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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Get Started with Group Fitness to Improve Your Mental Health

Screen Shot 2021-04-15 at 1.33.39 PMPicture this: It’s the last 10 minutes of your favorite group fitness class on the NIFS Fitness Center’s basketball court. You have already completed dozens of repetitions of strength-training exercises and now it’s time for a cardio finisher. You are sweating, tired, and ready to be done, but you keep going. You are so close… it’s the final 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 seconds of cardio, and you made it. Wow, you feel exhausted, but accomplished. Your body is tired, but mentally you are at ease. Why does exercise make your mind feel so good?

Mental Health Benefits of Group Exercise

Exercise has many perks that are relevant to daily life, but focusing on mental health, exercise has loads of benefits.

  • Exercise increases the blood supply to your brain. More blood means more oxygen and more nutrients.
  • Exercise works as a distraction. When you’re working out and pushing yourself, the things that usually occupy your mind to make you anxious are not the main focus.
  • Exercise helps you sleep. Pushing yourself daily in a workout can help you regulate your sleep cycle.
  • Exercise reduces tension. Moving your body in a workout can help relieve the tension built up from stress.
  • Exercise boosts your overall energy. Yes, working out makes you tired, but it also releases endorphins that boost your mood, memory, and energy level.

Getting Started with Group Fitness

Now that you know some of the benefits of exercise, how can you get started on improving your mental health with group fitness?

If you do not regularly attend group fitness classes, start slow. Set a target of one or two classes to attend a week. It’s important not to push yourself too hard by trying to attend a class every day of one week, causing you to be burnt out or unmotivated to go the next week. The main objective for you is to set an attainable goal for several classes to attend weekly and then gradually increase your weekly participation once you are comfortable.

Don’t be afraid to mix up the formats. At this point, any exercise led by our instructors will be good for you. Try out formats that you have never tried before, or even try a format you have enjoyed in the past with a new instructor. Mix it up!

The key to success within group fitness is to find formats that you enjoy with instructors that you look forward to going to. After all, attending a class that you dread is not going to be beneficial for your mental health. The more consistent you get with your workout attendance, the more constant the benefits will be.  

Group Fitness at NIFS

Come join us in our group fitness community. NIFS has a wide variety of group fitness offerings, so you are sure to find a class to boost your mood, increase your energy, and improve your mental health.

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This blog was written by Payton Gross, Group Fitness Coordinator and Barre Above Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center group fitness group training emotional mental health

The Three P’s of Group Fitness at NIFS

bootcamp-outsideGroup fitness classes are fitting for many people because the classes provide participants with predetermined workouts led by highly motivated instructors in a group setting. The niche of group fitness is constantly evolving. Classes in the category of group fitness look a lot different than they did 10 or 20 years ago. Not only do the classes look different, but they are more diverse than ever. Many participants use group fitness as supplementation for a typical workout at the gym because all you have to do is show up. Ease of participation coupled with the accountability of other members makes group fitness classes a unique environment.

NIFS takes pride in its group fitness offerings. This is why I want to share a little more about the three P’s our instructors prioritize in every class.

Prioritizing Purposeful Education

Educating members by encouraging them to attend workouts in complementary categories to get the most from their workouts while protecting their bodies.  

Group fitness classes are goal-oriented. No matter the format, every class has a goal that falls into one of these categories: endurance, strength, flexibility, or toning. A balanced group fitness schedule for a participant could look like this:

  • Monday: Les Mills Core and BODYATTACK Express
  • Tuesday: Cycling
  • Wednesday: Vinyasa Yoga
  • Thursday: Interval Training and Les Mills Core
  • Friday: Yoga
  • Saturday: Cycling

Group Fitness Schedule

Prioritizing Positive Experiences

Group fitness is a community. Studies have shown when you work out with others, there is a level of trust formed that enables people to be vulnerable and push each other to reach fitness goals. 

