15 Strategies to Encourage Physical Activity in the Workplace
Physical activity in the workplace is easy to overlook even though it’s one of the most essential aspects of our overall wellbeing.
We often find ourselves tied to our desks, engrossed in our work, forgetting that our bodies need movement to function optimally.
This blog aims to shed light on the importance of physical activity in the workplace, the benefits, and how to foster a culture that encourages it.
We’ll delve into the challenges that come with promoting physical activity and provide you with 15 practical strategies to encourage your team to get moving.
Whether you’re a manager looking to boost your team’s morale and productivity, or an employee seeking ways to incorporate more physical activity into your workday, this blog is for you.
The Importance of Physical Activity in the Workplace
Physical activity is not just a crucial aspect of personal health, but it’s also a vital component of a productive and healthy workplace.
In our modern work culture, sedentary behaviour has become the norm, especially in office environments.
Many of us spend hours sitting at our desks, staring at computer screens, often with little to no physical movement.
This sedentary lifestyle can lead to a host of health issues, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Physical activity, on the other hand, can counteract these health risks.
Regular movement, even in small amounts, can significantly improve our physical health.
But the benefits don’t stop there.
Physical activity also plays a key role in our mental wellbeing.
It can reduce stress, improve mood, and boost cognitive function.
These mental health benefits can lead to increased concentration, improved creativity, and better problem-solving abilities – all of which are essential skills in the workplace.
Moreover, physical activity can foster a sense of camaraderie among employees.
Group activities like team sports or group workouts can build team spirit and improve interpersonal relationships.
This can lead to a more harmonious work environment, which in turn can boost productivity and employee satisfaction.
In essence, promoting physical activity in the workplace is not just about improving individual health.
It’s about creating a healthier, happier, and more productive work environment for everyone.
The Benefits of Physical Activity in the Workplace
Physical activity in the workplace brings a multitude of benefits, both for the employees and the organisation as a whole.
Let’s look at some of these advantages:
Improved Employee Health
Regular physical activity can help prevent and manage a range of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer. It can also help maintain healthy body weight and reduce the risk of developing obesity.
Enhanced Mental Wellbeing
Physical activity is known to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and boost self-esteem.
It can also help improve sleep, which is crucial for overall wellbeing and productivity.
Regular physical activity can lead to improved concentration, sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina, enhanced creativity, and lower absenteeism.
All these factors can significantly boost productivity in the workplace.
Better Team Cohesion
Group physical activities can foster team spirit, improve communication, and build trust among employees.
This can lead to improved collaboration and a more harmonious work environment.
Reduced Healthcare Costs
Healthier employees mean fewer health-related expenses.
By promoting physical activity, companies can reduce healthcare costs and improve their bottom line.
In conclusion, promoting physical activity in the workplace is a win for everyone.
It benefits the employees by improving their health and wellbeing, and it benefits the organisation by boosting productivity and reducing costs.
15 Strategies to Encourage Physical Activity in the Workplace
1. Provide Health and Wellness Education
Education is the first step towards change.
By providing health and wellness education, you can help employees understand the importance of physical activity and how it contributes to their overall wellbeing.
Consider organising wellbeing workshops or seminars that focus on the benefits of physical activity, proper nutrition, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
You could bring in a wellbeing speaker or fitness trainer to conduct these sessions.
Workshops like “Create Life-Changing Habits” can inspire employees to make positive changes with their health.
Additionally, you could provide resources like articles, videos, and infographics that employees can access in their own time.
This knowledge can empower employees to make informed decisions about their health and encourage them to incorporate more physical activity into their daily routine.
2. Encourage Active Breaks
Instead of spending breaks sitting down and possibly snacking on unhealthy options, encourage your employees to get moving.
Active breaks can include short walks, stretching, or even a quick group exercise session.
These active breaks not only provide a physical boost but also help refresh the mind, leading to increased concentration and productivity when work resumes.
You could set up designated areas for these activities and even provide prompts or guides for simple exercises that can be done without special equipment.
By normalising active breaks, you can create a workplace wellbeing culture that values and promotes physical activity.
3. Set Up On-Site Fitness Facilities
If space and resources permit, setting up an on-site fitness facility can be a great way to encourage physical activity.
This could be as elaborate as a full-fledged gym, or as simple as a dedicated space with basic workout equipment.
Having a fitness facility on-site eliminates some common barriers to physical activity, such as travel time to a gym or concerns about safety while exercising outdoors.
It also allows employees to easily fit workouts into their schedule, perhaps before work, during lunch breaks, or after work.
