Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Counteract the Impact of Long Commutes on Employee Health

Recently I was going through membership forms at our corporate wellness center when I noticed that a high percentage of our clients live out of town. In fact, it’s not surprising to see that many of our members drive an hour or more to get to work each day.

Long Commutes Are Bad for Employee Health

If the thought of a two-hour round-trip commute doesn’t make Traffic Jamyou gag, you are one of the few. Besides the cost of gas and increased wear and tear on your vehicle, long commutes can actually lead to health problems. Extra time on the road can cause higher rates of obesity, increased stress, and decreased productivity.

How Can You Help Employees with Long Commutes?

So other than selling your home and moving closer to work, what’s a good way to combat the negative effects of a long commute? Corporate wellness programs that tackle all aspects of wellness! Corporate employee wellness is a priority for our staff; we regularly monitor our clients' blood pressure, cholesterol, and body composition.

Other ideas for making a commute more bearable and less stressful include

How long is your commute? Share your story in the comments section.

Topics: employee health overweight employees corporate fitness productivity

Workplace Wellness Programs Can Recoup Billions Lost to Obesity

It is not news that obesity is a major health concern in our nation. Not only is obesity responsible for billions in healthcare cost each year; it can also mean billions lost in terms of work productivity.

UnhealthyManA recent study estimates that $73.1 billion dollars in workplace productivity are lost each year due to obesity. These numbers highlight the value of employee health. The study cites an increased number of sick days taken and presenteeism (lost performance while at work) as the main reasons for lost productivity from obese employees. Examples of presenteeism can be additional time needed to complete job responsibilities or more problems meeting physical demands at work.

How can employers save money that might be lost due to obesity? They can invest in workplace wellness programs and health improvement plans. Promoting healthier lifestyles and providing wellness education can be just the support your overweight employees need to lose weight and get healthier. Even small weight losses by individuals classified as obese by BMI (body mass index) can mean millions of dollars saved for your company.

Topics: overweight employees productivity

Family Flu Shots Are Good for Corporate Wellness

FluShotI believe that getting an annual flu shot is the right thing for my boys. I know there’s a lot of controversy out there around vaccinations for kids, but the thought of seeing my kids down for the count for days with an illness that I could have prevented doesn’t sit well with me. And I haven’t found the science against vaccinations to be compelling enough to change my mind. Having said that, I almost reversed my flu-shots-are-the-right-thing-to-do philosophy when I took my kids to a local drugstore to get their shots the other day.

Getting Flu Shots Is Not Always a Smooth Experience

I should have known I was in for a ride when my five-year-old said he wanted his brother, who is two years old, to go first. Truthfully, the two-year-old did pretty well: He cried, but he was still, and he didn’t freak out. The five-year-old, on the other hand, basically had to be strapped down. Not only did I have to hold and brace him, but the RN administering the shot felt it was best to shut the clinic door to help dampen the sound of his bone-chilling screams. Seriously—you would have thought we were cutting off his arm with a blunt instrument. It was pure hysteria. 

Needless to say, he did survive (and so did I), but we might have to find a new neighborhood drugstore. (If you're in the same boat, you can find CVS MinuteClinic locations here, and Walgreens Take Care Clinics here.)

Flu Shots for the Family Help the Kids and the Company, Too

Despite the fact that my son will likely describe his experience as torture, I believe I did a good thing for his health. I’m willing to bet my employer thinks so, too. Of course, it’s smart for businesses to offer flu shots for their employees. According to the CDC, the flu shot is the best defense against the flu, reducing the number of cases by up to 70 percent. Preventing the flu at work helps with decreasing presenteeism and preventing absenteeism; employees are healthier and more productive—that is, of course, unless your employee’s family members come down with the flu. Consider that flu-related absenteeism can range from two to seven days. That is a lot of lost work time caring for sick loved ones.

Support your corporate wellness program—get your family members vaccinated!

Topics: corporate wellness employee health disease prevention productivity improve absenteeism

What Worksite Fitness Means to Employees

This blog was submitted by an employee at a NIFS corporate fitness center.

