Physical activity is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle—benefits include improved mood and self-image, weight-loss or maintenance of a healthy weight, and general well-being and improvement in overall health status. For employees, participation in physical activity can lead to increased productivity, greater job satisfaction, and decreased burnout.
70% of medical insurance claims are made for conditions that are preventable with healthy lifestyle choices, like being physically active. Chronic conditions that can be caused or exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle include obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Furthermore, stress and back injuries are the two leading causes of workplace injury—both of which can be improved with appropriate physical activity.
The American Heart Association recommends that adults participate in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. Unfortunately, the majority of adults in the United States fall short of these recommendations.
Although movement is essential to the physical and mental health of employees, today’s average office environment is less than conducive to physical activity. Tight deadlines, long working hours, and a dependence on computers and electronic forms of communication mean that the average American employee gets very little physical activity during the workday.
Become the Workplace Motivator
In order to boost employee morale, it is essential that HR managers focus on encouraging employees to be more physically active in the workplace. As Laura Putnam, author of Workplace Wellness that Works says, you have to “start a movement, build a movement, and make it last.”
There are a number of simple and practical tactics you can use to encourage your employees to get moving. Examples include suggesting that employees use the stairs instead of the elevator, stretch or go for a quick walk during break periods, or ride their bikes to work rather than driving.
Introduce the concept of walking meetings to your staff—instead of sitting in a board room or office, walking meetings allow employees to combine physical activity with work responsibilities. If the neighborhood surrounding your workplace is conducive, you could also suggest that employees walk to a restaurant to have a healthy lunch.
It is important that employers implement policies that encourage physical activity. Many organizations choose to offer discounts on gym memberships or yoga classes, and offer incentives for employees who make time for physical activity.
If your workplace offers an onsite gym, make sure that employees understand that it’s a free benefit. Many corporate wellness programs also include lifestyle coaches as well. Offering flexible working arrangements and capping working hours so that employees have time to exercise can also be helpful.
Consider trying strategies that make participating in exercise fun. Help employees to organize a softball team or kickball league, and encourage employees to choose running buddies or workout partners amongst their colleagues. Many wellness programs also include fitness challenges that turn physical activity into a friendly competition, with prizes for employees who regularly participate.
Organizations that institute formal health and wellness programs aimed at promoting physical activity tend to experience a number of employer benefits, as well. These include lower healthcare costs, increased employee productivity, decreased absenteeism, and enhanced employee morale and retention.
At Healthstat, we can help you be an agent of change. We will help you lead and motivate your employees to be more physically active. Our wellness programs promote healthier lifestyles for employers and employees.
It starts with employees feeling empowered by their managers to fully thrive and become their best selves at work. Motion Infusion CEO and author, Laura Putnam expands on the steps of successfully implementing a workplace wellness program in her book Workplace Wellness that Works.