To further encourage usage, consider offering fitness classes or personal training sessions at the facility.
4. Organise Fitness Challenges or Competitions
A little friendly competition can be a great motivator.
Organise fitness challenges or competitions that encourage employees to get moving.
This could be a step challenge, where employees track their steps and aim to achieve a certain goal, or a fitness challenge where employees aim to complete a certain number of workouts in a month.
Make sure the challenges are inclusive and cater to different fitness levels.
Offering small incentives or rewards for participation or achievement can also boost motivation.
These challenges can not only promote physical activity but also foster a sense of camaraderie and team spirit among employees.
5. Promote Active Commuting
Active commuting is another excellent way to incorporate more physical activity into the workday.
Encourage employees to walk or cycle to work if possible.
For those who live too far away for this to be feasible, suggest getting off public transport a stop or two early and walking the rest of the way.
You could provide facilities such as bike racks, showers, and lockers to make active commuting more convenient.
If your company has multiple locations within a city, encourage walking or cycling between these sites instead of driving or taking public transport.
6. Incorporate Physical Activity into Meetings
Who said meetings have to be sedentary?
Turn some of your meetings into ‘walking meetings‘ where you discuss matters while taking a walk.
For larger group meetings, you could incorporate a few minutes of physical activity, such as stretching or simple exercises.
This not only adds a dose of physical activity but can also make meetings more enjoyable and may even boost creativity and problem-solving.
If in-person meetings aren’t feasible due to remote work or other reasons, encourage employees to stand or move around during virtual meetings.
7. Offer Flexible Work Hours for Exercise
One of the common barriers to physical activity is lack of time.
Offering flexible work hours can help employees find time for exercise.
This could mean allowing employees to start work a bit later so they can exercise in the morning, or letting them take a longer lunch break for a midday workout.
The key is to create a work environment that values and respects employees’ time for physical activity.
This not only encourages physical activity but can also lead to happier, healthier, and more productive employees.
8. Provide Subsidies or Discounts for Gym Memberships
Another effective strategy to encourage physical activity is to offer subsidies or discounts for gym memberships.
This can be a motivating factor for employees who want to exercise but find the cost of gym memberships prohibitive.
Partnering with local gyms or fitness centres for corporate discounts can make this option more affordable for your employees.
This not only provides employees with a financial incentive to get moving, but also shows that the company is invested in their health and wellbeing.
9. Create Walking Clubs or Sports Teams
Creating walking clubs or sports teams within your organisation can be a fun and social way to encourage physical activity.
Groups like these can meet regularly for walks, runs, or games, providing a sense of community and making physical activity a more enjoyable experience.
This can also foster team spirit and improve interpersonal relationships among employees.
Whether it’s a lunchtime walking club, a company soccer team, or a weekend hiking group, find out what interests your employees and provide support to make it happen.
10. Use Wearable Fitness Trackers
Wearable fitness trackers can be a great tool to motivate employees to be more active.
These devices provide tangible data about physical activity levels, such as steps taken, calories burned, and heart rate, which can motivate individuals to reach their fitness goals.
Consider incorporating fitness trackers into your wellness program, perhaps by providing them to employees or offering a subsidy towards their purchase.
You could also integrate them into fitness challenges or competitions, with employees tracking their progress using their devices.
11. Promote Stand-Up Desks
Stand-up desks are a simple but effective way to reduce sedentary behaviour in the workplace.
Standing while working can help burn more calories, improve posture, and reduce back pain. It can also boost alertness and productivity.
Consider providing stand-up desks or adjustable workstations that allow employees to alternate between sitting and standing.
Encourage employees to start with short standing periods and gradually increase the time as their bodies adjust.
The key is to continuously alternate between standing and sitting.
The human body was built to move.
12. Offer Fitness Classes During Lunch Breaks
Offering fitness classes during lunch breaks can provide a convenient opportunity for employees to get moving.
These could be yoga classes to help relax and stretch, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for a quick but effective workout, or dance classes for a fun and enjoyable exercise.
You could bring in fitness instructors to conduct these classes, or if resources permit, set up a dedicated fitness studio.
Providing these opportunities on-site reduces barriers to participation and can help foster a culture of health and wellness.
13. Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Promoting a healthy work-life balance is crucial in creating a culture that values physical activity.
Employees who feel overworked and stressed are less likely to prioritize physical activity.
Encourage employees to maintain a balance between their work and personal life.