It is our secret society...the gym. When the double doors open to the corporate fitness center, we leave behind, if only temporarily, any thoughts of the business we conduct upstairs. The agenda is no longer focused on a project plan and deadlines. Instead, we have one agenda in mind: to let everything go and enjoy the ride.

IndoorCycleAs we enter the fitness center, our corporate environment becomes the locker room. Where photos and paintings once hung, now hang towels drenched with hard-earned sweat, reminding us of our achievements of the day. File cabinets that once housed documents now are lockers and gym bags holding pairs of athletic socks, t-shirts, and gym shorts.

While our peers are e-mailing about deadlines, we are using e-mail to motivate and encourage our coworkers to get pumped up and be ready to work out. The ritual e-mails start about 45 minutes before class; a sort of buzz begins like bees to a hive.

When we come together for a group fitness class, for one hour we are all on the same playing field―incognito, no different from one another. For one brief hour at our corporate fitness center we are trying to motivate each other and to achieve similar goals, and we work harder than we ever have. If there is competition, it’s only to inspire those who need it and to push those who are up to the challenge.

I wonder if the trainers we entrust with our everyday routines understand the effect they are having on our lives? If they were flies on the wall in the locker room, wouldn’t they be surprised to hear conversations about how their classes have motivated us to do things we didn’t know we were capable of?

I wonder if our supervisors know how many endorphins have been released after our workouts to ensure that the rest of our working day is productive.

After class when we pass each other and exchange glances at the elevators in our business attire (which clearly separates us as Managers, Associates, or Supervisors), we just flash each other a smile, because for one hour of the day we are no different from each other. We are just employees, our guard down, laughing, sweating, and coming together….a priceless camaraderie.

So for now, as we leave the worksite fitness center through the double doors, we leave behind our secret society with a few more smiles and a few more friendships! 

NIFS would like to thank Hollis Mills for this blog.  Tell us what you like best about your worksite fitness facility!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness productivity

How Much Is Tobacco Costing Your Company in Employee Health?

Perform a search for components of an employee health and wellness program and you’ll find that smoking cessation makes its way into nearly all wellness programs. Tobacco-free employees have fewer health risks and cost their employers less than their tobacco-using counterparts do.

The Staggering Cost of Employee Tobacco UseCigarette in Hand

If you’re like me, you know that tobacco users must cost a company more money. But I didn’t realize how staggering the cost actually is. According to the CDC, tobacco users cost their employers nearly $3,500 per person each year in medical costs and lost productivity. If you figure that approximately one in four employees uses tobacco, the approximate cost per year for a 2,000-employee site is nearly $1.75 million!

Approaches to Encouraging Tobacco Cessation

Companies take two different approaches to tobacco cessation: incentives and penalties. My company's wellness incentive programs, for example, put a lot of focus on rewarding employees for their efforts to quit tobacco. With benefits ranging from reimbursement for medication to free counseling, becoming tobacco free is a priority. They even offer employees an extra cash bonus in their flex account for being or striving to be tobacco free.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, other companies impose penalties on tobacco users. In a recent survey of major U.S. companies, almost 50 percent of companies surveyed showed interest in penalizing their employees for not complying with all aspects of their wellness programs. In these companies, employees could face higher insurance premiums or increased deductibles. Some companies may even refuse to hire tobacco users.

In my opinion, the best way to keep employees on track for healthy behaviors is staffing a corporate fitness center with highly trained experts familiar with the company’s wellness programs. Onsite fitness center management provides the tools and resources that both employers and employees need to reach the goal of becoming tobacco free.  

So which approach is more effective toward the goal of having a tobacco-free workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Topics: employee health control healthcare costs productivity tobacco cessation

ConferenceBike: A Way to Boost Worksite Wellness During Meetings?

Ever wish that your workplace was a little more relaxed and lighthearted? When working in a larger corporation many employees spend several hours of their day seated around a table discussing ideas, brainstorming, and solving problems.

describe the imageI wonder what would happen if these sit-down meetings were transformed into moving meetings, on a ConferenceBike. These bikes seat seven people, allowing six participants to pedal as one person steers. It’s like turning a corporate meeting into corporate fitness!

Now I will admit they are a little funny looking and the price is a little steep for just a unique meeting place and a way to increase employee health. But it may have the potential to shorten meeting times, increase workplace productivity, improve employee morale, and develop a new type of worksite fitness.

