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Creating a physical activity culture in the workplace

Promoting physical exercise on the job makes sense whether you’re a small business owner, a corporate human resources manager, or a front-line supervisor. More possibilities for physical activity at work result in healthier people, better job performance, and a boost to the bottom line through lower health-care expenditures and increased productivity.

A healthier and happier workforce

Physical activity is a natural mood lifter; studies demonstrate that it alleviates mild anxiety and sadness, boosts energy, and improves overall well-being. It’s hardly a leap to say that how physically active employees are on and off the workplace influences corporate morale. Supporting employee exercise activities delivers a powerful message of support to employees, which can improve job satisfaction, retention, and recruitment.

Furthermore, employees who exercise frequently have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, musculoskeletal issues, and several malignancies—all of which are major health-care costs for most businesses.

First and foremost

According to health promotion specialists, one of the most important and cost-effective improvements to undertake is an organizational-level commitment to focus on employee health as a business priority. When leaders consistently speak and live the talk about the significance of employee health and well-being, it becomes part of the corporate identity.

Implementing a workplace physical activity policy emphasizes the importance of this lifestyle behavior to the corporate goal — and defines a framework for promoting workplace physical activity. Formalizing a policy, like any other company activity, establishes an expectation for management support. Adopting a new habit of physical activity is difficult, but leadership support can make it more feasible and possible.

To begin, look over example workplace physical activity policies that are accessible online and adjust them to your company’s needs and existing policy style. Invite stakeholders such as human resources, employee relations, safety, ergonomics, and employee health representatives to provide feedback.

Integration is critical

Increasing your workforce’s physical activity is a wonderful place to start, but successful corporate health promotion campaigns address a wide range of health behaviors, including cigarette use, drug and alcohol misuse, eating habits, and becoming an informed health care consumer.

When health-care providers are involved, the impact of these treatments is maximized. When employees call in with health concerns, a 24-hour nurse advice line or employee assistance program, for example, could help encourage an onsite walking program. Coordination with vendors is critical for sending consistent messaging and improving engagement in any workplace health promotion product, including physical exercise.

12 Workplace activities to encourage physical activity

Even if your company culture isn’t yet ready for a workplace physical activity policy, the following ideas can help you get started:

  • Conduct a workplace walkability assessment to provide a safe and enjoyable walking environment.

  • Provide secure bicycle storage as well as bathing facilities for staff that regularly travel.

  • Where possible, implement flexible scheduling to make it easier for employees to find time for exercise while juggling work and home duties.

  • Paint, artwork, and motivational signage can be used to make stairwells more appealing.

  • Negotiate a business discount with local gyms; medical benefit suppliers may occasionally offer low-cost gym membership perks.

  • Encourage employees to take short, 2-3 minute exercise breaks during the day for brisk walking, stretching, or stair climbing.

  • Employees can be given free or low-cost pedometers. To gain peer support for increasing daily steps, hold a basic steps-per-week team challenge. Is there no money? In exchange for co-branding, invite your health benefit vendors or local companies to support this transaction.

  • Employee engagement in community events such as 5K or 10K runs, basketball leagues, or charity walk-a-thons can be sponsored or promoted.

  • Form groups for lunchtime walking, running, bicycling, or yoga.

  • Encourage walking one-on-one meetings.

  • Allow standing or pacing instead of sitting during long meetings.

  • Encourage employees to be as active as possible at their desks, whether by stretching, standing while on the phone, or pumping out a few desk pushups while watching a web conference.

A wise business decision

Employees devote a great amount of time to their jobs. Businesses have already made considerable investments in their employees through hiring, training, remuneration, and benefit packages. Driving a physical activity culture helps to maintain that investment while also maximizing the returns in cost savings, cost avoidance, productivity, and human capital.