Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

The Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

GettyImages-1189775053Every Sunday, I make a cup of coffee and head outside. I often just sit and listen to the sounds all around me. I take it all in. Even now I can feel the sun on my face, sense the gentle breeze, the sound and feel of the chair as it gently rocks back and forth. It is so easy for me to close my eyes and bring myself right back to that moment whenever I need to. There is something about being outdoors that feels so important to me. Every experience in my life seems more fulfilling while I am doing it outdoors.

For example, I love running outdoors. If you ask me to run on the treadmill, I have more of an attitude of I will do it because I know it is good for me, and not so much because I love it. The same goes for swimming. Put me in the ocean and I am in my glory but the same does not seem to exist for me when it comes to jumping into an indoor pool.

There have been studies that talk about the health benefits of being outdoors and perhaps these studies can more definitively describe the feelings and benefits most human beings experience when they are outdoors.

Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.

It's not clear exactly why outdoor excursions have such a positive mental effect. Yet, in a 2015 study, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination — defined as repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions.

"When people are depressed or under high levels of stress, this part of the brain malfunctions, and people experience a continuous loop of negative thoughts," says Dr. Strauss.

Digging a bit deeper, it appears that interacting with natural spaces offers other therapeutic benefits. For instance, calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body's fight-or-flight response.

The visual aspects of nature can also have a soothing effect, according to Dr. Strauss. "Having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry".

As the weather changes and summer begins to roll back in, find ways to get back outside and enjoy the outdoors. The no cost key to living a happier, healthier life.

Topics: senior wellness mental health outdoor exercise

Senior Living: 3 Tips for Better Vocational Wellness

GettyImages-172429286How can older adults improve their wellbeing, grow closer to others, and enhance the community in which they live? Practicing vocational wellness is a great way to accomplish these important feats.

Vocational wellness is a part of our lives and wellbeing that makes the most of our individual strengths, talents, skills, and experiences. When we are vocationally well, these unique characteristics are intentionally used in contribution to our community and larger society.

Here’s what the International Council on Active Aging has to say about vocational wellness: “Work that utilizes a person’s skills while providing personal satisfaction is valuable for society as well as the individual. Participating in the paid and unpaid workforce means maintaining or improving skills, and helping others. Older adults contribute to society as experienced professionals, caregiver, mentors, teachers and volunteers. Leisure-time vocations in the arts and through hobbies maintain vocational skills.”

One great joy in life is serving others or meeting needs in a way that only we can. Neighbors, friends, and family benefit from our vocational wellness. In community, this may look like teaching, leading groups, practicing creativity, or taking the time to volunteer. When we share ourselves vocationally, the impact can be surprising.

Here are 3 tips for improving your vocational wellness:

  • Learn about vocational wellness and meditate on what it could look like in your life. By reading this blog, you’re on the right track. You may also talk with your friends and neighbors about what they do for vocational wellness.
  • Seek out opportunities to participate in activities, clubs, committees, or special events that interest you. If on first look nothing interests you, don’t let that stop you! Get in touch with people who can help you start something new and exciting. Your skills and experiences are valuable!
  • Do what you like to do in a way that benefits yourself and others. Beyond being used for your own enjoyment, your vocational talents can be used for the greater good. If you are a creator, create something beautiful for others to see. If you are a leader, lead others to a healthier life. If you are a teacher, teach your friends something new.

These steps should get you well on your way to a higher level of vocational wellness. When vocational wellness is overlooked, everyone is being short changed. Make the most of your unique life qualities by getting started today!

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Topics: senior wellness senior wellness programs senior living wellness programs vocational wellness

Comfort Companions: for the love of pets

GettyImages-950847190Many already know the wonderful effects of having a pet companion. Owning a pet has significant benefits for an individual’s health.  Animals have a tendency to love unconditionally, and the love and friendship that radiates from bonding with your pet can not only lower stress but will also draw on your nurturing spirit that can give your level of happiness a boost. Whether you realize it or not, having a pet also promotes balance across multiple dimensions of wellness in your lifestyle. The three most common types of pets among older adults are: dogs, cats and fish. 

