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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Perfect Posture: Why It’s Important and How to Get It

GettyImages-501787264Whether you are sitting, standing, walking, running, or exercising, having good posture plays an immense role in not only how you physically present yourself, but how your body develops over time. Just like most habits, posture has both good and bad sides, each with distinct effects on your body. Focusing on ways to get the most out of your posture can ultimately give you not only a better workout, but also improved health for many years to come.

Benefits of Good Posture

When we talk about the benefits of improved posture, you might first think about how you look in a mirror or in front of a camera (which is also important). But there are many other physical attributes that can be affected which might not come to mind at first. This includes immediate impact areas such as low back pain relief and less tension in the shoulders and upper back. Further, long exposure issues such as joint wear and tear and poor blood circulation can be linked to bad posture. Other than physical effects, there are quite a few emotional health issues that come to light and are associated with bad posture, including self image and depression as well as relaxation and rest.

An Easy Posture Test

Getting back to the fitness aspect of good posture, I can present a simple demonstration. First I would like for you to sit in a chair, slouching as if no one was watching. Now, sit up tall with good posture. Obviously it takes more effort to sit with good posture, including core muscles. If you apply this concept to your exercises, you might find that not only will your form improve (along with your overall safety), but you will be recruiting more muscle (and albeit small and more calorie burning).

Develop Your Posture

There are things you can do in your day-to-day life that will help you develop better posture habits. Personal habits such as sitting taller, standing taller, and exercising with good form make having good posture much easier. Other things to consider include talking to an ergonomic specialist who can help you set up your workstation to better suit your body’s needs, and talking to a fitness specialist to help with exercise form and technique.

Even though it’s a lot easier to be lazy and not care about your posture, like other aspects of your physical wellness, caring for yourself and developing good posture habits will have long-lasting benefits for your body at a very low cost, so just do it! You will be making your grandma happy in the process.

If you feel as though your posture is getting in the way of your goals and possibly worse, your health, please take time to address the issue today. Talk to a fitness professional about safer, more effective exercises at the gym focusing on form and posture. At work, you can contact your HR rep to see whether an ergonomic specialist is available to help set up your workstation. You are not alone. Let NIFS help you.

Until next time, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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

Topics: exercises workplace wellness core strength posture ergonomic health and fitness

Productivity Hacks: Prioritize Tasks with the Ivy Lee Method

GettyImages-157742734Welcome back, all you NIFty readers! In the first installment of this productivity series, we tackled the idea of being in motion (being busy without being productive) versus taking action (the direct line to achieving a result). Now that you have a better grasp on what taking action entails, we can dive into the concept of how to set yourself up for success for that action the following day.

Story time! In the early 1900s, a guy by the name of Charles M. Schwab was one of the wealthiest people on earth. Working in the steel industry, he was anecdotally known as a “master hustler” and would never miss an opportunity to get a leg up on the competition. So one day he enlisted the help of Mr. Ivy Lee, a prominent productivity consultant of the time. Schwab wanted to pick his brain to see whether there was any way he and his company could boost productivity and daily output. Ivy Lee responded with a 15-minute solution, and he personally shared it with all executives within the company. And it goes something like this.

The Ivy Lee Method

  1. At the end of each day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow.
  2. Prioritize the six in order of importance.
  3. When you arrive at work, focus on the first task. Work until it is complete.
  4. Tackle the rest of the list in the same fashion.
  5. Rinse and repeat each workday.

The beauty of this technique lies in its simplicity. You can easily adapt it to not only any work day, but also any to-do list you have laying around.

Other Benefits of This Productivity Method

Here are a few other benefits of Ivy Lee:

  • Reduces daily decision fatigue due to prioritizing the night before (see this post about decision fatigue).
  • Trades multitasking for single-tasking. This allows your brain to dive into a “deep work” state, leading to greater focus and productivity overall.
  • Builds constraints on our day to our benefit by fostering commitment to one thing. If we commit to nothing, or rely on “going with the flow,” the brain tends to wander and become distracted more easily.
  • Eliminates the “I have so much to do, I don’t even know where to start” phenomenon.
  • Allows you a chance to self-evaluate. Did I work through these in order? Or did I get derailed?

