Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Avoid an Empty Corporate Fitness Center with These Ideas

B130001.jpgThere are a variety of reasons for you, as a business owner, to set up a corporate fitness center for your employees; employee recruitment and retention are certainly among them. Increasingly, access to some form of exercise at work is becoming an expectation. It’s also not unreasonable to build a corporate fitness center because you actually expect it will help your employees be more active, which can lead to a variety of individual health benefits and possibly some productivity and loyalty benefits for the business.

But establishing a corporate fitness center for your employees is not an “if you build it, they will come” phenomenon. After all, only about 15–17% of the U.S. population owns a gym membership. If you want your employees to have opportunities to exercise, dedicating some space on campus for exercise is a good first step, but it’s not the end of the story. Following is a checklist of steps you need to carefully consider to avoid an empty corporate fitness center and ensure your fitness center is set up for success, both for your business and for your employees.

Do you have the right collection of equipment and amenities in your fitness center?

I've seen corporate fitness centers that run the gamut from fairly bare-bones to spaces that would rival high-end clubs. Fancy matters much less than function. If you don't intend to provide expert staff in the space, you need to have equipment that your employees can use without instruction. Some of the newer functional training equipment isn't all that intuitive; be careful what you buy or only the most sophisticated exerciser will be able to put your equipment to effective use.

If you want to offer group fitness classes in your space, you'll need to have enough room to host the classes; consider 40–60SF per participant (don't forget to count the instructor!). Also keep in mind that your classes will increase volume in the fitness center and you'll want your locker room spaces to accommodate those peak-use times fairly well. With 28 years in the business, I can assure you that employees will stop coming if the locker room situation involves fighting for space.

Do you have the right leadership for the corporate fitness space/programs?

The single best way to maximize employee use of your corporate fitness center is to provide staff who manage the environment. Yes, there is a cost for that, but before you assume you don't want to pay it, consider the ramifications because here's how it plays out. Without staff to support and educate employees, the same 10% of your employees who exercise now are the ones who will use your fitness center. And the employees you're really trying to serve won't try something new in your corporate fitness space because they aren't sure what steps to take.

So committing to the fitness center space but not the fitness center staffing is building a gym for the employees who are exercising anyway. That's a pretty substantial investment for the employees who don't really stand to benefit from it.

Finding the right corporate fitness management partner doesn't have to be hard, and before you assume hiring out for that role is a horrible idea, check out this blog that addresses common misconceptions on outsourcing corporate fitness management. If you're still convinced your business is better off managing your fitness program in house, here are some suggestions for hiring your own corporate fitness manager.

Do you have a healthy culture that supports employees choosing to exercise during their time at work?

Employees spend more time commuting to and from work and actually at work than they spend anyplace else. Inviting them to exercise while they're already at the office may be our best hope for helping adults move more. But if taking a full 60-minute lunch break to work out is frowned upon by management, your corporate fitness center will stay mostly empty. If employees don't see their leadership making healthy choices a priority, your fitness center will remain a ghost town. It's not enough to have "break-time" policies written into your handbook. You have to lead by example and you have to make it okay for your management team to engage in the behaviors you want to see.

 Webinar Series: The Guide to Successful Corporate Fitness Centers

Topics: corporate fitness corporate fitness managment corporate fitness center equipment nifs fitness center management health culture staffing

What If: There Were More than One Class of Elite Performers at Work?

Throughout 2015, we’ll be blogging about our dreams for corporate wellness, fitness, and aging well. Some of the content will represent a gentle “poking fun” at the industry, but it’s all written to stimulate thought about what really could be if we put our heads together and started mapping out what’s really possible in the realm of individual wellbeing. We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about which topics to explore, and by finding us on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

Businesses need top performers in order to survive. We need sales staff who are heavy hitters, research staff who are actually rocket scientists, and customer service professionals who can turn any frown upside down. You know who those folks are in your organization, that top 5% of all performers. In some cases, they might be unsung heroes, but at a lot of businesses, the best among us are often publicly lauded. They are the elite.

Changing the Definition of “Elite”

Not everyone can fit into that narrow industry-specific definition of elite. But maybe, if business leaders opened their minds about what counts as elite, we could have more than one class of top-tier performers.

What if you didn’t have to exceed your sales quota to be considered among the elite at your worksite? Don’t get me wrong. You’d still have to work really hard. After all, becoming top tier is definitely hard work. Some would say rising to the top requires strength, agility, and grace under stress.

Rollerblading_woman_ThinkstockPhotos-476542628According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found one way to get into the top 5% is to sweat. In their analysis of the American Time Use survey, they concluded that only 1 in 20 Americans engages in vigorous exercise (the kind that makes you sweat) on any given day. 