Dogs  

Dogs need exercise, so playing with them, whether inside or outdoors can increase the flexibility and mobility of the owner.  When taking the dog outdoors, you may have the opportunity to meet other neighbors. This will give you the chance to interact and socialize with others in your community. Even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, the social interaction helps reduce stress levels and prevent isolation.

Dimensions of Wellness Incorporated with Owning a Dog: 

  • Physical= walking and playing with the dog provides physical activity
  • Occupational/Emotional = being a caregiver for a dog provides a sense of purpose and provides companionship
  • Social/Intellectual= starting conversations and meeting new friends when walking the dog creates connection
  • Environmental = fresh air and spending time outdoors builds in opportunities to connect with nature

Cats 

Compared to dogs, cats are relatively low maintenance. This is ideal for a senior with limited mobility. Feline friends are more content to stay inside and cuddle. Cuddling, petting, or even listening to a cat’s purr has been shown to help reduce feelings of anxiety.  

Dimensions of Wellness Incorporated with Owning a Cat: 

  • Emotional= having a cat can reduces feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression
  • Occupational= owning a cat strikes a healthy balance between caring for your pet and leisurely play

Fish 

Having fish is very low-maintenance and allergen-free. Decorating your fish tank with items and designs of your liking will make the viewing of the fish more enjoyable.  The colors and movement of the animals in the water, combined with the calming environment has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and blood pressure. This is part of the reason why a lot of doctor’s offices may have an aquarium in the waiting area. 

Dimensions of Wellness Incorporated with Owning an Aquarium: 

  • Occupational= decorating the aquarium can contribute to personal satisfaction and enrichment. 
  • Emotional/Physical= observing fish reduces blood pressure as well as the stress and anxiety of everyday living. 
  • Environmental = listening and watching the water, aquarium plants, and fish is a great opportunity to connect with nature from the safety and comfort of home.

No matter what kind of pet, becoming the owner of one can improve overall quality of life and increase physical and emotional health. You will have responsibilities and a set routine to help fight stress, loneliness and depression. Maybe this all sounds great but you are not ready for the commitment of pet ownership. Consider asking a friend, relative or neighbor who has a pet if you can stop by and share a few minutes with their cozy companion. 

Topics: senior wellness

Fall Into a New Wellness Routine

GettyImages-1171807035As fall brings us cooler temps and the beautiful change of landscape, it can be a great time to settle into a new wellness routine. After all, keeping your routine fresh can inspire your spirit and challenge your body with new physical and mental endeavors. Here are a few ideas to change up your routine while appreciating all the season has to offer.

  •  Outdoor meditation: this time of year can be enriching for the senses with the cooler air, bold colors and earthy smells. Find a peaceful spot to soak it all in and be present in the environment. Practice our mindful meditation session or focus on deep breathing exercises.
  • Scenic hikes: head outdoors to walk and enjoy the colors of the season. The cooler temps and lower humidity can make exercise outside more tolerable than in the heat of the summer and the scenery can be a great motivator! Look up the peek color schedule for your region and plan a walk at a local park.
  • Go for a swim: while temperatures drop outside, the warm air and climate of indoor pools can help you maintain those summer vibes if desired. Aquatic exercise, whether attending a water aerobics class, water volleyball game, or doing a water walking workout are all fantastic modes of exercise that can get the heart pumping, and the muscles burning, all while being gentle on the joints.
  • Recreation programs: while football might not be the most appropriate mode of activity for active older adults, games like corn hole and bocce ball can be a great way to be physically active outside while enjoying those fall vibes (no helmet required). It’s important that you find ways to move your body every day and that doesn’t always have to be structured exercise. Recreation games are a great option to move while having fun!
  • Garden prep: picking your last harvest, cleaning out garden beds, and prepping your soil with compost can be a great mode of physical activity and you’ll reap the benefits next spring when you have minimal work to prep for planting season. Many people enjoy the meditative benefits from gardening all summer long so give your garden beds a little TLC as a thank you for another great growing season.
  • Harvest meals: veggie and gourd harvests can create some wonderful variety in healthy dining only available at this time of year. Pumpkin bread, grilled squash varieties and hearty soups can be delicious choices and oh so healthy! The colors in the trees and on your plate can be rich and beautiful.

