Ways to Encourage Physical Activity in the Workplace

by The Cooperative
The average American spends roughly 8 hours per day at their worksite, many of which can be deskbound. Frequent inactivity can lead to increased sick leave, poor retention, and higher healthcare costs. However, an active work culture can be established through the combined efforts of the employer and employee. Company support lays the foundation, while personal accountability builds the lifestyle:
The Employer: Encourage an Active Work Environment
  1. Effect changes from within. Implement policies or programs that support daily activity, such as paid wellness breaks, walking meetings, or discounts for offsite exercise facilities.
  2. Partner up. Collaborate with community leaders to improve neighborhood walking paths, create safe biking routes, or encourage active transportation. You could also partner with local fitness centers to offer yoga or boot camp classes.
  3. Fuel the competitive drive. Introduce physical activity challenges that spark competition among employees, such as walking or squat challenges. Offer cost-effective incentives to keep the challenge alive, such as a team outing, healthy lunch, or gift card prizes for the winners.
  4. Educate and motivate. Present seminars and educational materials that emphasize the importance of physical activity. For instance:
    1. Organize a “lunch and learn” on the benefits of strength training.
    2. Display signs with information on inexpensive exercise classes in the community.
    3. Offer virtual fitness sessions for remote employees.
  5. Design an active workspace. Optimize the workspace by providing standing desks, desk risers, or stationary bikes. If space permits, designate an area for onsite exercise classes or inexpensive gym equipment. Even establishing a bike friendly facility with bike racks and safe navigation can support active commuting.
The Employee: Be Your Own Health Advocate
  1. Stand up. Stretch. Move. Don’t be a desk potato! Stand up every hour and perform some kind of movement. Add in a series of squats, punches, or other muscle toning exercises to increase your heart rate. Even standing up and stretching your muscles can encourage blood flow and improve mobility.
  2. Bring the gym to your desk. Engage in some “deskercise.” Store inexpensive exercise equipment, such as dumbbells, resistance bands, or ankle weights in your workspace. Use them during an afternoon lull or in conjunction with your standing exercises.
  3. Be a social butterfly. Find a workout buddy (or two) among your coworkers. Walk or exercise together at a designated time every day. Adding that social connection will inspire motivation, accountability, and excitement to move.
  4. Schedule your physical activity. Carve out time in your day with a recurring calendar reminder or timer on your phone. Aim to move for a minimum of 5 minutes, then increase as appropriate. TIP: Treat your activity like a mandatory work meeting, and you’ll always show up!
  5. Maximize your lunch break. If you’re tied down during work time, do physical activity during your lunch break. Devote half of your break to physical activity and half of your break to eating lunch. Take a walk around the block, do yoga in your office, or hit the nearest gym. Make that time your own.
  6. Step up your game. Aim for at least 10,000 steps per day. Take the stairs, park farther away, or choose the longest route to the breakroom or bathroom. Move as much as possible. Your heart requires conditioning just like any other muscle!
Whether you’re igniting change as an employer or taking the initiative as an employee, creating an active work environment can be accomplished. Physical activity during work does not need to be uncomfortable or complicated; it just needs to get you off your chair.

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