Fitness & OHS at Your Work
“You’re looking a bit out of shape, maybe it’s time to exercise more?”
That might be too blunt for the office!
Personal health & fitness is – at best – a touchy subject. As a result, poor physical fitness – which can be a significant OHS risk – is often overlooked at work. Many people would consider it a taboo subject – though maybe not if you’re a drill instructor or personal trainer!
As an occupational health and safety officer, you should be aware of the benefits of increasing you workmates health & fitness. It might not be appropriate to set and enforce standards of fitness. You can, however, outline the benefits for employees and employer and focus on creating a culture of health and fitness.
So why would an occupational health and safety officer encourage fitness at work?
Workplace benefits of being fit & healthy
1. Better sleep
Exercise helps you fall asleep, stay asleep, and increases the time you spend in the deepest stages of sleep. Why is that important? Deficit of sleep impairs:
- – reaction time,
- – judgment,
- – performance,
- – short-term memory,
- – information processing,
- – patience,
- – motivation, and
- – vigilance.
I challenge you to find a workplace where at least one of these attributes isn’t essential!
At the least, try to get around eight hours of sleep a night. Less than six hours sleep a night triples your risk of a car accident!
2. Slows ageing, builds & maintains healthy muscles, bones & joints
Ageing also causes you to lose bone density. Your joints stiffen and lean body mass decreases. Exercise is one of the best methods of slowing and preventing the loss of strength and flexibility. It also improves skin and muscle tone. Sounds pretty good! These might not be essential for every job, but even in offices, poor flexibility or strength can lead to accidents and injuries.
This will only become more important in the future. More Australians are continuing to work past the traditional retirement age of 55. Older workers are more susceptible to a number of occupational health and safety hazards and injuries. Keeping employees fit as they age is an important step in keeping occupational health and safety problems at bay.
3. Boosts your immune system
Exercise has been shown in several studies to improve immune system function. Poor immune function leads to an increased risk of infectious diseases and reduced response to vaccination. Exercise acts as a powerful immune cell stimulator for teenagers and young adults.
Older people naturally experience a decrease in immune system function, but regular, moderate workouts can help to offset the decline. Good immune function is especially important when workers are coming in contact with a lot of people each day – especially sick people – or when flu season inevitably rolls around each year.
4. Reduces the risk of many diseases
No matter what your weight, physical activity increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) aka “good” cholesterol. It also decreases nasty triglycerides. The combined effect decreases risk of cardiovascular disease by keeping your blood flowing smoothly.
Many other lifestyle diseases are also preventable or manageable with the help of regular exercise and physical activity – type 2 diabetes, depression, metabolic syndrome, stroke, cancer and arthritis.
5. Improves mental acuity
Aerobic activity stimulates the middle-frontal and superior parietal regions of your brain. These are associated with attention and keeping goals in mind. It doesn’t take much exercise – even walking 45 minutes, three times a week can increase your mental sharpness.
Sharp, clear headed people are probably less likely to make mistakes that turn into major occupational health and safety incidents. So make time to work out regularly and enjoy better memory, reaction time and concentration than your sedentary workmates!
6. Increases energy and endurance
It sounds counter-intuitive, but using energy helps to increase your energy! Start working-out and you’ll find your energy and endurance increases – even within a few weeks of starting a regular exercise program. A more energised workforce can cope with unexpected developments like overtime and can be a more productive one too!
7. Reduce stress, depression, anxiety and improve the mood
Stress – is it common in your workplace? Stress is a major occupational health and safety concern in many modern workplaces and takes a physical and emotional toll. Regular exercise reduces stress and anxiety on a physical level. You actually experience diminished electrical activity in tense muscles as soon as you finish working out – reducing jitteriness and hyperactivity.
Your body also continues to release endorphin (a natural ‘feel good’ chemical in your body) for up to two hours after you exercise, improving your mood and helping you relax.
8. Improves confidence
Never has OHS looked so good! Exercise builds strength & stamina, improves muscle tone and helps shed excess weight. Looking good helps you feel good about yourself too. Self-confidence can help you and your workmates improve interpersonal communication among themselves and with customers or clients.
9. Increase virility
*AHEM* It isn’t needed AT work, but enjoying physical intimacy at home can improve the overall health of you and your workmates. Exercise offers several benefits for sex lives – more energy, more attractive appearance, reduce the chance of erectile dysfunction for men and increase arousal for women.
Physical intimacy causes our body to release chemicals such as oxytocins, dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals have a major positive impact on our physical and mental well-being, which affects our personal and professional lives. It can be pretty good exercise too!
10. Exercise can be fun and social
Why not turn exercise into a fun and social workplace activity that everyone can enjoy? What better way to bond a workplace together than with shared activities in a relaxed setting? It helps co-workers develop relationships and trust while benefitting from the health perks exercise has to offer.
Working out doesn’t have to mean sweating on a treadmill for an hour. Start a company sports team, run fitness classes during the lunch break or squeeze in short bursts of group activity throughout the day.
Encourage health & fitness in your workplace
It’s pretty clear that encouraging exercise and physical activity at work is important. Employees benefit directly from working out – reducing the risk of premature death is a strong motivation! Employers also stand to gain – a sharper, more productive workforce with the stamina to get through the day. You might even save a dollar or two on sick days and OHS claims! The number one benefit though, is having a happy, motivated and engaged workforce!
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