Organizational Wellness

Five Key Benefits of Exercise in the Workplace for Your Employees

Apr 3, 2017
Last Updated Oct 30, 2023

Here’s what a typical weekday can look like for the average corporate employee: You rush out the door with a half-made breakfast or cup of coffee to start your morning commute, maybe dropping the kids off along the way. You’d love to take a walk over lunch after a busy morning of meetings, but you catch up on your email instead.

You get stuck in traffic during rush hour so you scrounge up some leftovers for dinner. Your after-dinner plans might vary — maybe you’re taking someone to baseball practice, or meeting a friend for that drink you’ve been trying to grab for weeks. That leaves you just enough time to squeeze in the latest Netflix binge before bed.

Notice anything off about this daily routine?

There’s no time for exercise! And that’s not as rare as you might think. According to the Surgeon General, 25% of the adult population in the U.S. isn’t active at all – and more than half don’t engage in the recommended amount of daily activity.

But you can help change that narrative for your team members. Instead of asking them to squeeze in gym time at 5 a.m. or during their already-crammed lunch breaks, you can offer exercise options directly in the workplace. There are some great benefits to this — both for you and your employees! Let’s explore.

  1. Stress Relief

Exercise can be a great way for employees to manage stress, clear their minds, and alleviate any feelings of pressure they might be experiencing throughout the work day. In one study, cardiovascular and resistance exercise were both effective interventions for burnout and perceived stress among employees.

Physical activity and exercise also helps people sleep better, according to the Mayo Clinic. And a full night's sleep is paramount for lowering anxiety and improving a person's overall mood and temperament.

To help team members get enough cardio or resistance exercise either at work or alongside their work schedule, your company can try:

  • Offering paid exercise or fitness breaks throughout the day.
  • Holding regular group fitness classes before or after work.
  • Investing in a company gym, rec area, or fitness facility.
  • Offering on-site personal trainers and wellness coaches.
  • Installing showers for employees who want to bike or run to work, instead of driving.

  1. Boosts in Energy and Productivity

Exercise and work productivity are tightly intertwined. Movement boosts mood and energy so that employees can maintain their energy levels throughout the day. One study examined about 250 workers, mainly in sedentary jobs, who had access to company gyms and workout facilities. The researchers found that workers were more productive on days they exercised compared to those who did not, thanks largely to improvements in their mood.

Staying active throughout the day can help your employees keep their energy up so that they can focus on tasks and perform well at work. Studies have shown that exercise boosts memory and thinking skills. It can help people learn and retain information more quickly.

Exercise also improves creativity and innovative thinking, so that your team can bring bright ideas to the table as well. You might not have a fully equipped gym on-site, but there are other things you can do to help your team stay productive and energized. For instance, you can encourage mini-workouts or walks before meetings or brainstorming sessions to get their creative juices flowing.

  1. Time and Space for Your Employees to Focus on Health

Ultimately, exercise in the workplace can provide your employees with some much-needed time for self-care — which they're likely struggling to find in their hectic schedules. A lack of time is one of the top reasons why Americans don't work out, cited by 43% of respondents in a survey sponsored by Freeletics.

In fact, many employees are already looking for help in balancing the many different aspects of their lives. Almost nine in 10 (87%) of workers say they expect their company to support them in striking a balance between work and personal commitments, according to Glassdoor. But you can give your employees that space to address their own fitness needs, so that they consistently feel ready to perform at their best.

Even if you don't have a fully equipped gym on-site, there are plenty of ways to help your team get some exercise at work and stay energized throughout the day. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Sponsor memberships to local gyms.
  • Hold group walks, runs, or yoga sessions throughout the day.
  • Keep free weights on hand for employees to use.
  • Stock yoga mats, stretch bands, and other supplies in a designated space.
  • Cover the cost of fitness app subscriptions.
  • Plan regular corporate volunteering days or events to encourage physical activity.
  • Offer stability balls as seating options to work out abdominal muscles.

  1. Social Connection and Team Building

Exercising in a group setting can create a sense of motivation and support for everyone ranging from workout beginners to the most polished fitness veterans. It's an opportunity for your team members to come together in a different way, with the goal of having fun and releasing stress.

As health psychologist and Stanford University lecturer Dr. Kelly McGonigal writes in her book “The Joy of Movement:” “Movement offers us pleasure, identity, belonging, and hope...It makes social connection easier." When we exercise with others, we engage with them in a shared experience. Exercising and staying active together can help strengthen relationships between coworkers, as well as foster a sense of community and belonging between teammates.

To encourage this type of team bonding over exercise at your company, you could try organizing an employee fitness challenge. There are even ways to run virtual fitness challenges if your team follows a remote or hybrid work arrangement. You could invite team members to participate in a company intramural sports team or league if there's enough interest.

  1. Increases in Employee Retention and Engagement

Work environments that encourage and support physical activity are often associated with higher levels of employee engagement and loyalty. Almost nine in 10 workers at companies who invest in employee wellbeing "would recommend their employer as a good place to work," according to one CEO and executive coach Naz Beheshti.

Providing support for employees to exercise at work or around their work schedule also sends an important message: that their health is a priority, and their wellbeing matters. That might be all you need for some team members to feel more connected to the company and its mission.

Offer the Benefits of Exercise Wherever Your Employees Go

While exercise in the workplace is a great option, you can also design a workplace wellness program that helps employees address their health needs no matter where they are — at work, at home, and on the go. They could also use access to resources like gyms, fitness centers, studios, and trainers that fit into their schedules and plans.

And physical fitness is often just one piece of an employee’s holistic wellbeing. There’s also the mental and wellbeing component to think about, as well as financial wellness and spiritual wellness. All of these different areas play a major role in an employee’s overall happiness, as well as their performance and morale while they’re with your team.

Wellhub is a holistic wellness program. We help the employees of more than 15,000 companies feel their best through access to over 50,000 wellness partners — from fitness classes to meditation apps, budgeting tools to habit planners, and personal trainers to sleep trackers.

Reach out to a Wellhub wellbeing specialist to start harnessing the benefits of wellness, in and out of the workplace!

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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