Encouragement within the group emphasizing small victories within classes makes the environment positive for participants. Our main goal is to make sure everyone feels good after their workout here at NIFS.

Prioritizing Participation

Group fitness cannot be group fitness without a group. NIFS instructors make participant needs and wants a priority. If a class time is not working to maximize participation, we edit it. Monthly revisions to the schedule are common to test and try class times and formats. 

Whatever works for participants, works with us. Additionally, these are unprecedented times; this is why a majority of our classes take place on the basketball court. We know how important mirrors are when checking form in group fitness classes, so we bought safe, glassless mirrors specifically for group fitness. Participation is the heart of group fitness, so the more the better. Come join us!

Come work out with us. Joining is easy, and once you’ve committed, the community is for a lifetime.

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This blog was written by Payton Gross, Group Fitness Coordinator and Barre Above Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center motivation group fitness accountability Les Mills education

The Culture of Group Fitness

Screen Shot 2021-02-02 at 11.47.30 AMGroup fitness is so much more than doing the same workout as everyone in a group of others. Research on people who participate in group fitness classes has shown that participants work harder in a group setting than they do in solo workouts because of their subconscious thoughts.

Find Motivation and Accountability

There is a driving force within group fitness that makes you think that if the person next to you can push through something such as the challenging 45-second plank, you can too. Group fitness classes are a safe space where participants can push themselves to complete a workout alongside others who are right there with them. When a participant completes the challenging metcon of the workout alongside others, they inevitably feel a sense of community or connectedness because they did that together.

If I were to describe the type of culture present within group fitness, I would say group fitness classes are comprised of motivated individuals who use positive social stimulation to make their workouts better.

Meet Likeminded People and Work Together

Group fitness for many is a crucial aspect of their daily socialization. Friendships made in the gym are strong because of the shared fitness. Sharing a hobby with someone can be the foundation of a great friendship outside of the group fitness atmosphere. Friendships within the world of group fitness can be a healthy motivator to work harder in every workout. No matter your strength or fitness, there is a place for your within group fitness. Everyone there has the same goal as you: to complete the workout and have a good time doing it. Don’t be afraid to share your goals with the group because, in the end, you'll have more friendships and workout buddies to conquer challenges with.

Your Workouts Are Already Planned for You

Another pro of attending group fitness classes is that you do not have to think or plan your workout. Just show up and allow our certified instructors to lead you through a structured warm-up, killer workout, and dynamic cool-down. In addition to a planned workout, the instructors are also there to cue you into the correct form to prevent injuries and push you to get the most from your workout. What more could you ask for? You get a free workout plan, motivation, and a group of like-minded individuals to do it with you!

Check out our monthly group fitness schedule and try a new class today either online or at NIFS!

Group Fitness Schedule

This blog was written by Payton Gross, NIFS Group Fitness Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: motivation group fitness workouts group training accountability group fitness culture social aspects

Meet You at the Barre! A Total-body Group Fitness Workout

Screen Shot 2020-12-08 at 3.29.43 PMAre you looking for a workout to strengthen and tone muscles without increasing bulk, but have not found anything that you like doing? Have you always wanted to increase your cardiovascular endurance and metabolism but hate doing regular old boring cardio? Well I might have an answer for you…

Barre is a workout that you can do every day. That’s right, a workout that you will want to do because it challenges you, but is low-impact enough that your joints will not be screaming at you the following day. Actually, studies have shown that Barre has various positive health effects! This fun and relatively new workout can help increase bone density while tightening skin and reducing cellulite.

What Is Barre Above?

Alright, well now you’re interested… so what is Barre, anyway? NIFS offers two Barre-based classes (Barre Above and Barre Fusion) (see the Group Fitness class schedule here). Today I dive a little bit deeper into what Barre Above is.

Barre Above is a fusion of yoga, Pilates, strength training, and ballet. Barre classes incorporate specific sequencing patterns and isometric movements that target specific muscle groups. This pattern of exercise helps improve strength, balance, flexibility, and posture. Barre exercise movements are low-impact and are made for all fitness levels. In Barre, the movements consist of plie squats, leg kicks, lifts, and holds as well as an array of core exercises.

