Although the physical benefits of exercise are already familiar to most, new evidence suggests that exercising in the workplace has the greatest potential to maximize employee performance.
The strongest support for this approach can be found in a recent study comparing the effects of work-based versus home-based exercise on work ability. Both programs incorporated strength training and resistance exercises, which the first group performed during their leisure time at home; the second group participated in exercise sessions during work hours.
After the 10-week intervention, the results were clear: exercising at work was demonstrably more effective than exercising at home. Not only did the work-based group show greater program adherence, they reported a reduced average pain intensity in neck, shoulder, and/or lower back; a decreased number of sickness absences; an improved ability to perform job tasks; and increased muscle strength in the back extensors. These results are especially significant given all participants were healthcare workers, who face a disproportionately higher risk of work-related injury. Additional studies have shown that this approach benefits workers in office-based and industrial environments.
The value of workplace exercise has also been demonstrated through BIOKINETIX programs, in which employees are engaged in short, impactful exercise sessions on a daily basis. After the first six months of implementation, these programs have brought companies an average 46% reduction in number of claims, a 51% reduction in DART injuries, a 44% reduction in lost time injuries, and a 10% increase in the employee health and safety index. BIOKINETIX programs have also shown sustainability in reducing injuries after the first three years of implementation by 15%.
Below are just some of the advantages of offering structured exercise opportunities at work:
Breaks down barriers to participation
The difference between effective and ineffective exercise programs is accessibility. Many programs show poor participation rates for the same reason certain employees don’t exercise: they simply don’t have time. Sure, companies can mitigate the actual cost of fitness programs, but that still leaves the issue of when. You can advocate all the great benefits of exercise, even subsidize third-party gym memberships—but you’re still asking employees to transport themselves to and from another facility on their own time. Such “interventions” only really help individuals who already have the time, resources, and knowledge to practice healthy behaviors; those who must support a family, commute for long hours, or work multiple jobs are often left in the dust. While employees with higher health risk factors are least likely to exercise, they stand to gain the most benefit from exercise intervention.
Leverages the power of groups
In order to reach both ends of the employee risk spectrum, any exercise program offered must be made appealing and accessible to all. That’s part of what makes on-site exercise effective: when offered during work hours and in a group setting, it takes more effort to not participate. Call it ‘positive peer pressure’—taking part in exercise with coworkers lends a sense of camaraderie and is proven to enhance program adherence.
The cognitive benefits of physical activity are well-documented, and may be especially helpful in alleviating the ‘burnout’ effect of repetitive work. Employees who exercise during the work day report more effective time management, higher productivity, and a more positive mood compared to days without exercise.
Contributes to a culture of wellness
There’s no need for building a company gym—as demonstrated by the work-versus-home study, resistance exercises can be performed in just about any work environment with minimal equipment, and in increments as short as 3-5 minutes. Incorporating exercise into your employees’ routine is a low-cost, low-risk way to support organizational wellness initiatives, and sends a strong message to employees that their health is a high priority.
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