Category Archives: Fitness

Staying Motivated to Exercise During Cold Weather

The weather is starting to get colder and the days shorter, which can make exercising the last thing you want to do. When it’s dark outside, it’s easy to stay snuggled in your warm bed and skip your morning workout, but with all of those holiday treats right around the corner, this is no time to slack off. How can you stay motivated to exercise in the colder months?

Set goals and make a plan.

Don’t wait for New Year’s resolutions; set goals for yourself now and make a plan to meet them. Whether your goals are to get fit, lose weight, or de-stress, or all of the above, schedule your workouts on your calendar just as you would a work meeting or doctor’s appointment. Treat these appointments just as you would any other important appointment, and then get the satisfaction of marking it off your “to do” list.

Move indoors.

If it’s too cold to do your regular run, walk, or bike ride outdoors, move your workout inside. You don’t need to belong to a gym to work out indoors. There are plenty of things you can do at home to stay fit: use workout DVDs or get free workouts on YouTube. If you have the space and it’s in your budget, invest in a treadmill or stationary bike to use at home. You can also try out fitness classes at places other than a standard gym—yoga studios, dance studios, and recreation centers. They offer all types of classes that often don’t involve a monthly contract.

Enlist a partner.

It’s always harder to skip a workout if someone else is depending on you. Partner with a friend to work out together this fall and winter. Bundle up and head out for a walk or run together, or find something else active you can do together such as playing indoor tennis, swimming indoors at a local YMCA, or trying out a new fitness class.

Ward off winter blues.

Remind yourself why working out, even when you don’t want to, always makes you feel better. Exercising on dark, cold days can help you keep away the winter blues by boosting your body’s endorphins. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is real and affects 10 to 20 percent of people, and exercise is one way to prevent or lessen its symptoms.

Reward yourself.

Staying motivated to exercise throughout the colder months is challenging. Reward yourself for staying active by treating yourself to a soak in a hot bath or a relaxing massage for sore muscles. Also, make sure you are getting enough sleep.

Finding Time to Exercise for Busy Parents

Now that kids are back in school, and you’re back in your daily routine, finding the time to exercise can be a challenge for busy parents. Whether you’re working full-time or part-time along with taking care of a newborn, chasing after a toddler, or chauffeuring older kids to and from school and activities, it’s easy to go for days without fitting in a workout. Add in a hefty dose of guilt for not spending your free time with your kids, and it’s a recipe for abandoning regular exercise altogether.

With such busy lives, we have to schedule in time to exercise every week, or it may never happen. Think of it as another way to stay healthy for your family. Even if you get in 10-minute increments throughout the day, just moving more will make a huge difference in your overall health, outlook, and well-being, which in turn, will only make you a better parent.

Make exercise a priority by using these tips for finding ways to sneak it into a busy lifestyle:

Strollercize!

Got a baby or toddler? Take advantage of nap time by loading your little one(s) into a jogging stroller and take a walk, or run for 30 minutes.

Find a buddy

Enlist a friend to share workouts. You’re less likely to skip a workout if you’ve promised to meet a friend at the gym or at the park for a walk. Or you can also trade babysitting duties while the other works out.

Play with your kids

Spend time with your kids and exercise at the same time. Kick around a soccer ball with your kids in the yard; go on a bike ride together; walk the dog, or take them to the playground, and join in a game of chase or tag.

Download it

There are endless workout videos available for download as well as on DVD. Especially when it’s raining or the weather turns cold, working out at home to a video is an easy way to fit in exercise. You can even have your kids join you to make it a fun, family affair.

Hit the gym

Join a gym that offers childcare or offers a children’s program your kids can participate in while you and your spouse or partner work out.

Lunch break

If your office allows, eat lunch at your desk, and use your lunch break to go to the gym, or walk or run outdoors a few days a week.

Rise and shine

Get up early before the rest of your house, and get your workout out in before your family’s hectic morning routine starts. You’ll start the day energized and won’t have any excuses later in the day when things like a sick child or schedule changes could derail your workout plans.

Tips for Running on the Beach

If you’re an avid runner, the thought of running on the beach may sound glorious. The sand is soft and inviting, the view is gorgeous … but don’t be fooled, running on sand is far more challenging than you may think.

According to active.com, several studies have found that running on sand consumes more energy than running on asphalt—burning as many as 1.6 more calories per mile. There’s also much less impact force when you run on sand, but with the added resistance, your heart rate rises faster, and your muscles have to work harder.

If you’re planning to run on the beach while on vacation, or if you’re lucky enough to live close to the beach, take note of these tips before trading in the pavement for sand.

