The month of May brings more than flowers and long-awaited sunny weather. It brings many opportunities for employers looking to expand employee wellness. May is Employee Health & Fitness Month, and if your company hasn’t taken the plunge into workplace wellness, now might be the perfect time to do so.
Employee Health & Fitness Month, a month-long initiative launched by the National Association for Healthy & Fitness and ACTIVE Life, promotes the powerful benefits of workplace health and wellness. Employers and employees across the world are encouraged to participate – no matter their age or fitness abilities. According to the program’s website, its goal is to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to employers and their employees through worksite health promotion activities.
Alan Kohll, writer for Forbes magazine, provides insight and ideas on how to get employees active not only during the month of May but year-round. Employers can use this month to raise awareness of the benefits of regular exercise and how it contributes to a healthy lifestyle and a culture of wellness among the office. Here are just a few reasons why employees will benefit from moving more and some examples of how to get employees to move more.
Employers want their employees to live an active life. Regular exercise helps prevents serious, life-threatening diseases such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Exercise keeps weight in check and prevents and helps treat obesity. It also helps slow down the body’s aging process, which can help reduce the chance of disability by improving strength and agility.
Besides the physical benefits of regular exercise, staying active improves mental and cognitive health – which leads to better work performance. Exercise has been shown to slow and reduce the process of cognitive decline by promoting brain cell growth and repair. This helps improve overall cognitive function such as memory, learning abilities and concentration. Even a 15-minute brisk walk or jog can significantly improve productivity and performance at work – especially after lunchtime when employees’ brains need an energy boost.
An active lifestyle also serves as an effective preventative measure for mental health. Exercise promotes feelings of well-being and happiness by producing the feel-good chemicals serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. Being physically active can help treat mild to moderate cases of depression and anxiety. Exercise also naturally reduces stress (a lot of which can be caused from the workplace) by lowering cortisol levels. Essentially, regular exercise could mean a longer, happier life for employees.
How can employers encourage employees to move more? There are endless ideas, but here are a few examples to help employers get started:
Fitness trackers. Consider investing in wearables. These devices and apps help employees become more mindful of their physical activity. Employees can easily track the amount of steps they take per day versus the amount of time they spend sitting. Fitness trackers can also be a great way to create fitness challenges at the office. Employees can compete against one another to see who can take the most amount of steps in a month. Offer a prize for the winning employee and a small prize for all participants in the challenge.
Healthy clubs. Start some healthy clubs or groups at your company. Walking clubs are currently trending in corporate wellness. Let employees get together as a group and take two to three walking breaks throughout the workday. Create a walking route for employees to take outside of the building or route areas inside of the building that they can lap without causing a distraction for other workers. Starting a company sports group is also a good idea for forming healthy clubs. These employees can have fun competing in after-hour games of basketball, softball or any other recreational sport. Offer some sort of incentive for employees who participate in healthy clubs.
Company garden. Maintaining a garden will help employees get outside and exercise in an enjoyable way. According to MindBodyGreen.com, gardening can be compared to moderate cardiovascular exercise, and about 30-45 minutes of gardening a day can burn anywhere from 150 to 300 calories. Employees can grow fresh produce which might help them make healthier choices when it comes to their diet. Gardening is also great for mental health and well-being and will help reduce stress.
Weekly fitness day. Chose one day per week that employees get 30 minutes on-the-clock to exercise. They can use the 30 minutes to take a walk outside, go for a bike ride, or take laps around the building. Offering employees the ability to exercise at work removes a lot of the barriers that prevent employees from regularly exercising.
Outdoor activity. Help employees spend more time outdoors. Think walking meetings, outdoor team walks and company picnics. All of these activities encourage physical activity and spending more time outdoors. By simply replacing a sit-down 15-minute conference with a lap around the parking lot, employers can promote an active lifestyle while at work.
Onsite gym. It’s possible to create an onsite company gym even with a small budget. Offer employees 30 minutes a day on-the-clock to use the gym. This makes exercise both practical and convenient for employees. If your company can’t make an onsite gym work, consider a company membership at a nearby gym or offer employee discounts or coupons for gym memberships and fitness classes. You can also try offering your employees an incentive for using a gym on their own.
Office exercise. Start off team meetings and conferences with some light stretches and encourage employees to stand. This will help get employees moving and boost concentration for a more productive meeting. Be sure to also encourage employees to deskercise during the workday. Send out simple exercise moves that employees can do at their desk twice a day.
Rethink desks. Researches have referred to a sedentary lifestyle as more dangerous than smoking. A traditional cubicle encourages sitting for eight hours of the day. Offer employees convertible desks that can easily turn into a standing desk. Because standing for eight hours of the day also isn’t ideal for health, offer exercise balls as a replacement for a chair.
While companies should invest in their employees’ well-being throughout the year, May is a great time to evaluate and build upon corporate wellness strategies. Employers should take this time to contemplate if their company is doing enough to encourage and support healthy habits and choices among their workforce. Use Employee Health & Fitness Month to complement your existing program or kickoff a new corporate wellness program.