The Ivy Lee Method has been around for more than 100 years, has helped professionals in a wide array of fields boost productivity, and can be applied to your daily life today. So give it a try tonight! Determine those five or six must-do’s, place them in order of importance, and attack the next day methodically!

Be on the lookout for the next post in my productivity series, where I talk about specific time-chunking methods to bolster your focus.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: work/life balance workplace wellness productivity prioritization Productivity Hacks

Posture and Fitness (Part 1): Kyphosis (Rounded Shoulders)

One thing I have really begun to pay special attention to within my exercise program lately is correcting my postural deficiencies. About a month ago as I was staring in the mirror (in awe of my handsome looks) waiting to begin my next set of shoulder presses, I noticed that both of my shoulders were comfortably rounded forward as I stood straight up. I made a conscious effort to pull them back in line with my ear, knee, and ankle (correct posture); however, this was very uncomfortable for me to maintain for a short period of time.

ThinkstockPhotos-148154696.jpgIt then dawned on me that if it was uncomfortable for me to maintain good posture for a few seconds, imagine the effect these deficiencies will eventually have on my muscularity, the efficiency of my resistance training in regard to compensation for the targeted muscles, as well as the greater postural deficiencies that naturally occur as we get into our later years.

Many people find themselves hunched over a keyboard or office desk for many hours throughout the day. This can have a huge effect on your posture over time. Hunchback, or rounded shoulders, occurs because we often do not have the muscular endurance in our upper back and shoulder muscles to resist and fight against gravity. When we allow our shoulders to round forward (known as kyphosis), our anterior muscles (pectoralis major and minor) become tight due to always being in a shortened state while our posterior shoulder muscles (trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff muscles) become lengthened and weak.

The best way to find out if you might have this problem is to have someone take a photo of you from the side in your natural, relaxed, standing position. If your ears, shoulder, knees, and ankles are not aligned with each other, you could have a moderate to severe case of kyphosis. No worries, however, as this is very common now, especially with the prevalent use of computers in the workplace and at home. Here are some quick solutions you can implement into your warmup to help your alignment.

Solution One: Maintain Correct Positioning When Sitting at the Computer

Maintain correct positioning (shoulder blades back, chest open wide) when sitting at a computer desk. This may seem obvious, but if it was as obvious as it seems, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place. The more time you spend in this position, the quicker your body will adapt to being in proper alignment.

Also try to avoid excessive use of laptops. Laptops naturally put your body in a rounded-shoulder positioning because of how low the computer screen is when placed in the lap. Instead, try stacking the laptop on top of a box or a stack of books so that the upper edge of the monitor is just below eye level. This will help you maintain a natural, “unrounded,” or upright shoulder position because you no longer have to be hunched over looking down at the computer monitor.

Solution Two: Foam Rolling

Foam roll the thoracic spine to improve thoracic extension range of motion. Myofascial release (foam rolling) will help you regain full extension in your thoracic spine that might have been lost due to weak upper-back muscles and constant downward pull on the anterior pectoral and shoulder muscles.

Solution Three: Static Stretching

Statically stretch the pectoralis major and minor muscles to free up any tightness in the chest. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat two to three times before your resistance or cardio training workout. This will help eliminate some pulling of the anterior shoulder muscles, which will make it easier for you to maintain proper postural alignment. Here’s a video of some static chest stretches you can try.

Solution Four: Upper Posterior Chain Muscle Exercises

Increase muscular strength and endurance of the posterior shoulder muscles by performing various upper posterior chain muscle exercises. By strengthening these muscles, maintaining proper alignment of the shoulders will become much more natural and manageable for an individual over long periods of time. When our posterior shoulder muscles lack strength, they have little chance of winning the fight against gravity when hunched over a computer keyboard.

One example of an exercise you can implement is the floor cobra. This will help with thoracic extension (as stated above) as well as retraction of the shoulder blades and opening of the chest muscles.