That’s right, a paltry 5% of us are working hard enough to actually sweat when we work out.

What Does This Have to Do with Employee Health? 

The way to sustained weight loss toward a healthy weight is through a healthy diet combined with prolonged cardiovascular exercise (45 to 60 minutes) at least five days per week. Employers: If you want a workforce that is at a healthier body weight, you have to (among other things) create an environment that supports and provides opportunities for your employees to work out hard enough to sweat. You need to build a corporate health culture that supports breaking a sweat in your worksite fitness center, or through another avenue of the employee’s choice.

Certainly, there’s more to individual well-being than being physically fit. But I wonder how many employees hold back on working out because of their environment (lack of access, lack of support). What if businesses publicly rewarded the exercising (aka sweaty) elite alongside the elite sales force and recognized the importance of employee health and fitness?

Download our whitepaper for tips on adding exercise to your worksite wellness program. 

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Topics: corporate fitness weight management corporate fitness centers cardio employee health and fitness health culture what if

Wellness in Senior Living: Kit vs. Culture

senior woman stretchingUnless you live under a really, really big rock, you have no doubt heard about the importance of robust wellness opportunities as central to a successful senior living community. There have been some fabulous profiles lately on organizations that are doing an amazing job of connecting their residents and others in the surrounding areas to opportunities to live well. Two recent examples highlighted by LeadingAge are these:

What strikes me about both of these offerings is that they are wellness initiatives. I don’t know that the communities packaged them that way, but in fact, they are a model of innovative wellness programming at its very best.

The other element I find compelling about these offerings is that they’re culturally driven. That is to say that this type of creativity can only come from an organization that believes that living well is truly central to its brand.

When your senior living communities investigate what’s possible under the umbrella of resident wellness, it’s important to consider what it is you truly want to build. Is wellbeing something that leadership wants to cultivate, explore, and weave into the very fabric of the community? Or is the community focus elsewhere for now, such that wellness is more of a task that needs to be crossed off the long list?

Looking for the Wellness Kit?

If wellness for your community is about crossing something off the to-do list, then you might be looking for a kit solution. There are organizations that can help you, when you buy into their model, to plant monthly wellness initiatives at your community. Your activities director can typically fold them into the monthly calendar, and you can begin to dip your toe into the wellness water to get a sense of how your residents will receive programming and activities built around traditional wellness pillars like nutrition, physical activity, and so on.

But that's not how we do it. We're not about the monthly theme, unless it's right for your residents, and we're not about the pre-packaged materials, unless they've proven their value.

Wellness Culture Means Cultivating a Lifestyle in Senior Living

At the end of the day, a wellness culture is where we need to be headed. When we adopt a healthy culture as the way of life we’re building for residents, then we start to grasp what’s really possible.

But here’s the thing: culture is person-driven, not program-driven. There are not enough programs in the world to build a culture. Wellness is a way of life, not an activity, and it should be cultivated accordingly. Here are a few considerations if you’re contemplating the challenging and rewarding work that is wellness culture building in a retirement community:

  • Determining a hierarchy: Building a wellness culture means giving consideration to hierarchy for wellness and activities (or leisure services, or life enrichment, or whatever your organization calls the events coordinator at your community). I would challenge you to think about whether activities actually rolls up under wellness instead of wellness being a branch of activities. If you buy into the idea that wellness is a way of life rather than an activity, then challenging the status quo that activities is at the top of the programmatic/community calendar food chain warrants significant thought.
  • Hiring a wellness director: Building a wellness culture requires a dedicated and competent professional blazing the trail. I’ve written about hiring a fitness professional for your community. The principles in that blog apply to hiring a wellness director as well.
  • Thinking progressively and strategically: Building a wellness culture means thinking differently about how you program, and it requires a commitment to moving beyond the bocce tournament you’ve always done. It also requires you to strategically think through what program data you need, and how you’ll use the data to inform your next culture-building steps.

Make no mistake, building a culture is no easy task and you don’t ever really arrive. You just keep learning, building, and growing. You keep evolving to meet and anticipate the needs of your audience. You keep striving for the experience of a life well lived, for breadth and depth of lifestyle choices that provide meaning for each individual.

If this sounds daunting, it is. The wellness kit idea is much simpler to understand and to execute. But the real richness lies in the proverbial road less traveled. Partner organizations, including ours, can help you map out a path to get started.

Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.

 

Topics: nifs fitness management senior center solutions senior wellness programs senior fitness management CCRC fitness center health culture fitness center for seniors

When Upper Management Exercises in the Corporate Fitness Center

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

workplace fitnessWe’ve all learned that exercise can play an enormous role in lowering one’s stress level and boosting a person’s mood. Supervisors in the workforce are no different—regular exercise has been shown to help those in management roles more effectively cope with their stressors.