At a Barre class, you can expect your whole body to be challenged in a way other group fitness workouts do not. Expect a great playlist to motivate you throughout the exercises because barre is a beat-based format. What does this mean? Beat-based formats are taught to the beat of the music. For example, you will squat to the main beat of the music up and down and eventually pulse it out until the beat changes. This type of workout is a blast because the music is the focal point of class. Expect playlists of popular and fun songs to move your body to at Barre every week.

A Total-body Workout

Do you know the shaking feeling you get in your core when you hold a plank position or when you hold a weight in your hand in an outstretched arm for an extended period of time? This is the type of challenge you will feel throughout your entire body at Barre. Barre offers an effective total-body workout focused on low-impact, high-intensity movements that lift and tone muscles to improve strength and flexibility made for every body.

If you are ready for a workout you enjoy coming to and feel accomplished afterwards, join us for Barre at NIFS.

See you at the Barre!

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This blog was written by Payton Gross, Group Fitness Coordinator and Barre Above Instructor. Learn more about the NIFS bloggers here.

Topics: NIFS cardio group fitness endurance metabolism core music strength training total-body workouts low-impact barre

Finding Community in Group Fitness

Screen Shot 2020-10-20 at 11.38.06 AMDo you want to be part of a community and hold yourself accountable while working out? Group fitness classes just might have what you are looking for!

Group fitness has been around for decades. Many probably remember classes such as Jazzercise and aerobics that were common in the 1970s and ‘80s, followed by Tae Bo and step aerobics in the ‘90s. Not much has changed in the realm of group fitness except the current trending workouts. Today, group fitness participants enjoy Zumba, Barre, CrossFit, as well as Pilates, yoga, and Boot Camp formats. Nevertheless, all group fitness classes have essentially the same benefits.

Benefits of Group Fitness

What are some of the benefits of group fitness? Group fitness…

  • teaches you motivation and to push others to be their best
  • adds variety to your workout
  • supplies you with people to work out with
  • leads to positive competition

As the Group Fitness Coordinator here at NIFS, I have witnessed firsthand throughout my years of experience that group fitness communities are unlike any other. I have developed lifelong friendships with those who have pushed me and held me accountable. As an instructor, there is no better feeling than watching others achieve their fitness goals. I look forward to my "regulars" in my classes, and often over time they feel like family. The community of group fitness is not just people who work out together, but also individuals you enjoy spending time with as a de-stressor from daily life.

Group Fitness Is Where You Need to Be

If you are looking for a group of likeminded individuals who enjoy setting goals, exceeding expectations, and using each other as motivation to complete challenges, group fitness classes are exactly where you need to be. I look forward to seeing you participate in our group fitness offerings here at NIFS! 

Try a Class for Free!

There are lots of options when it comes to group fitness classes. Come try one of our classes for free!

GF_E-news Header 1This blog was written by Payton Gross, NIFS Group Fitness Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress group fitness accountability competition fitness community group fitness culture friendship

Why I Do BODYPUMP™

Tasha BodypumpLes Mills® BODYPUMP™ has changed my life. There are hundreds of workouts to choose from, but this one…it’s all mine. It’s my workout rock, the base of my week, and the base of my training. Why do I do it? Keep reading.

How I Got Started with BODYPUMP™ and Why I Stay With It

I have to give credit to my sister for starting what some would call an obsession. She discovered BODYPUMP™ and became an instructor. She knew I wanted to be a group fitness instructor and she showed me how to do it through Les Mills. She invited me to take her BODYPUMP™ class and I fell in love with it after the first class. I very clearly remember her telling me that I burned 400 to 500 calories and I thought, “That’s like an extra meal!” I was hooked. The music, the repetitions, the strength behind it; it’s not traditional weightlifting—it’s better!

