Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

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 senior group fitness classes group fitness for seniors exercise and aging resident fitness fitness for frail seniors

What's Missing From Your Resident Fitness Program and How To Fix It

NIFS | Senior Group Fitness

I hear from a lot of leadership in senior living communities who know that there's more that could be done with their resident exercise program, but they aren't sure how to get their staff to ramp things up. If you find yourself in this situation, check out the list below for common challenges and opportunities to do better for your residents.

Our participation is lower than it should be.

There are a few reasons that participation in your fitness program might run lower than it should.  The first thing to determine is whether you have reliable data about who is participating. When we  start working with a community, we often learn that they may have total (or estimated) counts for group fitness class participation and that's the end of their program data.  

  • Start by tracking participation per resident. You'll have more reliable information about who is participating, how frequently they attend, and what they participate in. You'll also gain knowledge about who isn't coming to the fitness center and/or classes.
  • If your staff can deliver on individual services for residents, add fitness and balance testing along with exercise prescriptions to provide residents who aren't participating with the support they need to feel safe and inspired to begin an exercise program.

[Read More: 4 Strategies to Engage More Residents in Your Exercise Program]

Our group fitness class calendar needs a do-over.

It's common for the group fitness class calendar to get set on autopilot without critical evaluation of what needs to be updated.

  • Start by using the participation data to figure out which classes really deserve a spot on your calendar.
  • The balance classes our staff teach in our client communities are by far the most popular format. If you don't have dedicated balance training classes on the calendar, add them now. It's not enough to have balance training mixed in with a strength class or another blended format.
  • Carefully consider class descriptions; how you word group fitness opportunities for residents can make a big difference in what resonates with a previously inactive audience.

We need to be offering more fun programs.

Creating fun and inspiring programs to invite more participation in the fitness center is one of the best parts of the job! It's really central to how our staff are supporting residents in the client fitness centers we manage. Consider that engaging programs should be more than just fun; they should be built strategically to meet a specific goal. For example, NIFS Fitness Freeze program was a solid solution to combat the traditional fitness center visit decline we see in December each year. Or, think more holistically about Active Aging Week and use National Senior Health and Fitness Day to offer non-traditional options for physical activity.

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If you're committed to keeping your fitness staff in house, then they need some support to start improving what they're offering your residents. Our eBook on how to turn your fitness center from vacant to vibrant is a great next step.

Take your fitness center from vacant to vibrant >

Topics: senior fitness group fitness for seniors fitness for seniors senior wellness programs

Improve your senior living fitness program by outsourcing the staff

If you believe it's time to offer more to current residents and prospects through your exercise program, but you're not quite sure what that "more" entails or how to get there, outsourcing might make a lot of sense for your community.

Outsourcing isn't just for therapy

The primary benefit to looking at a partner for management of any area of your community is the value of the depth and breadth of the firm's experience. Communities don't think twice about outsourcing therapy but when it comes to taking a closer look at the reasons to outsource management of the fitness center and related programming, I sometimes get blank stares from leadership. And I can't explain it. Certainly, how we provide service, the nature of our contracts with our clients, and the credentials of the staff we provide for community fitness is different from therapy groups, but the overall concept is the same. If you want an expert-run fitness program, you have to work with the experts. 

I’ve had the opportunity to work with NIFS for many years with multiple communities and I can say without exception that they have taken the wellness program in our communities to a new level. They are the best in the industry at what they do, and I would not hesitate bringing them in to any senior housing community that I am affiliated with. Our communities are stronger with NIFS on their team.  ~Mick Feauto, COO, LifeSpire of Virginia

NIFS math | LeadingAge | Senior Living

NIFS Math

NIFS staff in your community are backed by an our organization that is uniquely focused on the specific work of elevating your fitness program. We're regularly supporting continuing education for our team and we have a proven model for effectively sharing resources so our clients get far more than the one NIFS manager on the ground. We like to call it "NIFS math" where 1 + 1 = 3.

 

What to expect from your fitness program

4399_KF_3163.jpgYou need your fitness center to be a hallmark, a standout for the community. For your current residents, it should be one of the most praised offerings both because the staff are well-loved and because they are effective at keeping residents engaged with new, consistent, well-done offerings. The fitness program should also be on the list of reasons prospective residents choose your community. But if the group fitness calendar and the personal training services look the same as all the competition, and if you don't have the necessary data to tell key stories about how resident's lives have been improved by participating, then you're missing out on an opportunity.