Run at low tide

Check local tide reports to see when low tide will be before you head out for a run. It’s best to run at low tide or within an hour or two around the lowest point. As the ocean recedes, it leaves hardening sand behind that creates a hard-packed surface perfect for running.

Shoes or barefoot?

For your first few beach runs, wear your regular running shoes. It may be tempting to ditch the sneakers and go barefoot, but running without them on new terrain could end up being too much for your feet and cause pain or injury. Sand can also be hard on your ankles, and sneakers will help provide stability. After you do a few runs on the sand and your body gets more used to it, if you want to go barefoot, your feet should be able to adapt. Just be aware of sharp shells, glass, or other debris on the beach that could cut your feet.

Slow your pace

Don’t expect to run your average pace on the beach. The change of terrain and lesser impact of the sand will make it feel like your legs are heavier than normal and will become unbearable if you try to run at the speed you’re used to. Slow down and enjoy the view.

Slather on the sunscreen

Protect your skin while running with an SPF30 water-resistant sunscreen, and be sure to bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.

Beach running can be a challenging workout. Be sure to take a rest day in between beach runs to let your body recover from this new work out.

 

 

Incorporating Exercise During Your Vacation

It’s July and many people are heading out on that much-anticipated summer vacation: a time to relax and recharge, whether it’s at the beach, lake, mountains, or sightseeing in a new city.

While vacation is definitely a time to unwind and indulge, it’s also easy to indulge a little too much and get off-track with exercising regularly. Finding ways to stay active while on vacation is easy to do; it just takes a little forethought and planning.

One of the best tips is to remain consistent: If you regularly work out three times per week at home, plan to do the same while on vacation. That can be hard for some folks to even think about because most people perceive exercise while vacationing as taking away from the fun parts and also the desire to avoid anything that resembles everyday chores. The good news is that exercise can be a fun part of any vacation and can be easily incorporated without having structured exercise time.

Here are some tips to keep you on track with your fitness routine while on vacation:

– Set realistic expectations – If you don’t work out daily for an hour a day at home, don’t think you can do it while on vacation. Decide how much and what type of exercise you can incorporate into your trip; for example, taking a walk on the beach at sunset counts as exercise.

Pack your workout shoes and clothes. Don’t forget to pack your gear so you’ll be more likely to exercise while away.

Get outdoors. No matter where you’re headed on vacation, getting outside will get you moving.  Whether it’s a morning swim in the hotel pool, a walk on the beach, a hike in the mountains, or sightseeing in a new city—all of these activities are easily incorporated into your vacation.

Try new activities. Vacation is the perfect time to try new recreational activities, such as kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, hiking, surfing, and more. You can also join a walking tour to explore local sights and landmarks.

Enlist your travel partners. Vacation is about spending time with family and friends, so grab your travel buddy and go for a run on the beach or rent bikes and hit the trails.

 

 

Making Fitness a Regular Part of Your Day

You’ve heard the exercise recommendations before—at least 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. But with our increasingly busy lives, sometimes it’s hard to  find that small chunk of time to dedicate to working out every day. The most important thing is just to move more. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean 30 minutes of jogging or lifting weights in a gym or an aerobics class. Exercise can be any activity you enjoy that gets you moving, that gets your heart rate up, and makes you feel good.

Working fitness into your daily routine is easier than you think. Try not to think of exercise in the traditional sense. Things like working in the garden, walking your dog, hiking with your kids, or even just mowing the grass are activities that get you moving and count toward your daily activity. The key is to change your mindset about exercise: once you do, you’ll be surprised how you will begin to look for more opportunities to move.

Here are five simple ideas to incorporate exercise into your daily routine:

  1. Take your dog for a walk, or go to a dog park to play frisbee, or throw a ball.
  2. Play with your kids. Get outside and play tag, throw a ball, go on a nature walk, jump rope, run through the sprinkler, and just have fun.
  3. Work in the yard. Gardening, mowing the lawn, and raking leaves are hard work!
  4. Always take the stairs. And always park your car far away from your destination.
  5. Clean your home regularly. Vacuuming, mopping, sweeping, and other chores can be a great workout, especially if you have a larger home.

The most important point is to find something active that you enjoy doing—if you’re having fun, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

 

HR Focus: Yoga in the Workplace

The connection between workplace wellness and employee productivity is well documented. In an effort to both boost employee health and improve employee retention in a tight job market, more and more companies are offering nutrition, fitness, and other wellness programs.