After the initial love bubble, the true test of a program comes: will you keep coming back? What kept me coming and still does to this day is the effectiveness of the workout. Before starting BODYPUMP™ I was unable to do a single pull-up on my own. After about 6 months, I was able to do one. Then two… then three…without actually practicing pull-ups. It doesn’t matter how many different workouts I try, I always own them and continue to impress others with my strength. I may be small, but I’m mighty and I wouldn’t have gotten there without BODYPUMP™.

The Dynamic BODYPUMP™ WorkoutTasha Bodypump 2

Les Mills BODYPUMP™ is a very dynamic program. It’s always changing and evolving. It’s stable enough that I know I will always get a good workout, but it’s never stagnant. It continues to push me and my fitness level with every release. I am now a National Trainer, Presenter and Assessor for Les Mills BODYPUMP™ and I see every day how both new participants and experienced weightlifters can be both welcomed and challenged by this program. When I look out in class and see 20+ people waking up at 6am to work out with me and do BODYPUMP™, I know we have something special. I can speak from experience that we get stronger with every class. We are more than just a group of people who work out. We are a team of friends working toward a common goal of increasing our fitness and enjoying the feeling of success that only BODYPUMPers know when they finish a set with 8 bottom halves.

BODYPUMP™ has made me strong and keeps me strong. And that is why I do what I do. BODYPUMP™ is offered every day of the week, so check out the Group Fitness Schedule to find a class that works with your schedule. Aim for 2 to 3x per week for the best results. Request a class for free and enjoy!

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This blog was written by Tasha Nichols, Group Fitness Manager and Program Coordinator at NIFS and a Les Mills US National Trainer, Presenter, and Assessor. Meet our NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS group fitness workouts group training muscles strength Les Mills BODYPUMP

Concrete Core: Les Mills CXWORX at NIFS

FEBRUARY 2021 LES MILLS CORE_webThe “core” is a fitness buzzword that has rung in people’s ears for some time now. If you have been in the gym in the past 10–15 years, you have heard about the importance of a strong core in performance and for activities of daily living. And it’s so true: a weak center can lead to many issues throughout the entire body, mainly low-back pain and tight hips. I am not reporting anything new here; a strong trunk is super, super important!

Core Defined

Gray Cook of FMS posed a question once:

“While driving in your car, what would you rather fail, the engine or the brakes?”

Your core is the brakes for your body. Being able to stop movement as opposed to creating movement is the important function of the musculature of the trunk.

Let’s back up for a second and define the core. The definition has been argued for years on message boards, social media, and countless blogs, but I define the core as pretty much everything minus your extremities—chin to knees. The abs, glutes, obliques, and lats are all major assets of the core system. The trunk serves as your stability, your brakes, the glue that holds everything together and keeps you strong.

Group Fitness for Your Core

In recent posts, we have demonstrated core strategies such as marching, crawling, and dead bugs as great ways to get the job done on your own; but what if you love exercising in a group and want to target your core?

CXWORX is a 30-minute Les Mills group fitness class that is centered around your center. It is a challenging core workout that utilizes resistance tubing and plate weight in an array of different ways. Exercises are performed standing and on the ground, adding many dimensions to your training. Each class begins with a warmup and can consist of up to five different core segments all choreographed to music.

Screen Shot 2019-09-17 at 12.49.00 PM

How to Get the Most Out of Your CXWORX Class

Here are 5 tips for getting started and getting the most from your class:

  • Get there early and check in with the instructor to get the lowdown on what you can expect.
  • Grab a lighter resistance tube to start and really focus on the technique and tempo.
  • Pay attention to your instructor and the teaching cues they give for each of the movements.
  • Try a few classes to really get a good feel for the movements—don’t stop after one.
  • Be receptive to technique cues. You joined a class led by an expert, so utilize their knowledge.

Developing and maintaining a strong, durable core will improve all areas of fitness and movement. Everything really derives from the center, and a stronger center equals a stronger whole.