NIFS clients see a lot of value in their partnerships because they gain much more than "just a trainer" for their gym. Check out some of the services we provide that aren't common to most community fitness programs:

  • Balance Redefined includes rich programming and services focused specifically on balance training and fall prevention; our Balance Redefined offerings were built from, and regularly evolve because of our experience with dozens of communities over the last 15 years.
  • Key data points for the fitness program are regularly reported and smartly used to continuously improve what we're offering in each client setting. From tracking participation per resident to evaluating outcomes and goals on our programs, we are constantly checking in on and reporting our progress.
  • Reaching residents in assisted living and memory care environments with quality fitness services can be a real challenge. Our staff provide that outreach through strong relationships with community lifestyle coordinators. Modified balance assessments, group classes, personal training, and hybrid health-related programming are all tailored for the unique needs of residents in those settings.

[Related Content: 4 Keys to Getting Data You Can Actually Use]

Find out how you can put NIFS math to work in your community. Contact us or stop by and see us at the LeadingAge Expo.  We'll be hanging out with our calculators doing NIFS math in booth #1261.

Topics: leading age LeadingAge fitness center for seniors senior living communities CCRC fitness center senior fitness management group fitness for seniors senior fitness

Balance Redefined: Fall prevention moves beyond the group fitness calendar

In my last post about our launch of Balance Redefined, I wrote about the importance of building a group fitness calendar that includes stand-alone balance classes. Now I want to address how your community can move beyond the classes on the calendar to build a wrap-around fall prevention program.

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In truth, if you want to cultivate a robust balance program, you'll have to get more people than just your fitness center manager to the table. Here's how we make that happen for our clients:

 

 

[Related Content: How NIFS fitness managers spend their time]

  • Partnerships: Therapy, home health and nursing staff are invited to observe a balance class to aid in resident referrals for those who could benefit. Many of the therapy teams we partner with will provide patients with a handout of exercises to continue upon discharge from their services with additional instructions to participate in the balance class. Our staff are involved in the discharge plan and participate in a hand off of a resident from their therapy regimen to a preventive program in the fitness center.
  • Assessments: Using the Fullerton Advance Balance Test protocols in conjunction with the Senior Fitness Test, we assess how a resident’s vestibular, somatosensory, and/or visual senses impact their balance. Based on the results, we prescribe specific exercises to improve specific areas of weakness. We believe strongly that working with residents to identify the underlying cause of a balance deficiency opens the door to further educating and empowering the individual on a path to improved well-being both emotionally and physically.
  • Education: Empowering residents through education and resources on fall prevention is key to improving confidence and helping residents identify the services best suited to their needs. NIFS offers an array of educational programs ranging from fall prevention lectures partnered with the therapy department, to seminars on coaching residents how to fall safely or get up from the ground, as well as signs/symptoms to look for with concussions and the long-term impact one can have on a senior’s stability.
  • Balance Fairs: Think Health Fair with a creative twist to showcase everything balance and fall prevention related! This collaborative effort taps into internal and external partners to communicate services and resources for residents. Examples of vendors for the fair include an assistive device tune-up clinic from rehab, a balance assessments from the fitness staff, a "balance your plate" booth from dining services, a local podiatry practice educating on proper footwear, the community pharmacist speaking about medication side effects, internal clinic/health services offering blood pressure screenings, a local chiropractor providing posture checks, and more.

This may be a unique approach for your community, and if you don't have adequate fitness staff in place, it could seem like a heavy lift. If you need to rally your staff around the concept, forward on this blog to start the conversation, or download our quick read on the importance of balance training. With services ranging from fun balance circuits to balance sessions using the Wii Fit or Biodex Balance System to aquatic balance programs, prospects will quickly see how much more your community offers.

Based on the consulting work I've done with communities across the US, this is a comprehensive, prevention-based approach that helps our clients stand out from their competition. If you want to find out more about how to bring NIFS and Balance Redefined to your residents, connect with us.

Find out how nifs can help

Topics: balance redefined group fitness for seniors fall prevention

3 Must-Have Services in Your Senior Living Community Fitness Center

4399_KF_3163-1.jpgWhile the size and shape of fitness spaces can vary dramatically from one senior living community to the next, it is very common for there to be at least some dedicated space with exercise equipment for resident use. It’s also quite common for communities to offer group exercise classes as part of the activity program. In some cases, communities also offer a personal training service.

However, that’s often where the fitness-related services for seniors stop. Below are three additional considerations that will elevate your exercise program to better serve current residents and to attract prospects who are looking for their next home.

Membership

Establishing a membership practice for your fitness center will serve a few key purposes.

  • The first is to help manage your liability tied to the community’s fitness spaces as well as to protect the seniors you serve. Fitness facility standards outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine are designed to be an industry-standard set of practices for the safe and effective management of fitness areas. Adhering to as many of their standards as is reasonable will help ensure the fitness program is successful for both your community and the residents.
  • The second is to establish a database of active participants so that staff can accurately track who is using the fitness programs and services and how often. Tracking attendance by member allows your staff to proactively reach out to residents who have historically been regular participants and who may have slowed or stopped their activity, or to those residents who have not yet joined the fitness program.

