Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

5 Health and Fitness Tips for Keeping Holiday Depression at Bay

ThinkstockPhotos-496352559.jpgAccording to the American Medical Resource Institute, approximately 6 million people over the age of 65 are depressed. As we know, this time of year can be very difficult for some seniors since the holidays have a tendency to intensify feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Use the following tips for keeping holiday depression at bay this season.

Remain Physically Active

Mayo Clinic states that exercise can help to combat anxiety and depression by releasing “feel-good chemicals” into the brain while reducing the immune system chemicals that can worsen depression. These results boost mood through calming effects, coupled with an increase in confidence that we experience while exercising.

Keep Your Nutrition in Check

Typically, holidays are filled with family, friends, and foods that are full of sugar and high in fat, which can bring on or worsen anxiety, depression, and bad moods. (Check out this article to discover the ways sugar may be harming your mental health.) Try maintaining a blood-sugar balance, increasing omega-3s, eating a balanced diet, and getting in your vitamins to combat the blues stemming from poor dietary choices.

Get Outdoors

Speaking of vitamins, did you know that vitamin D is produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight? When the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter, we spend less time outdoors soaking in the sun, which results in a dip in vitamin D absorption. Studies suggest that low vitamin D levels are associated with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Read more about SAD here.

Remain Social

Staying connected to family and friends will benefit you both emotionally and psychologically when you start to feel the holiday blues creeping up. Remember past holidays, but try starting some new traditions to find joy and balance this holiday season.

Lend a Hand

Volunteering to help the less fortunate reminds us how lucky we are while connecting us to others, keeping us mentally stimulated, and providing us with a sense of purpose!

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Help keep your residents active and engaged with others, check out our quick read for the benefits of exercise and aging well.  

DOWNLOAD: Importance of Exercise for Seniors >

Topics: health fitness winter fitness depression

Hydration Is Key for Health and Wellness

Quick! What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “water”? Is it the beach? Rain? Thirst? How about hydration? Most people have heard that on average the human body is made up of about 60 percent water, but what exactly does that mean? Why is water so important to the human body? Well, let’s look at the facts.

ThinkstockPhotos-119492687.jpgWhy You Need to Drink Water

Water plays several important roles in the human body.

  • Water regulates body temperature through sweating and respiration. It helps to lubricate the joints for movement.
  • Water carries oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to various body parts for adequate functioning, and removes toxins and waste.
  • Water especially helps to maintain regularity of the bowels and prevents unwanted body aches and conditions such as heartburn, migraines, ulcers, kidney stones, and backaches.

Consuming adequate amounts of water each day can also help to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as reduce cholesterol levels. How? Well, the more water you drink throughout the day, the more fluid leaves your blood vessels. When this happens, your blood vessels are able to relax. When the vessels relax and dilate, a decrease in blood pressure occurs. When the blood vessels remain relaxed and pressure lowers, the risk for other serious cardiovascular conditions decreases as well. Reduction in blood pressure specifically helps to decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack.

How Much Water Does a Person Need?

With all of these different body systems relying on water to help them run optimally, how do you make sure you are consuming enough? Recommendations vary on this topic, but remember that water comes from more than just the bottle we drink throughout the day. It is believed that about 80 percent of water intake comes from drinking, and the other 20 percent comes from the food you consume throughout the day. The most recent recommendations suggest that women should consume 9 cups and men 12.5 cups of total beverages each day for optimum hydration.

Considerations That Affect Hydration

So you know why you need water and how much, but what factors affect hydration changes besides how much you consume? Additional considerations relating to hydration include your physical activity level, current health state (such as if you have a cold or flu), heat, and humidity. Sweating during activity is your body’s way of maintaining an adequate temperature. If you are working out and sweating, your body is losing water. So remember to hydrate before, during, and after a workout. If you feel ill and experience a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, fluid intake should also increase to prevent dehydration. Lastly, be aware of your environment and how you feel. If you become uncomfortably warm or are exercising in hot or humid climates, be sure to consume above-average amounts of water. 

Water’s Role in Weight Loss

Lastly, water works with your metabolism to help with weight maintenance. If you are hungry, drink a glass of water. If your body is lacking water, thirst can easily be mistaken for hunger. Increasing your water consumption can help contribute to a healthy weight-loss plan while providing your body with the many elements it needs to survive.

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Topics: hydration weight loss disease prevention high blood pressure water health wellness

Change Your Commuting Habits for Improved Employee Health

Depending on where you live, if you drive yourself to work, your daily commute could be up to 90 minutes each way. The average American will spend 25 minutes commuting to work according to U.S. census data. Unfortunately, this is taking its toll on your overall health in more ways than the obvious: accumulating even more minutes of sitting throughout your day.