Even if you know your company won’t buy into this moving meeting idea, just take a look at the ConferenceBike website for a stress-relieving laugh or a way to get your creative juices flowing. It worked for me!   

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program business fitness solutions productivity

Functional Capacity in Corporate Fitness Programs, Senior Fitness

Increasing functional capacity through exerciseIn my last post, I explained that functional capacity is exercising in a way that improves the ability to perform activities of daily living. In this post I look at how this concept is being used in senior fitness classes and corporate fitness programs--in place of more traditional but less efficient training.

Senior Fitness Management Now Emphasizing Functional Training

One arena that has begun to understand this dilemma and has sought to eliminate it is senior fitness management. Some of the problems affecting older adults are poor balance, loss of strength, and a decrease in flexibility. As a fitness professional who frequently teaches senior fitness classes at retirement home fitness centers, I’ve noticed a trend in moving away from the typical chair exercise class, which was the norm years ago, to more functional training (training the body in the way in which it typically works).

Entire classes are now designed with the goal of improving balance. Many movements designed to improve strength are now done out of a chair and on the feet because this is how we typically function in everyday life. Along with this, retirement community fitness center management heavily pursues improving residents' flexibility. Since balance, strength while on the feet, and flexibility are all major needs of older adults, fitness professionals have made a move to more directly train in ways that improve these aspects specifically. This move is a perfect example of training to improve functional capacity.

Improving Employee Health Through Functional Training

Functional capacity can also be a synonym for aerobic health or power. Aerobic health or functional capacity is often the main measure used to determine one’s overall health. Numerous diseases that afflict many Americans today can be prevented or even reversed through improving aerobic health.

Many businesses have caught on to this and are pushing to improve their employees' physical health through exercise. This leads to less employee absenteeism, less fatigue on the job, and more productive employees. Since a company’s employees are one of its most valuable assets, many organizations have developed corporate wellness programs to help protect this asset. Because this can improve an employer’s bottom line, many companies are going one step further and building corporate fitness centers for their employees to utilize.

Through group fitness classes at these centers, personal training with staff, or even simply working out on their own, employees are improving the strength and endurance needed for their job as well as their aerobic health, leading to a lower risk of disease and less time lost from work. It is easy to see how this increase in functional capacity benefits both the employee and the employer over the long haul, despite the initial cost of building such centers.

Next: How everyday people can adjust their workouts to improve functional capacity.

Topics: exercise at work employee health healthy workforce muscle toning senior center solutions productivity improve absenteeism

Managing Stress Increases Productivity, Employee Health

manage employee stressAlthough each day may technically be a new day, today brings the stresses of yesterday and the preparations of tomorrow. Nowadays a 40-hour work week is hard to come by, and going home without work is even harder to swing. With all of this added work comes added stress.

Untreated Employee Stress Is Bad for Business

Stress that is not dealt with properly can lead to negative outcomes. The outcome you will be least excited about is loss of productivity. Along with loss of productivity comes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, headaches, upset stomach, and chest pain, and it can even worsen certain ailments employees already have.

According to an annual Harris Interactive Attitudes in the American Workplace survey, 83% of Americans reported they are at least a little stressed at work, and nearly half said they need help in learning how to manage stress.

Consider the following tips to keep your stress at bay.

Develop a Wellness and Fitness Program or add Stress Management to Your Offerings

If your company doesn't offer a worksite wellness program, get busy creating one! Worksite wellness programs offer great resources for employees to better their health, including stress management. A healthy and stress-free employee equals more productivity for the company, so it's a win for both! (See the Wellness Council of America's site for tips.)

Encourage Employees To Use Deep Breathing Techniques

Deep breathing counteracts the increased heart rate and blood pressure that happen when the body is under stress. It is one of the best ways to stay calm when the body wants to do the opposite, and it can be done anywhere. When you breathe deeply, you are sending a message to your brain and body to relax. Next time your employees feel stressed on the job, have them try these steps:

  1. Sit up straight and exhale completely through your mouth.  
  2. Place your hands on your stomach and slowly inhale through your mouth, pushing your hands out with your stomach.
  3. Hold the inhale for two to five seconds and slowly exhale.
  4. Repeat until you feel relaxed.