Exercise Prescriptions

Many of today’s residents haven’t engaged in regular exercise outside of their lives in your community, so it’s intimidating for them to approach a treadmill, recumbent bike, or strength equipment. Providing residents with an expert who can create an exercise program based on individual goals and limitations is a great way to help a novice exerciser start to understand how to use the equipment. Following up the exercise prescription service with regular support during each workout demonstrates a real commitment to physical wellness in your community.

Senior Fitness Testing

Getting a baseline on your residents’ fitness level is a great way to help them understand the progress they can make in the fitness center to either maintain or improve their physical well-being. The senior fitness test provides those results and feeds well into the exercise prescription service outlined above. There is inexpensive software (and a manual) that can be used to administer the testing and provide the participant with results. The equipment for each test is also relatively inexpensive and includes items like cones, a step bench, and a timer, among other equipment.

In addition to residents benefitting from their individual results, the community can use aggregate fitness testing data to determine strengths and weaknesses within the fitness program so that classes and other programs appropriately target residents’ fitness needs.

What’s Next?

To be fair, the membership piece could be managed by a lifestyle director. But the exercise prescription and fitness assessment pieces need to be managed by a trained exercise professional who understands the ins and outs of prescribing exercise for older adults. Read about how to hire a qualified fitness professional for your community, or consider working with us because NIFS managers provide these key services as part of our standard senior living fitness programming. Or, click the button below if you’re looking for more ideas about what you should expect from a robust fitness program.

Learn More

Topics: senior living community senior living fitness center exercise prescriptions senior fitness management NIFS personal trainng group fitness for seniors

NIFS: The Substitute; Don't Fear an Unknown Group Fitness Instructor

instructorsStand on the street and ask 100 random people their feelings about going to school as a child and you will get 100 different answers. If I were asked my response would have sounded something like this, “I just want to graduate and get a job so I can be done with homework and live the easy life like adults.” I’m shaking my head as I write this, but that is how I truly felt back then. No matter whom you are certain days in school were destined to be fun, and those days were when we had a SUBSTITUTE. Well today I am going to be that sub, except I won’t be in a classroom with books, I will be on a track with kettle bells, plyo boxes, and resistance bands; I’m subbing for an outdoor boot camp class.

Personally I love to cover other instructor’s classes, because I am guaranteed to encounter something different. The something different part is what we should all look for no matter our profession, new experiences break the monotony of our every day schedules and will positively affect our brain function. As I’m preparing for class my mind is racing and I love it, what music should I play, I wonder how many people will come, how fit are they, what if they can’t do an exercise, what if we don’t have enough equipment?  Are just a few of the questions racing through my mind, but instructing the class and facing those questions gives me the opportunity to hone my skills, meet new people, travel to new places, and hopefully become a better instructor for the classes I already have, and for  those I will sub for in the future.

I hope the same benefits I receive from instructing a new class is passed on to the class I am leading. Any fitness professional will tell you to vary your workouts to reduce boredom and to aid physiological changes. Well nothing will change things up for a group fitness program like being led by a different instructor. No matter how similar two instructors are, there will always be some differences, for example a different cadence will require a higher level of mental focus so that you can stay in sync with the instructor. Often people who have been working with the same instructor for long periods of time can go into “auto-pilot” or turn their brain off during class because they are so familiar with the routine that their body just moves without much thought as to what they are doing.

This blog is not meant for just group fitness instructors and exercise class goers, it’s meant for everyone. Break your everyday cycle and try something different. It will affect an area in your life positively. For all my class goers: when that sub does walk through the door, don’t pout, your instructor will be back, but in the mean time act like a kid again, let all that energy out and have a great class, after all it’s only a sub!

Get your groove on with NIFS group fitness classes

Topics: group exercise group fitness for seniors

Active Aging: Lessons Learned for Teaching Classes in Memory Care

chair exercise resized 600

Just like any exercise program, there is a long list of health benefits that come with exercising. In fact, exercise not only improves physical health, but cognitive health as well. The Alzheimer’s Association widely accepts that, “Physical exercise is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain as well as to encourage new brain cells. It also can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and improve oxygen consumption”. Though memory impairments affect the body’s cognitive heath, it’s important to perform cognitive and physical activities to improve brain function. The body also needs strength and endurance to perform its activities of daily senior living such as eating, dressing, and getting around your home.