This article writes that, unfortunately, when supervisors become overwhelmed with workplace pressures, their direct subordinates are the ones who become victims of the supervisors’ venting, hostile behavior, or negative comments. Therefore, regular exercise routines can not only enhance the physical and mental health of the supervisors, but also the wellbeing of the employees working for them.

Another reason why supervisors, especially those in a company’s upper management, should exercise is to lead by example. When you talk to an average new employee about exercising at the worksite, one of their fears is that their boss might view them as slacking off or just looking for ways to get out of work. When supervisors make exercising in their corporate fitness centers a priority, it shows to their subordinates that taking time for one’s own health is important and acceptable, provided that work duties and deadlines are still being met.

On a larger scale, when upper management, including CEOs and vice presidents, make fitness a priority, it sets a healthy climate for the entire company.

If you are a supervisor of even one individual, consider how your healthy—or unhealthy—choices can impact those around you. Set the standard in your work environment by becoming a leader in health.

Topics: health culture corporate rewards productivity stress Fitness Center businesses corporate fitness centers

NIFS Wellness Coordinator and Dietitian loves the Farmers' Market

This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, Wellness Coordinator and Registered Dietitian at NIFS. 

C  Documents and Settings kgootee My Documents Dropbox Images New couple at market resized 600One of my favorite things to do in Indiana is to visit the various farmers’ markets around town.  As a dietitian I am a sucker for the fresh fruits and veggies but I also love the homemade desserts, candles, pasta, kettle corn, fresh flowers, and other wonderful items you can find.  Here are my top five reasons why visiting your local farmer’s market is a must.

1.  Support for the local community – Since the produce is grown and purchased locally, the money remains in the community and stimulates the local economy.   Also, when you shop at the farmers’ market you are cutting out the middle man and the product is generally less expensive than if you purchased it in the grocery store. 

2.  Eating foods that are in season – Farmers’ market produce is picked ripe and sold soon after picking. Supermarket produce, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks to travel from the farm to the store, even when it is in season.   The produce tastes richer and more flavorful and the nutrients are better retained.  Check out the downtown City Market website for what products are available during the months the market is open.

3.  It is good for you – The average American eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  The current recommendations are 9 servings per day.  Picking up multiple servings of fruits and veggies and incorporating them into recipes, meals, and snacks is a great way to get closer to the 9 serving per day goal.  This will guarantee you are meeting your recommended vitamin and mineral requirements, increasing your daily fiber intake, and acquiring cancer fighting antioxidants too.  Locally grown produce is lower in pesticides and chemicals also.

4.  You can talk to the farmers who grew the food you are about to eat - You can meet the farmers who grew your food, ask when it was picked, how it was grown, and ways to prepare it.  When else do you get the opportunity to learn so much about what you are putting in your mouth?

5. There is certain to be one that fits your location and schedule – I love being able to go to the City Market farmers’ market on my lunch break downtown and sampling the hot, fresh kettle corn, picking up sweet corn, and getting homemade cookies on Wednesday afternoons.  Saturday mornings it is off to the Carmel farmers’ market to purchase bon bons from Holy Cow Cupcakes, homemade pasta, and a whole assortment of fruits and veggies for the week.  To find out where the location of a farmers’ market is close to you check out this website .

Whether you are picking up items for dinner or for the whole week, the local farmers’ market is an inexpensive, healthy alternative to the grocery store.  Try to get there early to get the best variety and options.  Not all vendors accept credit cards so be sure to have cash on hand.  Finally, bring along your own reusable grocery bag to put all of your goodies in so it is easier to carry home your fresh, delicious finds.

Topics: employee health health culture nutrition NIFS weight management healthy habits Food for Thought

Do Flexible Work Conditions Make for Better Employee Health?

How many times have you told yourself that if you were only allowed some flexibility at work, you could actually utilize the worksite fitness center, participate in a corporate wellness program, or be able to reduce your stress simply by walking outside? It has been found time and time again that worksites that allow flexible arrangements and promote healthier workplaces benefit in more ways than one.

The Ways Flexibility Improves Employee Health

corporate wellness in meetingsFlexible working conditions not only have been found to reduce employee blood pressure and absences due to illness, but can increase job performance, productivity, and overall morale. Additionally, giving employees more control over their schedules has been shown to have positive effects on mental health, sleep duration, sleep quality, alertness at work, and heart rate.

Ask for Some Work Schedule Flexibility

If you are employed by a company that offers flexible schedules, take advantage of it! However, if you don’t have this option, speak with those in charge of scheduling and make a valiant attempt to work something out.

Who wouldn’t want to improve their mental and physical health? If a little flexibility can help you feel better and work more efficiently, it's a win-win proposition.

