We’ve previously discussed the benefits of having a fit, happy and healthy workplace in our article on Why you should shape up your workplace (click the link to read more!).
Employers and employees can both benefit from having a fit workforce – reduced incidence of illnesses and diseases, increased strength and stamina, reduced stress, depression and anxiety, improved mental functions, and more! Exercise can also be a social activity that lets co-workers get to know each other in a relaxed environment.
You’re sold on the idea of increasing fitness, but how do you translate that awesome idea into practical methods of encouraging exercise and workouts at work?
Workout with the work community
1. Organise quick fitness activities during the day
Find five minutes a few times a day to get everyone pumped up. It doesn’t take much – if you’re in a multi-storey building, get everyone walking up and down the staircase. Hold a squat challenge every day – start with 20 squats and build up as people’s fitness improves. Keep it simple and accessible to everyone!
You don’t need to be an expert at the sport – half the fun is learning together! Team sports are inherently social, forcing everyone to work together to win. There are usually local leagues for many sports. Enter a work team in staple sports like touch rugby, basketball or soccer, or find something unusual – ultimate Frisbee is a lot of fun!
3. Organise group fitness classes
Group fitness classes are an alternative or supplement for team sports. Go as a group after work or during your lunch break to keep each other and make the activity social. There are heaps of exercise programs to choose from – Body Pump, Yoga, Pilates and more. Try them all!
4. Sign the office up for charity events
If fitness alone isn’t enough of a goal, get your work involved in the many charity fitness events held every year. There are plenty of walks, runs and rides to get into! It gives people hard deadlines to achieve their fitness goals, and the type of exercise varies throughout the year. You’re also helping some great causes!
5. Offer gym access
Your company might be large enough to offer a convenient in-house gym for staff to use. If not, then use the bargaining power of your organisation to get a discount at a local facility. Your work can then offer free, or at least subsidised, gym memberships to staff. It’s a cool perk in any workplace and removes some of the financial barriers that might be holding people back from taking advantage of the gym.
6. Have an exercise allowance
If gyms aren’t popular or available in your area, then an exercise allowance might be a good alternative. Workers can then go and buy their own exercise equipment, memberships or classes and get reimbursed by work up to a given value.
7. Exercise as part of the commute to work
Encourage people to exercise on the way to work each day. Offer shower facilities and changing rooms so people feel free to walk, run or ride each morning. A storage space for bikes, scooters, skateboards and other devices makes life easier for staff too. If you live too far to get all the way to work under your own power, find ways to work in physical activity. Park a few blocks away from work, or walk to a train station further away from home.
Workout AT work
1. Walk instead of emailing co-workers
Many of us are bombarded with so many emails, there reaches a point where we just turn it off. Rather than contribute to the problem, just go and talk to them. It can actually be quicker if you’re having a complicated back-and-forth discussion. Face-to-face communication is rich with non-verbal communication, so it can also be easier to get your point across and prevent miscommunication. Some workplaces have experimented with limiting internal office emails with impressive results. The added benefit is you’re all up and active throughout the day!
2. Get a headset for your phone
You might be tied to a phone all day, but you don’t have to be tied to a desk! Get headsets for phones in your workplace so that staff can stand up and move around while they talk. Walking is an amazing activity. It oxygenates the brain, improving learning ability concentration and abstract reasoning. It helps higher mental processes like planning, organisation and the ability to mentally juggle different intellectual tasks at the same time. Plus regular walks cut stroke risk by 57%. What’s not to like?
3. Offer exercise balls as an alternative to office chairs
Sitting on an exercise ball forces you to work your core all day, strengthening abs and backs. It’s like working out all day! Exercise balls are actually a lot cheaper than most half-decent office chairs too, so you can save money on furnishing at the same time.
4. Bring in standing desks
We’ve evolved to be standing and active throughout the day. Sitting actually has some pretty serious negative health effects. You can read more about the downsides of sitting @ Lifehacker or Mayoclinic.
What if your job requires you to sit in front of a computer all day? You might be interested in standing desks. They’re desks set at a height suited to standing rather than sitting. Some of them are easily height adjustable, so that you can move your workstation between a standing and sitting position throughout the day. If not, get a stool to sit on when standing becomes uncomfortable.
Standing helps to improve posture and increases the base rate at which you burn energy. It also encourages you to pace, fidget and even dance! It’s an easy way to change the way people work that can produce some amazing results.
5. Give everyone a pedometer
One of my favourites! A pedometer is simply a small electronic device that counts the number of steps you take each day. Aim to get at least 10,000! It’s not that hard.
Having a quantifiable goal motivates many people to stay active throughout the day. Get your 10,000 steps up by walking to work, taking the stairs and staying on your feet all day at your standing desk. Then you can reward yourself by going home and relaxing at the end of the day! Turn it into an office activity by letting people record and share their progress daily or weekly.
6. Get rid of sugary, highly processed ‘snack’ foods & drinks
We’ve discussed a lot of ways to encourage exercise and burn more energy, but how about limiting the kilojoules we eat in the first place? Lots of common snack “food” is very, very dense in kilojoules, and full of simple sugars which are pretty bad for our health. These snacks make it easy for people to eat a lot of ‘empty’ kilojoules every day – energy we don’t need that offers no nutritional value. A 50g chocolate bar can pack around 1000 kilojoules, and a lot of cakes and muffins are nearly as bad. Savoury foods like potato chips can be even worse.
Get rid of vending machines stocked with junk food and replace any sugary foods you give to staff with healthier alternatives. If people still need a sugary treat, offer them fruit. It still contains sugar and is energy dense, but it also includes vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.
Are you ready to get started?
By now you should have some ideas that will suit your workplace. You can try making subtle changes to the way your workplace operates or plan grand, lifestyle defining exercise programs. A mix of both might be good!
It’s important that you, as the health and safety officer (or program organiser) lead the way for other staff. Getting the boss involved is also good – as the head honcho they can set the example for everyone else! So what’s your activity plan?
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