With this in mind, we began offering a special class to meet the unique needs of the memory-care residents at our community. We made it our goal to incorporate exercise as a means of fall prevention and overall improvement of physical and mental health. Having taught group exercise for quite some time, I thought this would be an easy transition. I reached out to my colleagues for advice on specific exercise recommendations for older adults with memory impairments and quickly mapped out an exercise class format. Boy was I surprised when I taught the class for the first time!

The normal exercise cuing of “Lift your right leg up. That’s 1, 2, now 3….” just didn’t cut it. Some of the individuals followed, but most of the residents looked at me with confused faces. One resident even said, “You know you are a really bad dancer!”. So, over the next couple months, with much trial, error and research I developed a new class called “Moving Minds”.

The new class incorporates seated exercises that are both engaging and effective. We always begin with a short warm-up with seated marching and a game. The game is as simple as passing around a beach ball, bean bag toss, or some form of bowling. This gets the residents moving and their brain focused for the main exercises. Our main exercises include low-impact joint movement and stretching. We use equipment such as pool noodles, balloons and bouncy balls to add a little fun.  The residents love doing the exercises with the noodles and are always playful with each other.

I always encourage the residents to count with me out loud as we go through the exercises. After 10-15 minutes of our main exercises we wrap up with another game. We also engage in conversation while doing the exercises where I ask the date, day of week, and various other questions. Some are more attentive than others, but they always have something interesting to say. One of my most enjoyable residents, yells “10, big fat hen!” every time we count to 10.

Overall, the residents’ health is continuing to improve and I have noticed small gains in cognitive ability. Sometimes the residents remember my name and I can tell they are getting used to their Moving Minds routine. The Center for Brain Health states, “Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance”.

Moving Minds may not look like a typical exercise class-in fact, I still have residents who comment on my “bad dancing” or make animal noises the entire time we exercise. However, the truth lies in their many giggles and big smiles as they leave the class. Each week I’m reminded how great it is to work with this population.

Quick Tip to Strengthen Your Community Exercise Program

Topics: active aging group fitness for seniors memory care senior living communities senior living

Active Aging: Recruiting new residents to join the fitness center

seniors in a stretching classWhen a resident moves into our community, I’ve found that they are often overwhelmed with the amount of information they’ve been given upon arrival.  There are tons of activities and clubs offered by our community, but I really believe that residents benefit the most from joining our fitness center.  (I’ll admit, I’m a little biased!)  Here are a few successful ways I’ve found of encouraging new residents to join in on our fitness programming:

1. Visit them when they first move in to the community.

In order to be sure they have the time to ask questions and really consider becoming a member of the fitness center, I go to visit each new resident within a few weeks of their move-in date.  I want to give them time to get settled, but not so much time that they’ve filled their schedule with other things.  During that visit, I’ll take about 10-15 minutes to explain all of the fitness offerings and programming we have within our community.  I usually end up staying twice that amount of time because, once they hear about our awesome program, many of the residents have questions about how to join or about how they can benefit from the fitness center.  It’s also a great time to start building some rapport with each person as an individual.  Rather than just becoming “that exercise leader” to them, you can have a relationship with each person individually and really make them feel like they will be missed if they don’t participate.

2. Set up appointments.

After working in this field for a while, each person starts to develop their own system for keeping members committed.  One of my most successful practices is simply in making appointments with new members.  People of all ages are much more likely to show up if they have an appointment and feel like they will let someone down if they don’t keep it.  I try to use that to my advantage when keeping new members engaged.  When new members turn in their health history form and waiver, I set up an orientation appointment with them.  At their orientation appointment, I typically recommend a few group fitness classes and set up a senior fitness test.  At the senior fitness test, I make an appointment for an exercise prescription.  By that time, they have met with me and come to classes anywhere from 5-10 times and they have begun to build a habit.  It’s a simple, but effective way of getting them into the fitness center enough times that they begin to see a benefit from exercising.

3. Sell your group fitness classes.

This one won’t work for every potential member, but I can tell you that it works for most people who come into our fitness center.  Group fitness is one of the hottest things we have going here.  Residents will miss out on all sorts of other events if they are scheduled during our Balance Class.  I believe there are several reasons for this.  First of all, it’s a social activity.  We have anywhere from 10 to 30 people come to Balance Class on a regular basis so it’s a great place to meet up with people and to meet new people.  Second, they feel missed if they aren’t there.  I try to make it a point to talk directly to at least one different person in class each day.  Ask them how their day is going or how their grandkids are.  I believe building these relationships is important because then they’ll know we miss them if they aren’t there.  Third, and perhaps most importantly, they feel the benefits!  I can’t tell you how many residents have come up and told me how much they can tell when they miss a few classes.  I aim to give them a good workout every day so that they can keep their independence and this is what really keeps them coming back for more.

What are some successes you've had getting new residents involved in fitness programs?

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Topics: senior living community active living group fitness for seniors