We love partnering with our senior living clients to create new fitness and wellness experiences for residents with the changing seasons and all year round accommodating the requests we hear from residents. The monthly calendar is often full of life enriching experiences that support vibrant living spanning the different dimensions of wellness. Find out what is happening in your community this fall and try something new.

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Topics: senior wellness senior living activities staying active during the holidays

Lives Enriched through NIFS Legacy Program

Legacy photo-1In February, you may have read about NIFS Legacy Program which was run at a number of our senior living client sites across the country. Many fitness centers were considering programs to promote cardiovascular health for Heart Health Month and this initiative had its own way of tugging at the heart strings. As I was reviewing the monthly reports that our staff were submitting highlighting their program offerings and participation in the month of February, I was touched by this quote from our Wellness Director, Candace Montgomery, at The Chesapeake in Newport News, Virginia, a LifeSpire of Virginia community. NIFS has been partnered with LifeSpire since 2016 to manage their Vibrance program across three of their communities. As you read below, you’ll understand how the resident response to this program exemplifies how LifeSpire is committed to creating joy, purpose, growth, and community in daily living for their residents and we are honored to help create these experiences.

“We took part in NIFS Legacy Project which was a huge success for our Independent Living, Assisted Living and Healthcare residents with 74 participants. It was very interesting learning about residents lives and memories that they jotted down during this project. This project was also very touching for many residents who live in Independent Living but have spouses in Healthcare. One resident in particular came to our fitness office in tears of joy about the heartwarming conversations she had with her husband in Healthcare regarding their life and their children and all of the happy memories that occurred. This is truly what the Legacy Project was all about!”  - Candace Montgomery, NIFS Wellness Director

Candace is absolutely right. That IS what it’s all about and I see and feel so much from reading her summary.

  • I see a compassionate and creative wellness professional who values the stories that her residents have to share and a team-oriented approach that was needed to make this program a success.
  • I see 74 residents across all continuums of care participating in a program that gives them purpose and warms their hearts (all of our hearts frankly).
  • I see a couple reminiscing about the beautiful life they continue to share because they are receiving the care and support they need in a nurturing environment.
  • And I see family members receiving a keepsake that will be cherished for generations to come.

All four of these bullets shine a spotlight on the impact that quality wellness programs can have on your staff, residents, and their families; all were enriched by this program.

While many know us as a fitness management company, our staff are regularly offering holistic programs of this nature to support the overall well-being of the residents we serve. In addition, we strive to bridge programs and services throughout the continuums of care to benefit all residents. Here are a few tips to help carry programs that are offered to your IL residents over to your licensed areas with a little creative planning and teamwork.

Thank you to Candace and the team at The Chesapeake for enriching lives of the residents in your community and for enriching us from afar with your story.

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

 

Topics: senior wellness senior wellness programs resident wellness programs legacy

Active Aging: Taking an In-Depth Look at Community Programs

4399_KF_3168Community wellness programming is one of the most important ways to keep your residents engaged. As wellness professionals, it’s our job to make sure that the programs being put into play are impactful and enjoyable, and continue to set precedents and work on the varying dimensions of wellness.

ZOOM: Get a New Perspective on Wellness

Have you heard of the book Zoom? It’s a children’s book by Istvan Banyai. Each page zooms out a little bit farther until you see the bigger picture. Sometimes, as wellness leaders, we tend to forget to “zoom out” and look at what’s working and what isn’t.

When looking at the bigger picture, try to take in all of the offerings at the community. What is working? What isn’t working? What programs need to be revamped or even tossed out? How is your community keeping up with fitness and wellness trends in order to stand out among the rest?

Collecting and Analyzing Data

Most communities have a way of collecting attendance data and feedback from residents. If this isn't happening at your community, consider it to be of utmost importance in order to provide quality programming and understand how residents react to evolving programming.