CXWORX at NIFS

Find out if  CXWORX is right for you. Check out the Group Fitness Schedule for class times.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: group fitness core Les Mills Group Fitness Class of the Month CXWORX

The Inside Scoop on Group Fitness from NIFS Instructor Tasha Nichols

Tasha Bodypump 3Group Fitness is one of the most popular attractions here at NIFS, with more than 60 different classes a month taught by highly qualified instructors. If you’ve never tried group fitness or you’re not sure what it’s all about, this blog is for you.

There’s a ton of variety in our classes, which range from calming yoga to fast-paced Cardio Hip Hop—and everything in between. Group Fitness instructor Tasha Nichols has experience with multiple classes and is here to help you get the inside scoop on Group Fitness and how to get involved.

Q&A with Tasha

Tasha has been involved with NIFS for 10 years as an instructor, and previously was the Group Fitness Coordinator. She has spent much of her career expanding LES MILLS nationally when she’s not instructing classes. Not only is she an incredible instructor, but she has also claimed the title of World Kettlebell Champion.

Q: What classes do you teach? Describe your favorite.

A: I typically teach LES MILLS BODYPUMP, BODYCOMBAT, and BODYJAM. I can’t possibly pick a favorite! I love each format for a different reason. I choose to teach the LES MILLS formats because they are my favorite class styles of any group workout I’ve done. The combination of music and movement is addicting, and the science behind them as well as the preparation involved in each release makes me trust the quality of the program I’m delivering. This trust allows me to focus on delivering the best experience to the participants, whether it’s lifting, punching and kicking, or dancing.

Q: How long have you been teaching group fitness?

A: I just passed my 10-year mark in November! I actually taught my very first class at NIFS back in the day. It was ironically the 6am BODYPUMP class that I teach now. Even after leaving Indy for a few years, it still has some of the same people!

Q: How did you get involved with group fitness?

A: Teaching group fitness was something I always wanted to do. My grandma was a group fitness instructor when aerobics was just becoming a thing, so I grew up hearing lots of stories about her classes. My sister started teaching BODYPUMP when I was in college and I loved her class, so I decided to start by becoming certified in that.

Q: What’s your favorite thing (and least favorite thing) about group fitness?

A: Favorite thing: the energy of a group is very powerful, and the combination of music and movement. There’s a unique ability to get lost in the music that feels incredible.

Least favorite thing: I wish we’d get a little more of a chance to work one on one with everyone, to be able to tweak movements and coach corrective exercises. But, that’s what the awesome trainer team is for at NIFS.

Q: In what ways have your participants benefitted from class?

A: 1: Results 2: I like to think they find a little more joy, fun, and freedom in movement and in life.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who has never taken a group fitness class but wants to get involved?

A: Be brave and talk to the instructor and the people around you. Let them know you are new and don’t be afraid to take options! It’s totally okay (and sometimes necessary) to stay for just part of the class, especially when you’re new. We call it the Smart Start option in LES MILLS classes. We’ve all been new once; we get it! As mentioned above, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, and after recently having two kids in two years, I’ve found myself taking the Smart Start option quite a bit. It’s all part of the journey, and there are no judgments in my class; I’ve got your back.

Q: Is there a certain skill set or prerequisite to get started in a class?

A: Nope! Just get there a little early (particularly for BODYPUMP) so I can help you get set up.

Q: How do you stay current with your education?

A: Three main ways:

I carry Personal Training and Group Fitness certifications from ACE and AFAA, so I stay up-to-date on their research as well as LES MILLS.

I follow many of the classic strength and conditioning coaches (Mike Boyle, Dan John, etc.) and a few physical therapists who work in the strength and conditioning field.

I also work to gain personal experience in my fields—I trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 2+ years for BODYCOMBAT and have competed (and won) internationally for the kettlebell sport. (#worldchamp #nobigdeal)

Q: Do you teach anywhere other than NIFS? Can you compare them?

