Organizational Wellness

How Exercise Improves Productivity at Work

Jul 27, 2017
Last Updated Jun 1, 2023

Exercise improves productivity in the workplace, they say, but importantly it’s ‘regular exercise’ that improves productivity. Wouldn’t it be great if we just went once and that’s it! Could we have a healthier, happy and productive workforce all the time? Unfortunately, in reality, it’s almost impossible to have your whole workforce being 100% productive, 100% of the time. But there’s lots of evidence that, if you encourage regular exercise can improve productivity at work.

It’s well known that exercise increases endorphins, boosts our energy levels and improves our mental and physical wellbeing. But how many employers report those benefits to the workplace?

What if your staff were more positive, fitter and less likely to get sick, and had more self-confidence? Wouldn’t that be good for business?

Exercise can have a profound effect on the way the brain works, bringing cognitive benefits that will improve staff performance and boost your business, including:

boosts memory

Studies have shown that the hippocampus, the part of the brain structure associated with learning and memory systems, grows as people get fitter. Supporting the research, German scientists found that walking or cycling while learning a foreign language helped the new vocabulary to stick.

Improves Concentration

In another study, Dutch school pupils’ attention spans improved when 20-minute bouts of aerobics-style exercise were introduced in between lessons. Meanwhile, in the US, children took part in daily after-school sports classes over a school year. Quite apart from fitter children, they were also more focused and able to ignore distractions, better at multitasking, and their ability to manipulate information in their minds improved.

Enhances creativity

Do you discourage your staff from taking a stroll around the park at lunchtime? This could be a mistake. Research by psychologists in the US found that a walk, whether on a treadmill or outside, boosted divergent thinking – the part of creative thought that deals with idea generating.

Cognitive benefits aside, workers who exercise regularly will also benefit from improved moods and lower stress levels, which can not only help keep staff absences down but also help retain staff, too.

Let Staff Exercise During Work. Really?

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that, when staff are sitting at their desk or working diligently on a production line, they’re at their most productive. After all, they lookproductive right? It makes more sense to have staff exercise in their own time.

Well, there’s growing evidence to suggest that it can be beneficial to let workers exercise during the day. A Leeds Metropolitan University study showed, when they visited the gym during work, employees were able to manage their time more effectively. They reported being productive, and said their interactions with other colleagues improved. They also felt more satisfied with the day’s work they had completed.

So it may seem counter-productive to watch your staff head off to the gym at lunch, but perhaps there’s good reason to let them go – and if you can’t beat them, why not join them?

How to Improve Staff Fitness

If you don’t have the big budget to introduce on-site gym facilities, there are various ways you can help your workers to keep fit.

It can start with the simple things such as encouraging staff to walk up the stairs rather than take the lift to the top floor or positioning printers further away from desks. You could even try introducing walking meetings or office weight loss challenges.

Here are some relatively easy ways to help get a healthier workforce:

  1. Team sport is a particularly good way to promote the health of your staff. You’ll also help build stronger relationships among your workforce. You could try starting a sports team such as five-a-side football.
  2. Set up a sponsored walk, or encourage staff to get involved in a charity fitness challenge. You’ll be helping a good cause and, as an added bonus, you could create positive PR for your company. What could be better?
  3. Advocate cycling to work. You could see huge benefits from supporting cycle-to-work schemes. According to transport charity Sustrans, the average worker takes 4.5 sick days each year. However, people who cycle take just 2.4 days.

Why not explore other options, such as introducing subsidized gym membership? Any outlay would pay dividends over time, through an energized, fitter and engaged workforce, and reduced turnover.

The most important tool in increasing staff fitness is good communication. Educate them about its benefits and then supporting their efforts. Showing your staff that you care about their health and wellbeing demonstrates that you value them and helps foster loyalty among your employees.

Want to get the best out of your employees? Find out how Gympass can help increase the productivity of your workforce.</span> </span>

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Gympass Editorial Team

The Gympass 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.