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Topics: corporate wellness employee health productivity health culture improve absenteeism

Can Cash Tip the Scales Toward Employee Health?

This blog was written by Bethany Garrity. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

There's been some hubbub lately about whether employers can Scale resized 600find their employees' monetary sweet spots when it comes to losing weight. Various articles such as this one tell of efforts to use money as a corporate reward to motivate overweight employees to shed pounds.

But let's face it: If losing weight were really that simple, most people would successfully lose (and keep off) weight without having to be paid to do so. The truth is that weight loss is incredibly complex and most people make the mistake of trying to manage their weight without engaging in regular exercise. The science proves that effective long-term strategies for weight management include dietary balance as well as regular exercise.

If you want your employees to have a healthy body weight, you have to help them focus on exercise. Throwing money at them won't fix it, but revamping workplace policies, establishing a health culture directed by your leadership, and creating opportunities for exercise at work will get them moving in the right direction. NIFS offers a variety of exciting programs that can help.

The benefits of a healthy workforce go far beyond the ability to control healthcare costs and improve absenteeism. Employees who feel better are simply able to do their jobs better.

Topics: control healthcare costs improve absenteeism corporate rewards health culture overweight employees employee health

Corporate Fitness Programs Can Motivate Employees to Exercise at Work

This blog was written by Bethany Garrity. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Are your employees spending too many hours per week at work and not enough hours being active through the week because it's hard to find time to exercise? If your answer is a resounding yes, consider using their "too much time at work" to your employee health advantage. 

It's well known that adults in the U.S. do not get enough exercise daily. But that’s even more likely to be the case for adults with children at home under 18. Throw a 50+-hour-per-week job into the mix and getting regular exercise can seem all but impossible.

You can't do much to change the dizzying schedule of working parents, but you can make it easier for your captive audience (aka your employees) to choose to be an active audience when they are at work.

Building an onsite corporate fitness center might be the way to go. But if that seems expensive, intense, or impossible, think about offering a corporate fitness program that includes group classes (such as these offered by NIFS), walking groups, or incentives for running or cycling commuters. Start an "exercise with the execs" program where employees can join the C-suite folks for a walk and a chance to chat about how the company is doing, where it’s headed, and so on. 

With the right mix of creativity, hard work, and resource support, you can turn your captive audience into an active audience--and help improve their work-life balance.

Topics: corporate rewards health culture corporate fitness program business fitness solutions employee health

Steady Obesity Rates Good News in Fight for Healthy Workforce

This blog was written by Bethany Garrity. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

A recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report noted that obesity rates in the U.S. were steady last year compared with 2008 rates. This is good news because once we stop the health decline, we can start to make improvements.

Even better news from this report is that more Americans report Girl on mat resized 600being physically active--up to 34.7 percent compared with 31.9 percent in 2008. This is also good news; moving more can’t be bad. Regular exercise is a key to successful weight loss and weight management. If that doesn’t motivate overweight employees to move more, note some of the many other scientifically proven benefits of engaging in regular exercise.

We're cautiously optimistic. Health professionals across the country are doing great work to help address the obesity epidemic. Workplaces are driving much of that meaningful work in their communities with onsite corporate fitness centers, corporate fitness programs, wellness-focused benefits, healthy food options in cafeterias, and health cultures and policies that support good choices.

More work needs to be done. What are you doing to build a healthy workforce and help overweight employees lose pounds?

Topics: health culture healthy workforce overweight employees corporate fitness program employee health

Why Wellness Programs Should Tackle Childhood Obesity

This blog was written by Kara Shipman. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

We’ve all heard the staggering facts: One in three children is overweight or obese. This rate is three times higher than it was 30 years ago. If these trends continue, nearly 50 percent of the child population could be obese in a matter of years. 

Why Is Childhood Obesity a Problem for Employers?

But why does childhood obesity matter to employers? Does childhood obesity even come to mind when employers think of worksite wellness? It should. Why? Because employers’ health insurance covers every member of the family up to a certain age—and that includes kids. And obese kids are at risk for a variety of complications and serious illnesses.

Making Kids Part of the Health Culture

Hot dog lunch resized 600I know it can be difficult to target programs toward children, especially if you have age restrictions at your onsite fitness center. One of the things NIFS did recently was put on a Kids' Camp, offering summer-camp–style workout sessions for children. Parents got to drop off the kids and work out at the facility while the kids had fun getting their recommended daily 60 minutes of physical activity.

When employers show that they care about the health of the entire family, they’ll appeal to the parents. This, in turn, may lead to more involvement in the corporate wellness program. Meanwhile, making kids and parents healthier helps control healthcare costs.

How do you incorporate families in your worksite wellness offerings?

Topics: corporate fitness program health culture control healthcare costs