Let’s talk about what is really happening to your health as you are driving yourself to and from work each day, and what you can do about minimizing those negative effects by replacing them with positive habits you can incorporate into your commute.

Traffic Jams, Weather Delays, Road Rage = Another Opportunity for Stress!

ThinkstockPhotos-178516386.jpgThere are things that happen on our commute that we did not plan on that put us behind on our already hectic schedules or just annoy us. It is easy to become anxious when these things happen and start or end the day with added stress from the experience. The truth is these things are typically 100% out of your control, so this should not be a source of stress.

Next time you find yourself in this situation, simply take a few deep breaths. According to the American Institute of Stress, to decrease the damaging effects of stress on the body you should take focused and intentional deep breaths. This will allow you to truly relax by decreasing your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, thus decreasing your overall response to the added stress.

Commuting Can Be a Pain…Seriously

When you have to sit for long periods of time, make sure you are sitting correctly. This comes back to ergonomics, but setting up your car to meet your needs has many elements to consider. The USDA APHIS Ergonomics Program does an excellent job of teaching you how to set up your driver’s seat properly as well as the risks associated with not setting it up correctly: increasing your risks for low back pain, neck strains, and many other common musculoskeletal injuries. Take a few minutes to properly adjust your vehicle to prevent these issues from occurring.

The Link Between Longer Commutes and Increased Prevalence of Obesity, High Blood Pressure, and Low Cardiovascular Fitness

Research from Washington University has shown a high correlation between longer commutes and increased prevalence of various health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, obesity, and high blood pressure. An obvious way to combat this is to ride your bike or walk to work, but realistically this is not always possible for many adults. Sometimes the commute is simply too long, or the city you are working in does not have the infrastructure to support this.

When commuting by foot or bike is not possible, it is even more important to find time for physical activity at some point during the day to help minimize these risks. One way that you can do this is to use a fitness facility on your way to or from work. This is a great option because not only will it allow you to access activity, but it will break up the time you are spending in your vehicle. 

Take This as an Opportunity to Make Time for Your Well-Being

If you have the option of using public transportation, your options here can be endless! One study has shown that people who use active travel (walking, public transportation, and biking) compared to those who drive themselves to work report higher levels of positive well-being. If active travel is not an option, maybe you enjoy listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts, or just being alone with your thoughts. The commute can provide a great opportunity to do these things. Many take this time as an opportunity to learn more in an area that they are interested in but just can’t seem to find the time to do, or to simply just unwind from their hectic schedules.

Although the commute is likely not your favorite part of your day, it does not have to completely derail your employee health if you take these things into consideration. Take a few minutes this week and reflect on your commute and think about where you may be able to incorporate some of these healthy habits to improve upon and maintain your good health.

Consider how you can provide better wellness and fitness services to your employee, click below for ideas from NIFS.

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Topics: biking walking stress health staying active sitting high blood pressure

NIFS: Staying Healthy through the Holidays

mom and child handwashing resized 600With parties in full swing and family gatherings next week, the last thing you want to be is SICK!  Tis’ the season for sneezing and wheezing.  When you aren’t feeling 100% and you cough or sneeze, those germs float into the air and spread to the next person.  Take these steps to help prevent the sharing of germs so you can share gifts instead!

  • Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, if you can’t get a tissue in time cough into your elbow instead of your hands!

  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes where germs invade your system! 

  • Wash your hands often; your best option is with warm water and soap.  The most effective way to prevent the spread of germs is by washing your hands to kill those germs.

Hand washing 101... be smart about washing your hands.  Here are a few tips for when it’s important to be sure you are thoroughly scrubbing those hands between your fingers, backs of hands and your wrists!

Wash Hands Before:

Eating and preparing meals

When caring for an injured or sick person

Inserting or removing contact lenses

Wash Hands After:

Preparing food, especially raw meat

Changing diapers or using the bathroom

Taking care of animals

Handling garbage and cleaners

Use of Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizer:

Choose those that contain 60% alcohol

Apply enough to cover hands completely

Rub hands together until dry

Have your family adopt these simple hand washing habits to help limit the transfer of bacteria and viruses to lessen your chances of being sick this holiday season!  

