Workplace Wellness, Part 1: Employee Fitness Programs

July 6, 2016

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More and more companies are implementing health and wellness programs, and it’s not hard to see why. Well-executed wellness programs can increase productivity, morale and retention, and decrease absenteeism, injuries, and the use of health care benefits. And with healthcare costs on the rise, employers are doing everything they can to offset those increases.

There are two keys to any good wellness program: diet and exercise. This article will focus on exercise and part two will focus on diet.

The benefits of exercise are extensive and well documented. It’s not only great for keeping you healthy, but it also helps with the treatment of chronic diseases. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has described exercise as a “miracle cure.”

However, you don’t need to enroll in a CrossFit class, train for a marathon or even try intense workout routines like P90X to see the health benefits of exercise. The American Heart Association recommends just 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise a week.

“Moderate intensity is probably much less than you think,” states a recent New York Times article. “Walking briskly, at 3 to 4 miles per hour or so, qualifies. So does bicycling slower than 10 miles an hour. Anything that gets your heart rate somewhere between 110 and 140 beats per minute is enough. Even vacuuming, mowing the lawn or walking your dog might qualify.”

So we know exercise is good for you. The question is how can you implement an employee fitness program that employees will actually use?

Here are some tips:

  • Create a challenge board that encourages employees to complete daily physical activities. Make the activities simple and fun. Ask employees to design their own challenges. Encourage groups to work together, which will increase likelihood of Encourage workers to take a 10-15 minute walk before, during or after work by developing a safe walking path around your workplace (inside or outside).
  • Include a twenty-minute fitness break at least once per day for all workers.
  • Encourage workers to host standing or walking meetings when possible.
  • Not all employees will be motivated for their own health reasons, so give them a different sense of purpose. Put together company teams for local fitness-oriented charity events, like 5K runs, bike races or Tough-Mudder-style events. Let your employees participation and deepen relationships.
  • choose the charities they wish to support.
  • Institute a stretching routine at the beginning of each shift.
  • Encourage tracking and sharing results. Many companies have started giving employees devices like Fitbits and have seen an increase in fitness participation and encouragement. Devices like this also help employees set and meet their fitness goals and encourage their colleagues to do the same. Hang signs next to your elevators that say how many steps they can accumulate by taking the stairs instead.
  • Encourage employees to start company-based teams in sports like softball, kickball, or ultimate Frisbee and compete against other companies in your area.
  • Hold a monthly fitness event to help keep ongoing interest in your program. Make it fun and don’t be afraid to be goofy. Any kind of activity that encourages movement is great. Even things like paintball, laser tag or trampoline parks.
  • Provide reimbursements to employees who want to join a gym or health club.

Studies show that every $1 spent on employee wellness programs will save you $4 in healthcare, absenteeism, productivity and attrition costs. For help on creating a wellness program for your facility, contact Vanguard Resources.