For communities that do not have data collection in place, consider looking at this blog post by Emily Davenport, NIFS Director of Fitness Management and Active Aging Services, to help you understand how to get started. Once you have a clean, simple way of collecting resident data, it will eliminate a lot of stress.

For communities that do have this in place, look through the data to see what is trending at the community and what isn’t. What trends are you seeing? Are you noticing an influx of residents committing to a program for a couple of months and then falling off the wagon? Are you seeing numbers holding steady and noticing a positive benefit from certain programs that are worth keeping the same? Being able to tap into this data collection is key when deciding what works for the community and what needs to be improved upon.

To Keep or Not to Keep?

Taking an in-depth look into offerings is also a great way to understand whether something needs to be let go. A great way to do this is to look at comparative data over the months/years and start asking questions. If you notice that a program or offering fluctuates in attendance, you may want to consider revamping the offering in a new and exciting way. Maybe the program went from being well-attended to never attended. If that’s the case, you probably would be better off taking away that program and adding something else, or recreating a different offering to increase attendance.

Always Leave Them Wanting MORE

When resident attendance starts to increase, keep in mind that your programs need to evolve. This doesn’t mean that you need to constantly reinvent the wheel, but it does mean that you should continually add different aspects to your programs. If we lack evolution of our offerings, our communities start to get stagnant and too comfortable. Including new and innovative ways to get our community members involved is a key piece when standing out as wellness professionals.

The reason most of us have become wellness professionals is to impact the well-being and improve the quality of life for our residents, patients, or team members. It’s our duty to continually provide engaging, fun, and interactive ways for our community members to learn, grow, and live out their lives in a positive way.

Check out our Quickread to evaluate the quality of your wellness program, click below.

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Topics: senior wellness active aging data collection resident wellness programs wellness programming resident engagement data analysis community wellness

Create Your Own Legacy: A Keepsake for Senior Living Families

Welcome to February, the month when most of us are feeling like we are moving oh so slow through the remainder of the winter months. We have come off the high of gift giving and receiving, enjoying time with family and friends, and even the excitement of the New Year. We are still reflecting on the past year or even the holidays, wishing we could bottle up that time we had with family and friends.

GettyImages-1047684930 (1)When it comes to programming options in senior living, NIFS understands that communities strive to create a memorable experience for residents and their families all year long, which is why we are excited to bring clients the NIFS Legacy program. This is a simple one, but with a memorable result. We are inviting each resident to participate by handwriting answers to simple life questions and to have their photo taken to create a nostalgic piece that will then be transformed into a keepsake for the resident to share with their family.

Building Connections

While NIFS staff are known for providing traditional fitness programming, we also find it engaging to offer opportunities like this program. Interacting with residents each day in our social atmosphere allows us to build relationships and connections that go beyond fitness alone. We often have the privilege of getting to know the residents’ family members through holiday visits, summer vacations, or the weekly check-in. So being a part of a project that will provide a memorable keepsake is icing on the cake for us, knowing how much their son, daughter, niece, or nephew will enjoy it!

Well-Being is More Than Healthy Eating and Exercise

We’ve written before how well-being extends beyond exercising and eating right. With the NIFS Legacy program, residents and staff collaborate to discuss and capture memories and turn them into a special memento that residents can share with their family and friends. Not only does this opportunity foster a connection, but it also helps fulfill a more well-rounded wellness program at the communities we serve. It hits home on the holistic approach to supporting resident well-being by offering an outlet for emotional and spiritual wellness, acknowledging the meaning and purpose of their life and creating new memories with their loved ones.

The meaning of legacy is to “put a stamp on the future,” and we know that our residents have contributed a great amount of time, knowledge, and love to such a thoughtful keepsake. By sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, they will be contributing to the future.

A Partnership Between NIFS and Your Senior Living Community

NIFS partners with premier senior living providers across the US to bring their residents best-in-class fitness and wellness programming. The NIFS Legacy program is a great example of how our qualified fitness professionals have the skills and resources to artfully marry creative programming with relationship building to offer programs of intention and purpose for residents. Click here to learn more about how the NIFS team integrates with communities to help you achieve your wellness goals.