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Remember, it took a great deal of time for your body to eventually adapt to the poor postural alignment, so you can expect the same with the correction process. Even though these tips will help you regain postural alignment, you cannot expect to see a great deal of change overnight. These tips have to be implemented into your daily life in order to see long-term changes.

Stay tuned for my next blog, where I will be covering another common postural problem: Anterior pelvic tilt.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. 

Topics: fitness muscles stretching exercises workplace wellness core strength posture

10-Minute Desk Exercise Routines for the Office

86490362Even though I work at a gym, I can still relate to people who work in an office setting sitting at a desk for several hours out of the day. On a typical day, I try to get in my workout before or after the work day, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen and I need to squeeze some movement into the middle of my day.

Getting up and moving around at the office doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t take a long time to get in movement that will truly make a difference.


Here are two 10-minute workouts you can do at your desk (or anywhere!) when time, space, and equipment are limited. Also, notice the exercises are hyperlinked—click the link for a video demonstration of the specific exercise.

10-Minute Total Body Desk Exercise Routine

Complete each exercise for 1 minute, resting when needed. Repeat the circuit of exercises twice through. Make sure to do some light stretching at your desk when you are finished!

10-Minute Cardio Blast Desk Exercises

Complete each exercise for 1 minute, resting when needed. Repeat the circuit of exercises twice through. Make sure to do some light stretching at your desk when you are finished!

Bring NIFS to work with you! Contact us about our Corporate Wellness Programs and bring fitness to your workplace. Contact Don Galante for more information at 317-274-3432 ext 234 or by email.

This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, LES MILLS® certified BODYPUMP® and CXWORX® instructor and contributing writer. Author of Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

Topics: staying active workouts exercise at work desk exercise workplace fitness videos workplace wellness

Eat Better, Work Better? Nutrition and Productivity

grainsWe have all heard the phrase that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but who knew that eating a balanced diet would also make you more productive at work? A study conducted by Brigham Young University and published in Population Health Management Journal, found that 19,000 employees from three large companies with unhealthy diets, were 66 percent less productive than those who ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

So, how can you be a more productive employee? Try these three simple ways to eat a more balanced diet. Then get ready to impress your boss!

Whole-Grain Goodness

Swap out your old rice, pasta, bread, and cereal for grains that are higher in fiber and are less processed. Brown and wild rice are excellent alternatives to white rice. Whole-wheat pasta, couscous, quinoa, millet, and oats are more whole-grain options to incorporate into your diet. When it comes to breads and cereal, check the label. Choose options that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Check out the Whole Grains Council website for more information.

Fabulous Fruits

Most people need three pieces of fruit per day to meet their individual requirements. This can easily be done by incorporating a fruit into your morning cereal or oatmeal, grabbing a piece of fruit for a quick and portable snack, or having a bowl of sweet fruit after dinner for dessert. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber in fruit are all great reasons to include them in your diet.

Vary Your Veggiesveggies

One of the most challenging food groups to get into your diet, but also one of the best ones for you, is vegetables. It can be difficult to meet that 4 to 5 recommended servings per day, so how can you get these in to help balance your diet? One thing is to make sure that you are spreading them out throughout the day by including a vegetable serving at lunch and snack time. At lunch, grab portable veggies such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, mini bell peppers, and sugar-snap peas to add some variety and crunch along with your typical sandwich. Or nibble on veggies with a hummus dip for an afternoon snack. Make it a goal to try one new and different vegetable each week!

Kale has become a popular vegetable choice these days, primarily because of its health benefits. It is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K -- and sulphur-containing phytonutrients. Here are some recipes for enjoying it.

If you are interested in having your questions answered during a personal nutrition consultation, please contact Melanie Roberts at mroberts@nifs.org or (317) 274-3432, ext 217. Learn more about Nutrition and Wellness services at NIFS.

This blog was written by Angie Sheetz, Registered Dietitian. Read more about the NIFS bloggers.

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Topics: nutrition healthy eating employee health workplace wellness productivity