This could mean respecting their time off, discouraging after-hours emails, and promoting a culture where taking time for physical activity is seen as a normal and important part of the workday.
When employees feel that their personal time is valued, they are more likely to use some of that time for physical activity.
14. Create a Wellness Committee
Creating a wellness committee can be an effective way to promote physical activity in the workplace.
This committee, made up of employees from different levels of the organisation, can be responsible for planning and implementing physical activity initiatives.
They can gather input from employees, organise fitness challenges or events, and advocate for policies that promote physical activity.
Having a dedicated group focused on wellness can ensure that physical activity remains a priority in the workplace.
15. Lead by Example
Last but not least, leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to encourage physical activity in the workplace.
When managers and leaders prioritise physical activity, it sends a strong message to the rest of the team.
Leaders can show their commitment to physical activity by participating in fitness challenges, using stand-up desks, joining the company sports team, or simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
They can also openly discuss the ways they incorporate physical activity into their own lives, sharing their challenges and successes.
When employees see their leaders valuing and participating in physical activity, they are more likely to do the same.
The Challenges Promoting Physical Activity in The Workplace
Promoting physical activity in the workplace is not without its challenges.
Understanding these obstacles can help in crafting effective strategies to overcome them.
Here are some common challenges:
Lack of Time
One of the most common challenges is the perceived lack of time.
With demanding work schedules, employees often feel they don’t have time to engage in physical activity during the workday.
Not all workplaces have the resources to provide on-site fitness facilities or subsidise gym memberships.
This can make it more difficult for employees to access fitness opportunities.
Sedentary Work Culture
In many workplaces, particularly office environments, a sedentary work culture is the norm.
Changing this culture can be a significant challenge.
Diverse Needs and Abilities
Employees have different physical abilities and fitness levels.
Creating a physical activity program that caters to these diverse needs can be challenging.
Lack of Motivation
Even when time and resources are available, lack of motivation can be a barrier.
Not everyone is naturally inclined to physical activity, and some may find it difficult to get started.
With the increase in remote work, promoting physical activity has become even more challenging.
Without the natural movement that comes with commuting and moving around an office, remote workers can be even more sedentary.
Despite these challenges, with thoughtful strategies and a commitment to employee wellness, it is possible to promote and encourage physical activity in the workplace.
The key is to create a supportive environment where physical activity is valued and accessible to all employees.
How to Create a Culture that Encourages Physical Activity
Creating a culture that encourages physical activity involves more than just implementing programs or providing facilities.
It’s about fostering an environment where physical activity is valued, supported, and integrated into the daily work routine.
Here are some strategies to help create such a culture:
Lead by Example
As mentioned earlier, when leadership prioritises and participates in physical activity, it sets a tone for the entire organisation.
Leaders can show their commitment by integrating physical activity into their own workday and actively participating in company wellness initiatives.
Communicate the Importance of Physical Activity
Regularly communicate to employees about the importance of physical activity for their health and wellbeing, as well as for the company’s productivity and success.
This can be done through various channels, such as meetings, newsletters, and wellbeing workshops.
Make it Fun and Social
Turn physical activity into a social event.
Organise team sports, group workouts, or fitness challenges.
When employees associate physical activity with fun and socialising, they are more likely to participate.
Provide Support and Resources
Provide the necessary resources and support to help employees engage in physical activity.
This could include on-site fitness facilities, subsidies for gym memberships, flexible work hours, or resources for home workouts.
Recognise and Reward Participation
Recognise and reward employees who participate in physical activity initiatives.
This could be through verbal recognition, awards, or small incentives.
Employee recognition not only motivates the employees involved but also encourages others to participate.
Incorporate Physical Activity into the Workday
Encourage employees to incorporate physical activity into their workday.
This could be through active breaks, walking meetings, or stand-up desks.
Ask for Employee Input
Get employees involved in planning and implementing physical activity initiatives.
This not only ensures that the initiatives meet their needs and interests but also gives them a sense of ownership and increases their likelihood of participation.
Creating a culture that encourages physical activity takes time and commitment, but the benefits for employee health, wellbeing, and productivity make it well worth the effort.
Promoting physical activity in the workplace is beneficial for everyone involved.
It benefits employees by improving their health and wellbeing, and it benefits employers by boosting productivity and reducing healthcare costs.
While there are challenges to promoting physical activity, with thoughtful strategies and a commitment to employee wellness, it is possible to create a culture that encourages and supports physical activity.
Tyler Lowe – Health & Wellbeing Speaker
BSc Sport & Exercise Rehabilitation