A: I don’t teach anywhere else, but I do work for LES MILLS on the business side, which gives me a unique perspective. I run trainings for BODYPUMP and BODYCOMBAT nationally and oversee the development of the assessment criteria for new instructors across all programs globally, so I get to see instructors in all types of gyms. But at the end of the day, NIFS is still my favorite place to train, and I think the participants who come to my classes are the best in the world. You all are my favorites.

Group Fitness at NIFS

Our Group Fitness Instructors at NIFS are dedicated to helping clients reach their fullest potential by ensuring they have all the tools necessary to succeed. Tasha is just one out of several amazing instructors who is here to help you reach your goals. Their drive to help our clients is what has made Group Fitness the most popular program at NIFS.

Try a Class for Free!

This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS group fitness Les Mills kettlebell BODYPUMP BODYCOMBAT BodyJam

The Benefits of Physical Activity: Mind, Body, and More

By this point, everyone has iStock_000010361991Smallheard that exercise is good for health. The fitness industry has been growing significantly over the past decade. As of 2017, there were more than 200,000 health and fitness clubs worldwide, which is up from nearly 130,000 clubs in 2009. Clearly, fitness is becoming a huge part of peoples’ lives. But why are we seeing this massive growth in the industry, and in what ways is it improving health?

The Physical Benefits

The physical benefits of increased activity include the following.

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Increased Muscle Mass

A well-known benefit to working out is increased muscle mass. This alone has so many benefits to your health besides the visual appeal that people seek. Muscle is a huge driver for metabolism. In fact, it takes so much energy to maintain muscle mass that having more of it increases metabolism significantly, even at rest.

Improved Bone Health

Most people hit peak bone mass in early adulthood. After we hit our peak, our bone density begins to decline. Several factors go into how much we build before we hit our peak and how fast we fall once over that peak. And of course, exercise is a huge factor in this. Weight-bearing activity that forces you to challenge gravity is huge in preserving or even building bone density by breaking down the bone so it can build back even stronger.

Better Sleep

Exercise can improve sleep quality by expelling built-up energy. Another way sleep improves is the cycle of body temperature brought on by exercise. During activity the temperature increases; once activity has stopped the temperature gradually decreases, causing chemicals to be released that promote drowsiness.

Increased Energy and Stamina

In the short term, exercise increases blood flow throughout the body to improve energy. Over time, exercise causes improvements in cardiovascular health, allowing the heart to pump more oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, therefore increasing energy.

Reduced Cholesterol

When exercise, weight loss, and dietary intervention are combined, the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels decrease while HDL (good) cholesterol levels increase.

Decreased Risk of Chronic Diseases

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “exercise is medicine,” it will be no surprise that exercise actually reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Various things happen in the body to cause this, but the most important is that by getting active, the chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes, some cancers, stroke, heart disease, and more are drastically reduced.

Increased Coordination and Balance

By staying active, people learn how to be more coordinated and balanced. Motor control over movements becomes more natural the more it is practiced, and will translate to real-life scenarios. In the long run, especially through aging, this is beneficial to help prevent falls and the negative consequences, such as fractured bones, that come along with them.

The Mental Benefits

The mental benefits of increased activity include the following.

  • Stress relief
  • Positive mood
  • Improved mental alertness
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increased cognitive function

Most of these improvements occur due to the increased blood flow to the brain, which acts on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This area of the brain interacts with several other regions, including the limbic system, hippocampus, and amygdala, which are correlated with motivation, mood, and responses to stress. Other noted improvements may be explained by providing distraction, improving self-efficacy, and increasing social interaction. Research shows that exercise can improve cognitive function by promoting neuroplasticity. By staying active throughout adulthood and senior years, cognitive decline can be prevented.

Although many mechanisms go into this complicated process, one thing that is known is that the rate of neurogenesis, or the production of new neurons, is greatly increased by exercise. This may be the result of increased blood flow to the brain during exercise, with an abundance of oxygen and nutrients.

