We all know that we are sitting for longer periods of time, sitting on the commute into work, sitting at our desks, in meetings, at lunch, dinner, and to relax at the end of the day. As a result of our rather sedentary lifestyles the population as a whole is experiencing negative health consequences.
These range from musculoskeletal disorders to the most serious lifestyle-related diseases such as stroke, diabetes and worse still, heart attacks.
Promoting physical activity in the workplace is, therefore, important not only for promoting health but also for developing the culture of a workplace reducing absenteeism costs and increasing productivity.
In general, healthy people are happier and have less stress This allows for greater problem solving and decision making. Ethically driving workplace wellness program is the right thing to do if you care about the people you work with and work for.
A recent study by Adelaide university has found that half an hour of exercise a day provides immediate changes in the plasticity of the brain. When we increase the neuroplasticity of the brain we promote greater learning, memory and motor skill. The more plastic the brain is, the greater neural connections present, therefore the greater brain power we have.
Not only is physical activity seen to improve our cognitive abilities, it also can have a significant impact on our mental health through the release of neurotransmitters associated with feeling good.
Mental health is a big issue. Beyond Blue state that over 6 million working days are lost every year as a result of mental health issues. Whilst physical activity alone may not be the sole treatment for such issues, it does go a long way to help build the resilience of individuals.
So you can see why the encouraging physical activity is a no-brainer for companies who care about their people and wish to drive innovation and productivity.
So whilst there is never one shoe that fits all solution, there are a number of general ideas that are easy and simple to execute in the workplace.
- Post prompts at key locations to encourage physical activity. A sign that says “Take a Few Steps to Better Health” in a stairwell can encourage stair climbing instead of take the elevator.
- Offer gentle fitness classes that combine yoga, low- impact aerobics and relaxation techniques. These type of classes appeal to all, but particularly to those who are new to exercise or have special physical needs or limitations.
- Develop trails near the work site and encourage employees to walk or jog during lunch and break times. Trails should be in safe, highly visible areas with established safeguards.
- Start a lunchtime walking group, and encourage people to get out together at lunch and walk together.
- Review the cafeteria to ensure that healthy food is easy and accessible for people, if possible at a reduced cost.
- Encourage talks from nutritionists, and or dieticians to help provide guidance and support for diets so that people understand what is healthy.
- Provide selected pieces of exercise equipment in suitable locations for use during breaks and lunchtime. Be sure to educate employees and establish guidelines and policies before usage to ensure safety.
- Start a 30-day challenge, it could cover anything from drinking water to steps taken.
- Encourage employees who sit a lot to take a stretch break for better circulation and work efficiency.
- Encourage relaxation and down time by being mindful of the time in which emails are set.
- Offer discounts or subsidies for fitness-club memberships for those who meet minimum guidelines for use and adherence.
- Promoting employee wellbeing by creating wellness strategies to improve the health of individuals. This not only helps performance and the bottom line, it improves people lives.
So why not try and champion a small change in your workplace? Remember every little bit helps, no matter how small you feel the action.