Corporate fitness programs can deliver significant benefits for employers and employees alike – but not if they just sit on the shelf. Studies show that wellness initiatives work best when an organization develops a true “culture of health.” That requires the senior team to actually “be the change you want to see” by taking a leadership role. Thar means communicating about health and wellness frequently and by integrating wellness into the fabric of the organization.
In Physical Activity in the Workplace Guide for Employers, the authors note that:
“A 2009 scientific review of 28 studies that examined physical activity in the workplace found that comprehensive, multicomponent worksite health promotion programs with physical activity components result in positive effects, including significant improvements in health outcomes, reduced absenteeism, reductions in sick leave, and positive returns on investments.”
Corporate fitness programs that support physical activity don’t have to be elaborate or expensive propositions – most organizations don’t have the resources to support an in-house gym. Rather, programs should help foster a climate where employees can meet their health goals.
For the average adult, the Centers for Disease Control recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity a week, noting that this can be accomplished in short segments, even as little as 10 minutes here and there. Employers can promote the idea 10-minute bursts of activity to employees: three 10 minute spurts of exercise a day for employees who work full-time jobs would meet these recommendations. These 10-minute bursts could occur just before or after work, during lunch and during a morning or afternoon break. Finding ways to help employees meet the recommended activity level doesn’t have to be an elaborate or expensive proposition. Here are some ideas for things an organization could do:
- Encourage standing or “walk and talk” meetings as alternatives to sedentary ones
- Mark possible walking paths in or outside the workplace; Post distance markers so people can track progress and set goals.
- Encourage lunchtime, pre-work and post-work walking groups
- Give out or subsidize pedometers and hold contests for “walker of the month”
- In winter months, research and recommend nearby indoor walking tracks or malls
- Hold weekly stair walking challenges
- Organize employee teams to participate in community fundraiser walks for good causes
- Post “calories burned” charts for common activities on bulletin board and in cafeterias
- In newsletters or your Intranet, include reviews of fitness apps
- Post colorful exercise posters in your cafeteria and rest rooms
- Encourage short walking and stretching breaks
- For people who work sedentary jobs, add timed screensavers with stretches that remind them to take a stretch break
- Circulate “desktop” stretches and exercises that people who work on computers and in desk-bound jobs can do to break up their work
- Dedicate priority parking spaces for bike racks to encourage biking to work
- Participate in bike to work initiatives
- Offer flexible work hours to allow for physical activity during the day
- Conduct annual Walk or Bike to work events or challenges
- Host on-site classes before or after work, such as yoga or jazzercise
- Start a volleyball team, a bowling league, a golf club or other active pursuits
- Offer discounts to local gyms or health clubs
Your wellness fitness coach can help employees with one-to-one goals, but providing a wellness-friendly work environment will help to reinforce those goals. Plus, wellness initiatives that have a social or interactive component can boost motivation and morale.