One offering whose popularity keeps growing is workplace yoga. Studies have linked the mind-body connection of yoga to better body image, more mindful eating, and improved fitness outcomes, among many other benefits. It turns out that when it comes to workplace wellness, yoga has some very specific benefits that increase employee productivity. Employees who participate in workplace yoga programs report:

  • Increased energy
  • Decreased pain
  • Stress relief
  • Better concentration
  • Heightened creativity
  • Improved morale

The practice of yoga is relatively simple; it requires only a mat and some room to move around. This relatively low barrier to entry—not requiring any special equipment or a specially-designed room—makes yoga programs among the easiest to set up. For just the cost of some mats and a certified yoga instructor, HR departments can offer lunchtime, morning, or evening yoga classes for employees. Evidence indicates that employees flock to these programs and even demand more.

A study from the National Business Group on Health estimates that around 50 percent of corporate healthcare costs are related to “lifestyle issues.” The World Health Organization counts stress and depression as major factors in reducing corporate employee wellness, citing “long hours, multi-tasking, stiff competition, rigorous commute, irregular eating habits, sedentary desk jobs, and bad sitting postures as the prime offenders contributing to poor employee states of mind.

Once a company has established a yoga program for employee wellness, the employees themselves often take it upon themselves to pursue their own individual yoga practices. Again, since yoga is such a fundamentally simple exercise, it lends itself to self-guided, self-paced practice that employees can do for 10 or 20 minutes on their own.

If you’re considering setting up a yoga program at your workplace, Workforce magazine has some tips:

  • Survey employees to gauge interest level, determine what type of yoga to offer, and identify the most popular times for classes.
  • Talk to several certified yoga instructors with experience creating and teaching workplace yoga programs.
  • Schedule classes several months in advance so employees can plan their schedules.
  • Educate employees the benefits of relaxation and stress management through yoga.

 

Are You Ready for a Holiday Fitness Challenge?

Commit to a short daily fitness routine to help you stay healthier this holiday season.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, an endless succession of family dinners, office parties, and edible gifts can derail even the healthiest eaters. Combined with the colder weather, ‘tis the season to pack on the pounds like a Christmas goose.

Holiday Fitness Challenge

To counteract the seasonal splurges, why not try an office exercise challenge? For yourself or for a group of colleagues, these workplace exercises can be a fun way to keep fit.

Day One: Stairs

Once an hour, run up and down a flight of stairs at least once. Advanced/ambitious team members can do several flights each hour.

Day Two: Desk Pushups

Every two hours, stand up and place hands on desk, about shoulder-distance apart. With your arms straight, walk your feet backwards until your body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keeping your body straight, do 10 pushups.

Day Three: Superman/Banana

For core strength, you have to hit the floor, so you may want to bring a towel. First, lie face-down on the floor, with your arms above your head, pointing straight in front of you. Then lift your arms and legs a few inches off the floor; you’re Superman! Hold for 30 seconds, then rest. Flip onto your back, with your arms extended over your head. Carefully, making sure your lower back doesn’t arch; lift your arms and legs so that your body forms a wide V. You’re a banana! Hold for 30 seconds, then rest. Do three times during the day, and try to lengthen the time you hold each pose.

Day Four: Walking Challenge

This one works best if you’re doing a fitness challenge with a group. Once an hour, write a note—an encouraging quote, or a joke, or a bit of good-natured gossip—to a colleague. Walk to that person’s office in the most roundabout way possible.

Day Five: Wall Sits

Standing around waiting for the coffee to brew? Sit instead… against the wall. Wall sits work your legs and core, and they’re harder than they look. Stand straight, with your back against the wall. Slowly slide your back down the wall, bending your knees until they are at a 90-degree angle. Now hold it for as long as you can. For fun, get other colleagues to join you, and see who can hold it the longest. Get someone to take a picture; there’s your company photo! The company that stays fit together stays together!

HR Focus: Virtual Fitness

What is the participation rate for your wellness program? Unless your company is one of the rare ones with over 65 percent involvement, technology may help to engage more employees. Specifically, virtual fitness training may provide the convenience and cost-effectiveness that has been missing until now.

The Convenience of Virtual Fitness

Fitness training is one of the many activities that has changed with the advent of the internet. Whereas meeting with a trainer once necessitated physically going to a gym or fitness studio, the internet has enabled real-time audio and video communication between trainers and clients. Virtual trainers work remotely with their clients, creating customized workouts and providing encouragement and guidance.