Encourage Exercise As A Lifestyle, Including at Work!

We've all heard about how exercise can help you maintain heart health and manage a healthy weight, but exercise can also be a great form of stress relief. Physical activity not only boosts the release of those feel-good endorphins (and in turn boosting your mood); it can also improve sleep that can so often be disrupted by stress.

If you or your employees aren't currently exercising, start slow. Choose an activity that you enjoy and maybe even consider including your friends. Making it a social activity can give you a stress-relieving social network and make you more likely to stick with the program.

The Results Are Worth the Effort

Learning to manage stress in healthy ways will keep your employees producing the work your want to see as well as keep them sane during the process. You are only as good as your body allows, and it needs to be healthy in order to perform at the top. Make every day a new day by dealing with the stresses of yesterday and breathing through the thoughts of tomorrow.  

Topics: corporate wellness exercise at work employee health healthy workforce corporate fitness worksite wellness exercise at home productivity

Corporate Fitness Programs: Improving Functional Capacity Every Day

Functional capacity and your jobIn previous posts, I have talked about functional capacity and how corporate fitness programs and senior fitness classes are using this concept to improve workouts and make them more beneficial to everyday life.

But what about the average person? How can they improve their functional capacity? Should they even seek to? Everyone, whether young or simply young at heart, can and should strive to improve their functional capacity.

Start By Evaluating Your Own Life.

What types of movements do you typically utilize? What does your day consist of? From here, seek out someone who can help you design an exercise program to help you improve directly on the movements and muscles you most frequently use in your day:

  • If you are on your feet a lot and on the move, starting a running or walking program can help improve your endurance, making your job that much easier.
  • If you are glued to a chair the majority of your day, you may find it beneficial to work on the strength of the muscles in your upper back, neck, and shoulders to ward off any pain and changes in posture that may be lingering.
  • If you are a recreational athlete, utilizing a program that will help you improve in a way that directly benefits your sport skills can be an exciting challenge. Fitness has evolved, and gone are the days of sitting down and doing bicep curls and triceps kickbacks every workout.

Join the movement and strive to get on your feet more, move, and train your body in the way in which it works every day. The improvements you’ll experience in both your health and your performance in everyday activities will be well worth it.

Topics: exercise at work employee health corporate fitness program muscle toning exercise at home senior center solutions productivity

Investing in Corporate Fitness Management Can Boost Productivity


Employee productivity increases with exerciseYou've had your morning coffee and breakfast and you're ready to begin your workday. You plop down at your desk to scan through the 50 e-mails you received since you shut down your computer last night. By the time you finish, more than an hour has passed, you've answered five calls, and your boss is begging for your help with an agenda for a last-minute meeting.

To top it off, stress is setting in. Guess what? Your brain is already fried and your productivity for the day will probably be minimal.

Exercise at Work Is the Answer

What if your company offered employees 30 paid minutes each day to exercise in its corporate fitness center? Would employee productivity increase? Studies show it would. Exercise has positive effects on the brain. It stimulates the brain and nervous system, decreases stress, and increases performance. I don't know of a single CEO who wouldn't want his or her staff performing better on the job. Fewer mistakes equals more company return, happier bosses, and happier employees.

Increased Productivity Can Outweigh the Cost of a Corporate Fitness Program

You're probably wondering whether the benefits of opening a corporate fitness center outweigh the cost. The right type of managed facility would. Many corporate fitness centers have trainers who can help individuals reach their fitness and health goals, which means lower insurance costs, fewer sick days, and increased productivity. Corporations can reap many benefits from having a corporate fitness or wellness center. 

What's Your Next Step?

Convince company decision-makers to consider the benefits of allowing employees to exercise on company time. If a worksite fitness center seems out of reach, suggest a company-wide walking program or an exercise class at work. Become a healthy workplace advocate by providing articles and research that show how productivity and efficiency increase with employee exercise (see above).

Imagine the positive change that could occur for you and your fellow employees if your company took even a few steps toward better workplace health!

Topics: exercise at work corporate fitness program healthy workforce corporate fitness business fitness solutions control healthcare costs productivity