fitness: Stretching’s Role in Workouts

ThinkstockPhotos-607478378.jpgAfter a workout, it’s important to relax your mind and body. A great way to make sure the muscles are relaxed after a workout is to stretch. Many people overlook the importance of flexibility in fitness, not realizing that with improved flexibility you can enhance your workouts.

Even just adding in 5 to 10 minutes of stretching after a workout is better than nothing! You do not have to set aside 30 minutes a day for flexibility; quick sessions after a workout are great to relieve the tension in your muscles. When I stretch after a workout session, I can tell I have a better range of motion, my muscles are pliable, and the stress from the workout eases tremendously. Most mornings when I wake up, it’s a struggle to even be able to touch my toes. With a quick stretch, I am instantly moving better.

Flexibility’s Role in Functional Movement

Flexibility is often overlooked because it’s not something seen as a component of health and wellness. When it comes to exercise, most people are looking to lose weight, run faster, lift heavier weights, and become a stronger person overall. They fail to realize that when you improve your flexibility, you will also increase your workout performance as well as increase your ability to tackle everyday activities (functional fitness).

As we age, we know it becomes increasingly difficult to be as mobile as we were before. Bones become more fragile and muscles tend to lose elasticity. This is where flexibility really comes into play. When you keep up with stretching and loosening those muscles daily with flexibility, you are increasing your body’s range of motion. With a greater range of motion comes the ease of accomplishing everyday activities.

The Best Time to Stretch

When’s the best time to stretch? The best time to static stretch is after a workout. Many of us have been taught that it is important to warm up the muscles with stretching before exercise. Many scientists have determined that is not the case. Stretching the muscles before an intense exercise session can do more harm to them than good; it may actually inhibit the ability for the muscle to fire when it is supposed to.

It is important to warm the muscles up with dynamic movements versus static. Dynamic exercises will activate the reflexes in the muscles and tendons, whereas static stretching is just pulling on the muscles before they are warmed up. Static stretching is best after exercise during recovery because it helps the body cool down from a workout; the muscles are warm from the workout, making them easier to stretch.

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Topics: stretching recovery workouts functional movement flexibility

Practical Senior Fitness and Functional Movement for Every Body

So what’s so practical about going to the gym, anyway? We can always find a million and one good reasons not to go. The dishes aren’t done, I haven’t finished reading the newspaper, the laundry is piling up, I have a headache, it’s too nice to be stuck inside, I’ve had a bad day…the list of excuses can go on and on. So why even bother?

The good news is that you don’t have to work out. But with every yin there is a yang, and the bad news is that if you choose not to exercise, you can expect to have a tougher time, especially as you get older, with simple daily tasks.

What Happens When You Can’t Perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?

At this point in your life I bet you can’t imagine not being able to walk up and down a flight of stairs, or losing the ability to dress yourself or brush your own hair. These are simple activities of daily living that we tend to take for granted. I can’t imagine entrusting my 5-year-old nephew with picking out clothes and putting them on me. I would probably have on a t-shirt with dinosaurs or a front-end loader on it, a pair of warmup pants (on backward, of course), and slip-on Wellie boots on the wrong feet. So thank goodness I can manage to get myself together and pick out my own clothes at this point in my life—and walk up and down the stairs to pick out said clothes, and get myself to work, or out to dinner with my husband, or on a walk with the dogs.

So how do we lose the ability to do functional movements that seem mundane at this point in our lives? It all boils down to inactivity. Sure, there are a lot of other issues that can compound the simple act of avoiding movement and exercise. But the act of avoiding movement and exercise on its own is enough, over time, and added to the natural muscular wasting or atrophy that occurs as we age, creates a perfect storm of problems that can seem insurmountable.

We need movement, especially weight-bearing exercises, to keep our muscles healthy and vital. As we age (Newsflash: we are all getting older; by the time you get to the end of this blog, you will be 10 minutes older), our bodies are less able to both maintain and create new muscle. Once you reach age 70, this issue begins to accelerate. By age 80 the problem has moved into the fast lane, and boy does she have a lead foot. 

The Senior Fitness Solution: Keep Moving and Staying ActiveThinkstockPhotos-463464655.jpg

This wasting process makes daily activities increasingly more difficult. And now we are back to the idea of going to the gym, because we don’t want our legs to shrivel up like a worm that sits in the sun too long. But we still have the same old excuses. So what to do? Do the things that you want to continue to maintain your ability to do.

  • Going up and down stairs: You still want to walk up and down the stairs? Take 10 to 15 minutes a day and briskly walk up and down the stairs. If you don’t have a staircase, use the curb outside or buy an aerobic step riser from a sporting goods store.
  • Getting in and out of chairs (or on or off the toilet): Another key exercise for leg strength is a modified squat, or what we call a sit to stand (and it’s also good for balance). Sitting on the edge of a sturdy chair, trying not to use your arms, come up to a standing position. Then sit back down. Imagine you are sitting on a lemon meringue pie. Don’t splat it out; sit on it gently. Don’t stay in the chair. Just touch it with your rear end and then push back up. Try 2 or 3 sets of 10.
  • Dressing yourself and performing ADLs: Want to still be able to dress yourself and brush your own hair? Do modified pushups or wall pushups! Two sets of 10 per day will be more than adequate. Add in some weights (you can just use soup cans) and do some overhead presses and a few bicep curls and reverse flys to activate the upper body. Stick with the idea of doing the exercises until the muscles fatigue, usually after 20 to 30 repetitions. Add in a few planks for core strength. If planks are out of your league right now, just do some bent-leg lifts while on your back on the floor.

All of this is probably within your reach now. But why don’t you take a few minutes after you finish reading this blog to test out your abilities. Do all the stuff I outlined above, with not too much of a break in between, and see how you do. If it is a little or a lot tough, keep at it! It will get easier, and you will still be able to brush your hair and get off the toilet as you age! I’d say that active aging is a reward in and of itself.

Check out more great ideas like this from our staff!  Click below for more best practices from NIFS.

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Topics: active aging senior fitness staying active core strength ADL planks activities of daily living functional movement