We are excited to invite residents to create their own legacy with handwritten answers to simple life questions alongside a photo that will inspire their family and peers. Throughout the month of February, residents will have an opportunity to visit the community wellness center to create this wonderful keepsake.

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

This blog was written by Lindsay Knox, Assistant Director Active Aging Services, National Institute for Fitness and Sport.

 

Topics: senior wellness senior living memory family emotional wellness well-being

Transcending Generations with Wellness in One Word

NIFS is participating in the Wellness in One Word campaign sponsored by Monarch Collaborations and the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA). The campaign will launch a digital photo gallery during Active Aging Week on October 1 – October 7, 2019 of individuals taking a picture or selfie while holding up their defined word of what wellness means to them in that moment. The goal is to collect and share 1,000 pictures to connect people, spark discussion and create a strong sense of community amongst participants across the world.

It is fascinating to think how this “word” can change for us so many times throughout the day depending on life’s stressors, our interactions with others, what we are able to accomplish in that day, etc.. It’s also interesting how this “word” might be felt or interpreted by different generations.

Emily.GratefulWhen I asked our NIFS team members to share their “word”, I received submissions of vitality, fulfillment, longevity, power, and balance. Our staff join our team from all walks of life and personal and professional experiences, yet their commonality is a strong desire and passion to work with seniors. Through providing individualized exercise services and teaching a variety of exercise classes, our staff are building relationships and helping improve the quality of life for older adults across the country. The tone and context of their submissions was similarly unified.

When I first started my career with NIFS, I managed a fitness program for a senior living client on the south side of Indianapolis. During my time at the community, I enjoyed sharing personal milestones with the residents of purchasing our first home, celebrating our first wedding anniversary, becoming pregnant with our first child and receiving a job promotion. As a young professional in that environment surrounded by active older adults with so many stories to tell about their own life experiences and rich histories, it helped me gain a strong perspective in how much one should truly cherish those milestones and experiences. While my job was to teach and lead the residents in various fitness programs, I learned so much from them in this perspective that I have carried with me through my career and life.

We can reflect on the emotional highs and lows of a given day or a given hour of a day when our words might be anxious, happy, excited, or accomplished. When it comes down to focusing on our overall well-being and pursuing a life of purpose and intention, I believe the “words” our staff are feeling transcend all generations whether you are a young professional at 23 beginning your career or an 83-year-old taking a balance class in a senior living community. The NIFS team is learning valuable lessons in how to appreciate those universal truths for all of us pursuing vitality, fulfillment, longevity, and balance. As I personally reflect on this campaign, our teams’ work serving older adults across the country, and what my “word” will be, I chose grateful.

Follow us on Facebook to see some of our Wellness in One Word submissions.

Topics: senior wellness continuing care retirement community active aging active aging week, inspiration wellness-based lifestyle

Build Relationships to Grow Your Wellness Program

As the manager of your wellness program, have you ever been at the point where participation has stalled a bit? Maybe January was huge with all the New Year’s resolutions and February was decent, but it slowed down in March and April. So how do you reach out to that crowd that’s a little less motivated to participate in your wellness programming?

Learn names.

Think about the last time you were new in a place—maybe a gym, maybe a church, maybe even your favorite restaurant. It’s a little uncomfortable, right? Even if you’re an extrovert and you love meeting new people, it’s not the same feeling as walking in to a group of friends. Now think of how much more at ease you would feel if you heard your name and turned around to see someone you knew. Take the time and make the effort to learn as many names as you possibly can. And then use them! Asking “Hello, Mrs. Smith, how’s your day going?” can go a long way toward building a rapport with Mrs. Smith and making her feel welcome in the fitness space.

Invite them out for coffee.

