5 Ways to Promote Physical Health in the Workplace

  • Workplace Health & Safety
Computer stand
Supriya Sharma

Supriya Sharma, HR content writer

(Last updated )

Sitting has been the new smoking for long. Research says if you sit for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity, you face the same risk of premature death as those who smoke or are obese.

According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is responsible for six per cent of deaths globally. It is a risk factor for several health conditions including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colon cancer, depression and anxiety.

Sedentary lifestyles due to jobs that require sitting for extended periods no doubt contribute to people being inactive or not finding enough time to exercise.

Canadian workers spend about 60% of their waking hours at work. Given how our lives are organized around our jobs, employer initiative to promote employee physical health can make a huge difference.

How do employers benefit from employees being physically active?

According to Public Health Canada, employee performance can improve by 15% when workers are physically active. Active people also have better concentration, stamina, memory and higher energy levels.

Healthy workers are more productive, less stressed and less likely to take sick days. A workplace that encourages employees to be physically active improves employee retention and builds a work culture that cares about employee wellbeing.

How do I help employees be more active physically?

Public Health Canada recommends at least 2.5 hours of moderate-to vigorous physical activity in a week in short sessions of 10 minutes or more. 

Here are some simple strategies you could follow to encourage your team to move around while at work:

Incentivize active commuting

A secure bike parking space or facilities to shower and change are some ways you could support employees who live close by and can bike or walk to work. Encourage workers to use public transport a few days in the week instead of always driving to work.

Allow flexibility in work hours

If it doesn’t affect the business, you could allow for flexible work hours. This way your employees could make time to go to the gym or join a sport/fitness activity before or after work.

Use sit-stand desks

Sit-stand desks are height-adjustable desks that allow users to alternate between sitting and standing at work. A recent study found that users of adjustable workstations reported improvement in upper back and neck pain and increased productivity.

Build a work culture of being active

Encourage your staff to take short breaks to stretch and walk around the office. Make small changes to working styles like take the stairs instead of the elevator, hold standing meetings, opt walking over to a colleague’s desk or floor instead of sending an email or making a phone call.

You could also organize a weekly fitness classes (e.g. Pilates or yoga depending on what your staff may be interested in).

Subsidized gym memberships, holding team sports events, such as football or basketball matches, or participating in local or national charity runs or marathons are other ways you and your staff can build exercise into your work routines.

Share information and resources

Educate your staff on the importance of being physically active. The 2.5 hours of activity that Public Health Canada recommends includes a mix of endurance, flexibility and strength activities.

These can be worked into your routine with a little planning. For instance, walking or biking to work can build endurance. Frequent stretch breaks at your workstation help with flexibility, and climbing stairs is a great cardio work out.

If you are starting a fitness program at work, we advise you ask all participating employees get a fitness evaluation. This will help you inform them of any risks or precautions they need to observe.

Do you need help with staff management?

For advice on HR and health and safety policies, call an expert today: 1 (833) 247-3652.

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