Paying employees to exercise at work is a good investment

By Katie Davis

Nearly 80 percent of North American adults don’t get the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity exercise each week. Knowing how critical fitness is to overall health and that healthier people take less time off work and are more productive while at work, it only make sense to offer exercise in the one place where nearly all of us will spend more than 40 hours of our week at: the workplace.

When it comes to promoting fitness in the workplace it is important to set the tone and work on making it part of your workplace culture from the beginning. Encourage employees to get active and stay active. Bike to work, take a walk at lunch and some businesses make it part of the daily routine to allow everyone to block off an hour of paid time for exercise during the day.

I know what some of you business owners are saying after you read this, my job is to get results and grow the business not keep employees fit. However, you could not be further from the truth. By allowing and encouraging employees to exercise at work, you get a better return on your employee production investment.

A study presented to the American College of Sports Medicine showed that workers who spent 30-60 minutes at lunch exercising reported an average performance boost of 15 percent. Sixty percent of employees said their time management skills, mental performance and ability to meet deadlines improved on the days they exercised. Workers in the study were less likely to suffer from post-lunch energy dips after exercising and also reported improvements in mood.

Then there are the longer-term benefits with healthier, active employees taking fewer sick days and bring more energy to the workplace. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine showed that incorporating just 2.5 hours of exercise per week into the workday led to a noticeable reduction in absences. Perhaps most importantly, fit and healthy workers are less prone to exactly the kinds of preventable, debilitating illnesses that take such a heavy toll on families, business medical plans and society overall.

I know that exercise in the office isn’t a new idea innovation; companies have been offering it for years, because it delivers positive results, in terms of health, morale and productivity in the workplace. It doesn’t take much to bring a fitness culture that everyone can be part of into the workplace. Even if you do not have the space for gym equipment you can encourage an active workplace culture and get employees to be more active. Whether it is walks at lunch, being part of a company ball team or going to the gym. You will be surprised what a willingness to embrace a healthier work environment will have on your employees and your business.