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Topics: health nifs fitness management employee health and wellness hand washing

Corporate Wellness: How did we get overweight? (Part 2 of 3)

unhealthyHow did we get this overweight, this quickly?  In part one of this series, we talked about what obesity is and if it's really a disease, you can read that here.  Obesity has been around since recorded history, but never to the degree we have experienced the past 30 years.  In nature, people and animals who store energy are more likely to survive famine, yet there is more food available now than ever.  Several experts feel we’ve encountered the “perfect storm.”  We’ve experienced a significant change in our environment with increased stress levels, while sleep, free time, and activity levels have decreased.  In our food, nutrient levels have decreased while use of chemicals and preservatives has majorly increased.  (Side note: Did you hear Twinkies are coming back with an increased shelf life of an additional 3 weeks?  They aren’t just refrigerating those things.)  Let’s look at a few of the causes of this increase in weight gain over the past 30 years.

Let’s eliminate pre-existing diseases which lead to weight gain from the start.  Pre-existing diseases have not seen much of a change over time and our diagnosis and treatments have improved drastically.  For that reason, it’s easy to eliminate this from the causes of our recent epidemic.  As a quick example, let’s look at hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid gland, or type 1 diabetes, when your body does not produce insulin and breaks the ability to convert sugars, starches and other food into energy.  If  untreated, these two diseases can cause significant enough hormone imbalances to slow the metabolism and induce fat storage.

Next, when the first law of thermodynamics is applied to the world of health and fitness, “The change in internal energy of a body is equal to the heat supplied to the body minus work done by the body”, it can be roughly translated as “calories in vs. calories out.”  This is a point many argue on.  If this were the only factor to consider, weight loss would literally be as simple as a math problem.  If it was true, it would mean everyone who is overweight or obese is just lazy and eats too much.  Eat less, exercise more!  But then why, according to the Institute of Medicine, is there an increase in obese children under two years old?  They don’t diet and exercise.  Are you going to call them lazy?  Unfortunately, the issue is not as simple as “Eat less, exercise more!” and goes way beyond personal responsibility for any age.  Thinking the answer is simply “calories in vs. calories out” is wrong and ignorant.  Personal responsibility is only a part of the equation for many people; nonetheless, assessing dietary trends is critical to solving the issue.  As well, average caloric consumption is up and average activity levels have decreased with the advancement of technology.

In February of 1977, the U.S. government released a directive urging Americans to “Reduce overall fat consumption from approximately 40 to 30 percent of energy intake” in an attempt to lower the occurrence of heart disease, our #1 cause of death in the U.S.  According to the CDC, since roughly that same time mean caloric intake has increased, mean percentage of calories from carbohydrate has increased, and mean percentage of calories from total fat and saturated fat has decreased.  In addition, we’ve experienced not just an increase in carbohydrate over that time but more specifically an increase in sugar.  In 1975 our average sugar consumption per capita was roughly 25lbs/yr; we hit over 100lbs/yr per capita in 2000 and it is now estimated to be over 150lbs/yr per capita.  This coincides eerily with our obesity epidemic.  So we’ve succeeded in adopting our hallowed low fat diets but we’ve only gotten fatter and heart disease is still our #1 killer.

In my opinion, this change in our diets has caused a wide-spread toxicity and hormone imbalance in our bodies; our epidemic.  Americans (and now much of the world) are sick and it’s not because we’re lazy.  Of our total sugar consumption, much of it is estimated to come from High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  HFCS is a man-made sweetener introduced to the U.S. in … you guessed it… 1975.  Use of HFCS has increased at about double the speed of standard sucrose (table sugar) since its introduction.  You’ll find more foods at the grocery (roughly 60-80% of products) packed with sweeteners and chemicals than those without.  Now we can’t simply correlate the introduction and steady incline of HFCS or other chemicals to our obesity epidemic, but it’s certainly a culprit and part of the equation at least, causing a huge debate all by itself.

What are your thoughts?  Comment below and look for my 3rd post in the 3-part Obesity Blog Series on the cure for obesity.

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Topics: corporate wellness obesity health overweight disease

NIFS Nutrition News: Is Gluten-Free for Me?

woman eating breadCurrently one-third of Americans believe they should be cutting down on gluten in their diet (based on research from NPD Group, a market research firm). However, is going gluten free the answer for everyone?

Eliminating Gluten for Celiac Disease

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley. For some individuals who are afflicted with celiac disease (about 1 percent of the population), this means their small intestine becomes inflamed when they eat these foods, which can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, lactose intolerance, joint pain, migraines, and many other symptoms. For them, eliminating gluten in their diet is key to alleviating these ailments. Currently this is the only cure for the disease.

Gluten Intolerance

Other individuals might be experiencing gluten intolerance. This means they do not test positive for the disease but could still suffer from some of the symptoms associated with celiac disease. For this population, gluten elimination is an option also, but this is not the same condition as celiac disease.

Gluten-Free and Weight Loss

A growing number of people have been eliminating gluten due to the promise of weight loss on this diet. The reason for the weight loss is due to the removal of a lot of products that are typically high in calories such as baked goods, bread, and pasta. The elimination of gluten does cut down dramatically on the number of calories that a typical person might consume in a day.