The benefits of virtual training are significant:

  • Customized workouts to meet clients’ fitness goals
  • Costs that are drastically reduced from those of in-person fitness training
  • Increased flexibility for clients who can work out at their own pace and in the time and place of their choosing

These benefits are especially important in the realm of wellness programs, where they can increase participation and decrease costs to the company. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that lack of awareness and inconvenience were the two most commonly stated reasons why employees do not participate in available wellness programs, with lack of employer support also playing a strong role. Survey respondents also cited a desire for programs to be personalized to them, not one-size-fits-all.

In many ways, virtual training seems like a panacea for many problems of wellness program participation. However, more HR professionals know that there’s no such thing as a magic bullet. Virtual training programs are only as good as their trainers, and like in the real world, not all trainers are equally qualified. This makes online training especially risky, since meeting virtually could make it easier for trainers to fake their credentials. Also, fitness training might sometimes require in-person communication for trainers to help clients improve their form on certain exercises where poor form might cause injuries. This is especially true for beginners, who are likely to need more in-person support.

If your wellness program numbers need a boost, investigate whether virtual trainers may help your employees take control and improve their health.

 

 

 

Tips for Beating the Heat This Summer!

Exercising in Hot Weather

The southeast’s mild climate makes it possible to exercise outside year-round. Now that winter’s cold and spring’s rains are gone, summer and the warm weather is enticing people outside in droves. However, that warm sun that loosens your muscles and feels so good on your skin can actually be doing serious damage. Heat and sun can be as dangerous as cold and ice when it comes to exercising outdoors, so read on for tips on how to beat the heat.

Tips for Beating the Heat This Summer!

  1. It’s all about the timing. In the winter, lunchtime is an excellent time to take a walk, run, or ride a bike outside. In the summer, not so much. The sun is at its zenith at noon—making it the worst time of day for being outside. If possible, avoid the sun’s rays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. With summer’s longer days, prework and postwork are the best times for exercising outside.
  2. It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity. The high humidity of the southern summer climate can raise the heat index, making a hot day feel even hotter. The Mayo Clinic warns that exercising in the heat can raise your core body temperature, resulting in heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. If you experience headaches, lightheadedness, confusion, nausea, or muscle cramps, stop exercising immediately and take steps to cool your core temperature. On extremely hot days, you might do better to exercise in the gym or to even run up and down the stairs in the office.
  3. Despite (or because of) the humidity, don’t forget to hydrate. Exercising in hot weather produces extra sweat, which makes it more important than ever to stay hydrated. As discussed in our post on sports drinks, water is usually the best form of hydration. For prolonged exercise in hot weather, however, the electrolytes and sugar in sports drinks may provide important replenishment for your system.
  4. Stay protected. When you head outside to exercise, don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun. Even during non-peak hours or cloudy weather, harmful UVA rays can still cause sun damage and skin cancer. Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and when feasible, cover your skin with lightweight, breathable fabric.

 

Financial Incentives for Physical Activity: What Works?

Increasing the Physical Activity of Your Employees

How can organizations help keep their employees healthy? This is a question that has dogged company executives for decades, particularly since the 1980s when researchers first started tying workplace wellness programs to lower healthcare costs and higher employee productivity.

Do financial incentives for employee wellness programs work?

Most wellness programs consist of some or all of the following:

  • Biometric screening
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Weight management assistance
  • Stress reduction programs
  • Step challenges, either self-reported or using a pedometer
  • Awareness-raising campaigns, including posters, newsletters, and wellness events

That wellness programs have the potential to make employees healthier is undeniable. However, just having the program is not enough; employees need to participate, and they need to change their behaviors in order for the program to work. This is where the rubber meets the road, and it’s where many wellness programs fail to provide the hoped-for outcomes.

A recent Rand Health and Gallup study found that in companies that provide wellness programs, only 24 percent of employees choose to participate. This can severely reduce the ROI of the program, no matter how well-designed it is! And a study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (ERBI) found that late adopters of wellness programs were likely to be less healthy than their early-adoption counterparts, with more people at risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, as well as worse biometric readings and more expensive medical insurance usage.

So, with a wellness program in place, how do human resources departments encourage participation, especially from those who need it most? Several recent studies indicate that financial incentives might hold the key: but with a caveat. A 2016 study from the University of Pennsylvania called “Framing Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Overweight and Obese Adults” found that offering a positive financial incentive—i.e., giving additional money for participation—did not increase activity. However, offering a negative financial incentive—taking away money for lack of participation—resulted in a 50 percent increase in participation.

The ERBI study cited above offers hope as well; although unhealthy and overweight people were less likely to join wellness programs without incentives, financial incentives did increase participation and encourage a favorable response. It’s important to note that wellness programs cannot be mandatory, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) forbids discriminating against employees based on their health or genetic makeup.