Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Employee Health: Smaller Is Better

This blog was written by Melissa Cusick. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

cell phones, technologyIn the world of technology, time equals improvement and efficiency. Back in the day, we had computers that occupied the space of an entire room and Zack Morris-sized cell phones. Now we have personal computers that fit in the palm of a hand and Zoolander-sized cell phones. It seems that as more is discovered in the world of technology, items have become smaller and more efficient. Interestingly enough, this concept does not seem to apply to people.

In 1995 when the United States began tracking obesity rates, Mississippi had the nation’s highest adult obesity rate at 19.8 percent. Now, 16 years later in 2011, Colorado has the nation’s lowest adult obesity rate at 19.4 percent.

As you can see, what used to be the upper end of the nation’s obesity scale is now at the extreme low end of the spectrum. This is concerning because common conditions associated with obesity include, but are not limited to, high cholesterol and triglycerides, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease, all conditions that can be avoided with proper nutrition and activity.

Nowadays, we have low-calorie options at stores and restaurants, fitness centers popping up on virtually every corner, and educational tools at our fingertips. We can download an app on our tiny cell phones to count calories or find a healthy restaurant or fitness facility. But do we?

Something common to the field of technology and humans is that bigger is not always better. What has changed in our society in the last 16 years that has influenced the adult obesity rate to increase so severely? What can corporate wellness programs do to help reverse this alarming trend?

Topics: corporate wellness obesity technology

Corporate Wellness Confronts the Costs of Obesity

This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

obesity cost, employee healthLarger office furniture, larger company cars, and reinforced toilets are a few of the major costs companies are taking on to accommodate their larger employees. In fact, at a recent trade show for tech and office furniture, one company displayed its bariatric seat, designed to hold up to 600 pounds and at a cost of $1,300! The representative from Ergogenesis, the maker of this specific seat, says there is a “tremendous amount of demand.”

In a research report released by the School of Public Health and Human Services at George Washington University, it is estimated that 50 percent of the population will be obese by 2030. This means the healthcare costs associated with obesity will continue to grow as well. The study also estimated that the current overall annual cost for obese women is $4,879 and $2,646 for obese men. This estimation includes costs associated with medical care, short-term disability, absenteeism, and productivity losses.

With rising healthcare costs in the midst of an economic recession, many companies have chosen to cut benefits. However, they have kept their corporate wellness programs and incentives for employees who practice healthy behaviors.

What can your company do to invest in your employees while they’re healthy rather than when they get sick?

Topics: corporate wellness obesity

Senior Fitness: Exercise Helps Reduce Arthritis Pain

This blog was written by Penny Pohlmann, MS. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

senior fitness, arthritis pain, senior fitness managementPain, swelling, and stiffness associated with arthritis do not make physical activity fun or easy. Research has shown, however, that exercise is a vital tool for managing discomfort associated with arthritis.

In fact, avoiding exercise can increase joint pain and stiffness as the supporting muscles get weaker. By moving and using the muscles, bones, and other tissues that surround joints, people who suffer from arthritis can expect to protect themselves from further damage and pain.

Activity such as weight training promotes joint strength and stability, while aerobic exercise can help keep body weight down, which also relieves pressure on joints. Stretching exercises are useful for maintaining joint range of motion.

Arthritis is a leading cause of physical disability in the U.S., and people who are obese and physically inactive are at higher risk for developing this chronic condition. As our aging population grows, the need for senior fitness programming and management for this group does, too. Qualified health and fitness professionals can guide senior members or residents through a safe and effective exercise program designed to improve strength, reduce pain, and maintain the function of joints among arthritis sufferers.

Topics: exercise senior wellness programs arthritis senior fitness obesity

Employee Health: The New Happy Meal

This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

healthy choices for kids, sliced applesAlthough it’s hardly what you would call a wholesome meal, the McDonald’s Happy Meal has taken a small step in a more nutritious direction with the addition of apple slices. Apples have previously been an option in the past in place of French fries, but kids will now automatically find a small portion of apple slices paired with a smaller serving of fries in place of the traditional serving of fries.

With the added option of skim milk, there is potential for about a 20 percent reduction in calorie content as compared to the traditional Happy Meal. For fry lovers, special requests for the traditional serving of fries in place of the apple slices will be honored (and vice versa; a double serving of apples is also available).

What Are the Motives Behind This Nutritional Improvement?

Potential arguments explaining why McDonald’s has implemented this change include pressure from the government to combat childhood obesity, a marketing strategy, or even a sincere interest of the company in promoting healthier options.

There are a couple of perspectives to take on the change; on a positive note, regardless of the underlying intentions, the new meal should have at least a small, positive impact on kids by marginally increasing their consumption of fruit in lieu of a sodium-rich, processed alternative. It may help reinforce the fact that fruit is an important part of every meal; however, this must go hand-in-hand with sound nutritional habits and lessons taught by parents at home. Happy Meals can be enjoyed in moderation as a treat for kids who enjoy them.  

New Happy Meal Doesn't Stack up Well According to MyPlate

Sizing up the new Happy Meal in a more negative light, it is clear that the combination of breaded chicken nuggets or a hamburger on a white bun, French fries, apples (only a half-serving’s worth), and soda has a lot of ground to make up in regard to the new MyPlate recommendations. These guidelines present an ideal meal as a plate half full of fruits and vegetables (preferably fresh and unprocessed), a lean protein source, a grain (preferably whole), and a lean dairy item.

Some may wonder how much a change like this would really impact kids’ health and help combat larger issues such as childhood obesity. The unfortunate fact remains that if a child is being raised in an environment where fast food is a staple, there’s a good chance they’re forming bad habits and attitudes about nutrition that could set them up for health problems down the road. There are many more far-reaching issues affecting the health of American kids than the act of replacing a few French fries with apples.

All in all, this slight nutritional makeover of the Happy Meal certainly won’t hurt, but can spur a great deal of discussion. What are your opinions of McDonalds' actions?

Topics: nutrition obesity