However, when eliminating these grains, individuals could potentially decrease the fiber in their diet, which we know is a necessity for Americans to help control weight and decrease the risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Also, if people are substituting gluten-free products, they are typically just as high in calories, fat, and sugar as the regular counterparts, so weight loss is not always a guarantee. In addition, these products normally cost two to three times as much.

Alternatives to Going Completely Gluten Free

A gluten-free diet is very restrictive and can be extremely challenging to follow. Instead, focus on reducing the intake of foods containing gluten instead of eliminating them. Also, try to incorporate more foods that are naturally gluten free: fruits and vegetables!

There are many ways in which you can achieve a healthy lifestyle without restricting yourself and going on the gluten-free diet.

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Topics: nutrition weight loss calories allergies health gluten

My Story... Joining Forces with Co-workers

NIFS Members SpeakPeople always ask me, "what's your secret?" and I laugh and tell them it's no secret. Thanks to a huge lifestyle change and the wonderful support system of work buddies, friends, and The Body Shop (onsite corporate fitness center) and its staff I have lost almost 100lbs, maybe more.

A couple of years ago, the girls I ate lunch with every day decided to lose weight. I had been down this path before and was not excited. I hadn't weighed myself in well over a year and had no intention of starting. Because my friends were doing it, and I didn't want to eat lunch alone, I gave a half hearted effort. I decided to stop drinking regular soda and participate in whatever physical activity they did. And that is exactly what I did and miraculously my clothes started getting bigger. We were just walking on the treadmill or outside at our lunch time and giving up soda and I could see results.

As the initial loss, whatever it was, had slowed because the changes I made were only mild, and as I saw my friends who were already participating in Weight Watchers begin to lose more rapidly, I wanted to make bigger changes too. So I had to finally weigh myself. By this time, I had started at a size 24 and was now in a 22, and some 20's, but still hadn't stepped on a scale. When I finally did I weighed 238 lbs. I cried the entire day, and thought how did I let myself go this far? And so I began to count calories, and changing everything about my life. Eventually through regular physical activity, tracking what I ate and counting calories, I have made huge changes. It's still a struggle every single day, but when I fall off the wagon, I start again immediately and you know what, the struggle is worth it. I have zero health issues and I can keep up with my kids. I look like a different person and I feel like a different person, a happier, much healthier person.

What struggles have you overcome to achieve a healthier lifestyle?

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Topics: corporate wellness employee wellness health nifs fitness management

NIFS Nutrition News: Making Resolutions Stick

2013By June 2013 only 46% of people will still be sticking to the resolutions they vowed to keep as the ball dropped and we said goodbye to 2012.  A recent study showed that the three most popular resolutions are finding more family and friend time, increasing or starting an exercise program, and trying to lose weight.  The tips below will help you stick to those resolutions so they will last all year long.

1. Spend more time with family and friends:

Say “no” to commitments that are not a priority.  Schedule weekly family time into your planner.  Play games, sit down at the dinner table together, and ask everyone about their day.  Make it a priority.  Also, aim for more time with friends.  Start a book club, meet for a walk or a cup of coffee, check out a new restaurant.  Make it a recurring event like the second Tuesday of the month, so it is easy to plan into your schedule.

2. Fit in fitness: 

Have a positive attitude when it comes to exercise.  Think of it as time you will have to yourself for the day, a way to boost your energy level, or simply a break from the stress of the New Year.  Make the most of the time you have allotted for exercise.  Include high intensity cardiovascular activities, resistance training, and stretching. Add activity into your busy day by taking the stairs, parking farther away, walking the dog, shoveling snow, and hand delivering a message to a co-worker instead of calling or emailing them.

3. Drop the weight:

Set small, realistic goals when it comes to weight loss.  A reduction of only 500 calories per day is a smart goal to set and is the equivalent of 1 pound of fat loss per week.  Do this by cutting out regular sodas or calorie-heavy beverages like flavored coffee and juices.  Swap vending machine snacks like candy bars and chips for fresh fruit, fat free yogurt, string cheese, and cut up veggies.  When eating out, decrease portions by taking half of the entrée home.  Each week try to tackle a new goal.  Keep adding new goals throughout the spring, summer, and fall!

 

Fresh starts like the New Year are a perfect opportunity to better ourselves.  Take your resolution seriously this year and work on these goals to improve your quality of life. Did you miss our NIFS Fitness Management Staff Resolutions blog?  Check it out here!

Topics: behavior modification NIFS goal setting new year resolutions New Year's Resolutions in Action NIFS family health