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13/10/10 Health gain through hard work

It was refreshing to visit a company yesterday and see the pile of trainers by the back door, fitness boot camp, 6am, majority of employees attending.  Brilliant!  Although, not for everyone.  If you are thinking of implementing a fitness programme for your employees, the key is to keep it varied.

There are many benefits of running an in-house service, research from the University of Leeds and the University of Bristol show that people who take part in physical activity at work have lower blood pressure and resting heart rate compared to those who do not.

The research showed that after exercising, study participants returned to work more tolerant of themselves and more forgiving of their colleagues. Their work performance was consistently and significantly higher, as measured by:

  • Ability to manage time demands
  • Ability to manage output demands
  • Mental and interpersonal performance

The study involved 210 workers whose employers offered on-site exercise programs—chiefly aerobics classes, but also yoga and stretching. Participants completed questionnaires reflecting the ease of completing tasks using a seven-point scale. This was done on a day when they exercised during the workday and again on days when they did not. Most of the workers had sedentary jobs; all were involved in voluntary workplace exercise programs and reported feeling confident in their work performance before beginning the study.

“The results are striking,” said Professor McKenna, who now works at Leeds Met. “We weren’t expecting such a strong improvement on productivity linked to exercising. Even more impressive was that these people already thought they were good at their jobs. Participants tracked mood, and as expected, exercising enhanced their mood. However, boosts in productivity were over-and-above the mood effects; it’s the exercise—or attitude related to exercise—that affects productivity.”

Focus groups confirmed the surprisingly strong effects of workplace exercise. “We expected to hear more about the downside, such as afternoon fatigue,” said Professor McKenna. “But out of 18 themes raised by study participants, 14 were positive. It was almost overwhelming.”

Workplace exercise programs, said Professor McKenna, benefit more than just the workers. “Companies see more productive employees who also work better together. From the public health side, health care costs can be expected to go down for employees who regularly exercise at work. Think of it; fewer sick days, better attendance and more tolerant co-worker relations.”

The workplace is an ideal setting for promoting physical activity and if you don’t have space inside, perhaps you could try the boot camp approach?  Visit our fitness pages.