How to promote fitness at work: Incentives and initiatives

Published: 11 June 2015Promote fitness at work

Living an active lifestyle is, by now, considered to be one of the most important elements in staying fit and healthy, fighting off major illnesses and prolonging our life-spans1. However, various reports over the past few years have told us that up to 80% of adults in the UK don't exercise enough - a shocking but not necessarily surprising statistic2. Many of us are familiar with not finding the time in the day to participate in the recommended amount of physical activity, which according to the NHS is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, plus muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week3.

As an employer you can play an important role in encouraging your employees to get on board with a more active lifestyle. With so much time spent in the office or at work, it can be difficult to get round to thinking about exercise, so why not bring it into the daily routines of your staff? You could even offer incentives for them to get fit outside of work. The benefits of this will be felt not only by them, but by you, with exercise contributing to a happier and fitter body of staff that is less likely to get ill and more likely to stay upbeat and motivated. Whilst employers have things like business health insurance to cover them in the worst case scenario, preventing the poor health of employees is a much better and more proactive way of managing staff illness. So just how can we get our workforce fighting fit, and happy about it too?

Make the gym accessible for all
There are two ways in which you can make it easier and more affordable for your employees to go to the gym. You could either: 

  • Dedicate a room to gym equipment in your office space. This would enable employees to exercise on their lunch breaks, or before and after work, with a fraction of the effort of travelling to an actual gym.
  • Offer gym membership as one of your employee benefits. This would solve the financial barrier that often comes between the desire to exercise and the gym, and would encourage your employees to attend regularly, knowing they picked it as a benefit.

Offer incentives for fitness goals
If you're serious about promoting fitness at work you could create an incentives programme. This may involve various 'fitness goals' such as:

  • BMI targets
  • Number of exercise classes attended over a month
  • Number of times an employee ran to work in a week or month

When goals are met, rewards could be given, such as financial bonuses, a free meal at a restaurant, or half a day's holiday.

Try to beat the sedentary-living trend
According to a large scale study carried out by the University of Loughborough, sedentary behaviour leads to a number of concerning health issues. This particular study revealed that, regardless of how much exercise we do, sitting for prolonged periods comes with an entirely separate set of detrimental effects on our health. Results showed that, compared with those who sat the least, those who sat the longest had a 112% increased risk of getting diabetes, a 147% risk in experiencing cardiovascular events and a 49% increased risk in death from any cause4. Therefore it's a great idea to organise regular short breaks to allow your employees to walk around the office and perform stretches, enabling them to avoid prolonged periods of sedentary behaviour.

Introduce a cycle to work scheme
Encourage your employees to ditch the car or public transport and hop on a bike instead. The government's cycle to work scheme allows employers to loan bikes and cyclists' safety equipment to their staff as a tax free benefit. As well as incentivising employees to get fit, you'll be helping out the environment too.
Getting your employees active comes with many benefits. They'll be fitter, healthier, happier and more productive. Plus, you'll probably notice a drop in sick days and a rise in motivation. With all this in mind, jumping on board with the above incentives really is a no brainer. Now, who's up for a run?



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