Physical Activity in the Workplace
Today I wanted to post and raise awareness about the benefits of physical activity in the workplace. I first wanted to clarify the difference of physical activity in the work place and being physically active. I consider myself a physically active person, I go to the gym on a regular basis and I play on several different sport teams outside of the office. There are many people like this, but this does not make us physically active in the work place. There is a difference and it is important that we try to encompass a healthy lifestyle in all aspects of our lives. Beside from the health benefits there are several work related efficiencies that can be seen by workers participating in physical activity during the workday. Below is a list from the Public Health Agency of Canada;
Participants in physical activity programs report the following:
improved mental concentration, stamina, reaction time and memory
better relations with co-workers
more enjoyment of work than non-participants
“Most Canadians believe that regular physical activity improves the ability to cope with and reduce stress (91 per cent) and helps them be more effective on the job (85 per cent)” – From the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, Physical Activity Monitor
So we know that the majority of the Canadian population wants to be physically active during the day but it can’t solely lie on the shoulders of the individual to make this happen. Often times there are many restrictions and barriers that prevent employees from being physically active during the day. It is the employers’ job to promote physical activity in the workplace – this stems from the top and works its way down. Physical Activity has to be promoted as a core value of the company – this will help ensure that everyone is engaged and living by the companies values, as well will make easier to integrate into daily work routines. If your company is not quite ready to adopt and implement an organization wide physical activity program here are several ways companies can start to promote physical activity in the work place from Ace Fitness Organization:
Conduct a workplace walkability assessment to ensure a safe and pleasant environment for walking.
Offer secure bicycle storage and showers for employees who actively commute.
Implement flexible scheduling where feasible —making it easier for employees to carve out time for exercise while juggling work and home responsibilities.
Make stairwells more appealing with paint, artwork, and motivational signage.
Negotiate a corporate discount with local gyms; low-cost gym membership benefits are sometimes available through medical benefit vendors.
Encourage workers to take brief, 2-3 minute fitness breaks throughout the day for brisk walking, stretching, or stair climbing.
Offer free or reduced-cost pedometers to employees. Run a simple steps-per-week team competition to drum up peer support for increasing daily steps. No money? Invite your health benefit vendors or local businesses to sponsor this purchase in exchange for co-branding.
Sponsor or promote employee participation in community events like 5K or 10K runs, basketball leagues, or charity walk-a-thons than may happen during regular work hours
Organize lunchtime walking, running, bicycling, or yoga groups.
Encourage walking 1:1 meetings.
Make standing or pacing vs. sitting at long meetings an acceptable option
Companies ready to make the leap to a full fledged physical activity program; here are some suggestions from The Center for Active Living:
providing employees with access to an on-site gym;
bringing physical activity classes to the workplace;
short-term challenges, such as encouraging employees to be more physically active over a four- to 12-week period; and/or
full payment or rebates to employees for costs associated with physical activity participation, such as fitness classes.
Companies may be saying well that is great and dandy – but where is the benefit for my investment. From several studies done by the Public Health Agency of Canada employers taking an effort to be active during the workday can see these benefits from their employees:
Active workers have increased levels of:
ability to cope with stress
health and well-being
productivity and effectiveness at work
Active workers can also reduce levels of:
health care costs
life insurance costs
“Forty-four per cent of working Canadians feel that employer support of employee physical activity would help them be more active” – Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, Physical Activity Monitor
I hope this short post has opened your eyes to the individual and company wide benefits of physical activity in the workplace and for everyone reading this to be advocates for the promotion of a more physically active workplace.