Get to know them! The point of this coffee date is not to probe them with questions about why they aren’t coming to this amazing triathlon event you’re having with all the prizes. The reason you’re sitting down and taking 20 minutes out of your day specifically for them is to build a relationship. Ask them about their family, their career, their hobbies. Get to know them on some level and show that you genuinely care about them as a person. That’s it. You don’t even need to invite them to come down to the fitness center sometime. You’re planting a seed. Then, eventually, if you’re hosting a wellness event that has something that might appeal to them, make a point to speak to them about it directly and see if they’d like to come.

GettyImages-483770407 (1)Hand-write cards and notes.

Yes, it’s impractical to hand-write every notice or invitation that goes out advertising your wellness program. But it is absolutely practical to take a minute to write someone a two- or three-sentence note in a birthday card once a year. Make people feel special! If there’s a program where you think “Mrs. Smith would be perfect for this,” write a sentence or two on the bottom of the postcard that’s going out with the information on it. Something as simple as “I hope to see you there!” can go a long way if it’s in your handwriting with your signature at the bottom.

Remember the details.

I struggle with this one because I have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time so my memory isn’t great. So, I write it down. If Mrs. Smith comes to show me the 72 photos that she just received in the mail of her new baby great-granddaughter, I’m going to write a note to myself to remember that baby’s name so that I can ask Mrs. Smith about her in a few weeks. It seems tedious and small, but I promise you that remembering those details goes a long way in building trust with that member.

What other ways do you build relationships with people who interact with your wellness program?

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Topics: senior wellness motivation participation personal interest wellness programs relationships

Friendship Village Resident Praises the NIFS Fitness Program

IMG_1985NIFS has been partnering with Friendship Village Kalamazoo since 2015, when they opened their beautiful new Wellness Center. We recently heard an uplifting story from FV resident Kim Cummings regarding the impact the health and fitness program has had on his mobility and outlook on life.

Mr. Cummings has been an avid participant since joining the program in 2015, faithfully attending fitness classes two to three times a week and exercising in the Strength & Cardio Studio. NIFS Fitness Manager Alecia Dennis commented, “I love how Kim is always pushing himself to be better and stronger than yesterday. I am thankful that I am able to watch him flourish in all of his fitness endeavors. He truly is an inspiration to me and all of the residents here at Friendship Village!

We know the value our services bring to the residents and communities we serve, but it never gets old (ever) hearing directly from residents like Kim about their journey. Here is Kim’s inspiring story.

I came to Friendship Village regretting my ongoing dependence on a walker and lacking confidence in the Village’s fitness program. After eight months of our actual experience here, my perceptions radically changed. Having become a regular user of the fitness machines, now attending stretch and strength group classes two or three times a week, and now regularly walking our dog on the paved pathways surrounding the Village and its nearby woods, I’ve actually been able to ditch my walker and, though slowly, feel myself gaining additional strength.
I’ve also come to recognize the fitness program’s social function. The group classes, led by our zesty fitness manager, connect me with an ever-larger group of exercisers. None of us is terribly fit, but we all feel good about marching and stretching and pulling together. We just like coming together, grabbing our weights, finding a chair, and chatting with our neighbors. Likewise, when working out on the fitness machines, I find myself connecting with the individual exercising beside me. The machines are fun to work out on—they give one a sense of accomplishment and progress, but they also provide a great opportunity to introduce oneself to others.
A lover of the outdoors, I’ve also come to appreciate the Village’s accessible and attractive walking paths. I’ve particularly enjoyed my recent walks in the Village Woods (where, even in the winter, the paths are kept clear). I love getting to know the many different plantings and benches dedicated to past residents and to see the ongoing work of the Woods volunteers. Last week I spied a flock of migrating robins passing through the Woods and feasting on the crabapples planted along the side. Walking in the Woods reconnects me with nature and with the rich collective heritage of this Village community.
Freed from my walker and gaining strength, I feel that the fitness program and other aspects of Village life have added to my independence, enabling me to get around more easily. At the same time, it helps me get socially connected with other residents and stay connected with nature. I couldn’t ask for more.
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Topics: senior wellness active aging senior living fitness center nifs fitness center management testimonials senior wellness consulting