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The advantages of engaging in workplace physical activity

More and more companies are emphasizing and investing in fostering physical activity and exercise (either individually or in groups) as part of the workday.

Employees, whether working from home or in an office, are spending an increasing amount of time at work driving sedentary behaviors. Ensuring that employees get adequate physical activity and are physically healthy every day can have a wide range of benefits for both the individual and the bottom line, from enhanced productivity to reduced stress and anxiety.

Is physical inactivity a problem?

The human body was simply not designed to be inactive. Humans were plainly “built” to move, from our skeletal structure through our muscles, joints, blood, and breathing systems. Our sedentary lifestyle is becoming a major public health concern, and it has been related to a variety of chronic health issues such as obesity, anxiety, diabetes, and heart disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity is the fourth greatest cause of death worldwide, accounting for about 3.2 million deaths per year.

The WHO defines physical activity as “any physiological movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.” The WHO recommends that healthy persons aged 18 to 64 engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to high intensity aerobic physical exercise per week to reap health benefits.

So, while there are evident benefits for people, there are also significant benefits for corporations. Any organization would benefit from a physically fit and healthy workforce. Employees who obtain at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week miss an average of 4.1 fewer days of work per year, according to research.

Physically active employees can result in:

  • less illnesses and sick days (reduce absenteeism)

  • increased output, performance, and morale

  • reduced staff turnover

  • better problem solving and creativity

  • lower costs for workers’ compensation

  • reduce work-related stress

  • improve employee team building

  • reduce employee absenteeism

  • the development of a health culture

Employers can do things to encourage physical activity at work

Employers can encourage their employees to be more physically active at work by concentrating on a combination of “individual” (awareness, knowledge, behavior) and “environmental” (facilities, technology, policies) initiatives.

Walking is a simple action that might help strengthen connections

The first advantage of walking is that it “works.” According to studies, the energy used for moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in comparable decreases in risk factors for cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease are all risk factors. It has also been shown to increase mood, cognitive function, focus, and creativity.

Walking is possibly one of the most inclusive physical activities, on top of all of these health benefits. It is low impact, suitable for all levels of fitness and commitment, requires no special skills or equipment other than appropriate footwear, and is non-threatening (accessible to every employees). Finally, it can be done at any time of day and at varying speeds and intensities.

Even with all of these wonderful benefits, it can be tough to inspire and motivate individuals to go for a walk. A well-designed step challenge can be a terrific investment in this situation. These challenges are enjoyable and help encourage your employees by utilizing technology and human behavior science.

Nothing motivates people to exercise more than healthy competition. Importantly, these team tasks can serve to strengthen team cohesion and foster a sense of belonging (so important to combat the isolation felt by so many working remotely).