Should companies promote fitness on the job?

May 18, 2017 Providence Health Team

Ever go into the day energized and hopeful that you'll get to the gym after work, only to be too wiped out to make it? Well, you're not alone.

Approximately 80 percent of adults in the U.S. don't get the minimum amount of exercise they need to stay healthy. Work seems to be one of the biggest obstacles. People are working longer hours than ever, leaving less time to exercise—and, inevitably, feeling even less motivated to do so once the workday is over. Because the lack of exercise and obesity is linked to most of the chronic illnesses plaguing Americans today, finding the time to fit in at least two and a half hours of aerobic activity per week should be a priority.

However, even when people know that exercise can lessen the risks of heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, and cancer, all too often they still don’t find the time.

Enter the employer.

Most business owners understand that employee illness affects the bottom line, even when the employees don’t, which is why a growing number of companies are making an effort to keep their employees healthy and productive by offering wellness programs.

According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, more than 70 percent of American companies now provide such programs to employees, with nearly half of them offering gym subsidies as well. More companies are seen following the lead of Silicon Valley, too, by having fitness centers at work or providing on-site physicians, massage therapists, and healthy food options. These programs used to be viewed as luxury perks to attract and keep top employees, but are now considered the norm. By giving employees a convenient way to fit in those exercise hours, companies see a significant reduction in absences and accidents, plus an uptick in energy and productivity. Healthy employees work smarter, feel happier, and look better. In effect, by watching their bottom line, savvy companies help you to watch yours, too.

Smaller companies that don't have huge budgets can still make fitness part of the company culture. Scheduling physical activities like outdoor or indoor games, yoga, group walks, and stretches, or creating company sports teams, are all great for promoting health and morale.

Even if your company doesn’t provide fitness options, you can still take better care of yourself while at work. If you’re like many of us who spend the day sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen, you should make a point of getting up and walking around at regular intervals. Set a timer to remind you to do this once an hour. Try taking a brisk 10-minute walk around the building to get your blood circulating and enjoy some fresh air. You’ll feel much more energized than if you’d just had an extra cup of coffee. When a walk isn’t feasible, you can do stretches, and mini-leg lifts right at your desk. And, if you must eat lunch at your desk, follow it up with a couple of laps around your workplace.

Fitness in the office isn't a new idea. Exercise doesn't have to be relegated to off-work-hours anymore. If fitness programs don't exist at your company yet, take the lead and start one. You have nothing to lose but those extra inches around your waist … right?

Do you have any tips for including more exercise in your daily or weekly regime? Leave a comment below.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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