Other Benefits

A lot of benefits that come from exercise can be measured or researched. Some benefits are harder to measure but still occur. We learn how to set realistic yet challenging goals, learn the discipline needed to accomplish those goals, and learn more about ourselves. We can gain a better understanding of how much we can push ourselves and improve our mind-body connection.

How Much Should You Work Out?

The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans outlines the recommended amount of activity for different age groups. Adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week. Most health benefits can start to be seen at the minimum amount; however more benefits are seen beyond 300 minutes of activity a week. Adults should also do some type of resistance-training exercise at least two days of the week.

At NIFS, we have multiple group fitness classes every day to help you reach your goals and hit the minimum requirements. Check out the group fitness schedule for 30–60-minute classes to help you achieve at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS staying active group fitness balance mental disease prevention sleep staying fit active aging physical activity

Balancing Act: How to Improve Your Balance—and Quality of Life

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 12.19.41 PMImagine a tightrope walker, gracefully walking their path across their suspended highwire. An incredible amount of balance is required, along with stability and strength, to ensure that the performer maintains their position on the rope. Now think about balance as it applies to you and your profession or daily life. You might not even think about it, but you use balance every day. Things that you take for granted, such as walking down stairs, putting on a pair of pants, and getting out of your car require some level of balance, or else we would most likely take a tumble. Thankfully, there are exercises and routines designed to improve and train balance that transfer nicely to daily life.

As with any limitation or injuries, be careful and mindful of the doctor’s recommendations. Loss of balance could be a sign that you need to be checked out by your physician. That being said, we know that exercise can be great, but we would regard and yield to the utmost safety when approaching anyone who may be at risk or falling due to balance issues.

If you have come to the conclusion that your balance needs help, there is good news for you! Like most facets of life, balance can be improved. The answer to a question as simple as, “If you want to run a 5K in 20 minutes, what would you do?” is RUN! So, if you want to get better balance, what should you do? Practice balancing. You do not have to walk a tightrope on day one, but there are many exercises and fitness tools designed to help your balance improve.

Balance Exercises

Try the following exercises and activities, and see how you do with balance, then incorporate them into your routine. Assess your balance from time to time to see how you have improved.

  • Stand on an unstable surface. Using an AirEx Pad, time yourself standing on one foot. Other exercises can be done while standing on the pad such as lunges, squats, and dumbbell overhead press, utilizing the unstable surface to challenge your balancing ability. Other unstable surfaces you may use as you advance include the BOSU ball, half foam roller, and sand.
  • Try unilateral exercises. Improving your leg strength through unilateral exercise is another great way to improve your balance. Some examples of these exercises include lunges, split squats, and my personal favorite, the single-leg sit and stand on a box. For this exercise, you will want to find a box that is the appropriate height (around chair height). Start from a seated position, then come to a complete stand using only one leg. Try to sit back down onto the box under complete control. This can be progressed with weights and movement patterns such as the overhead press.
  • Join a group fitness class. Another way to improve balance is through group fitness classes. NIFS offers several classes that emphasize balance, such as BOSU conditioning and some that help you develop balance such as yoga and BODYCOMBAT. As stated above, the more you practice your balance, the better chance you have to improve it. In BOSU conditioning, we can progress and regress any exercise to fit your needs. The exercise doesn’t have to be impossible, but it should be challenging. Check out this NIFS blog by our own Tony Maloney for more about BOSU balance.

Improve Your Quality of Life

With the improvement of balance comes an overall improvement in your quality of life. Being able to trust your steps as you walk is important, as is being able to do things in life you love to do. Getting better is just a process and takes time. You must take that step forward; otherwise, you might be on shaky ground. For tips and exercises to promote balance, contact a Fitness Specialist at NIFS or join one of our many group fitness classes.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: yoga group fitness balance exercises BODYCOMBAT BOSU quality of life ADLs