The Benefits of Physical Activity in the Workplace


Physical activity has a wide variety of benefits for both the body and the mind. This is why more and more organisations are encouraging individual and team-based exercise as part of the working day. Better ergonomics, increased productivity and overall improvements in workplace culture are just some of the benefits that are being seen.

Why physical activity at work matters

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 should participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. This can be broken down into sessions: for example 30 minutes a day for five days a week.

With work accounting for a large part portion of our waking time, and home and family commitments taking up much of what is left, it’s easy to see why many of us are failing to meet our weekly quota. One solution is for workplaces to make physical activity a priority so that everyone has the opportunity to achieve, at least, 30 minutes of exercise each day throughout the working week.

Physical activity has a wide range of health benefits for all workers, regardless of whether or not physical fitness is a requirement for their jobs. This area is often overlooked for office workers in particular, as their roles tend to be sedentary by nature. The negative long-term health effects of this situation are not always considered by employees or employers.

However, a fit and healthy workforce is one of the most valuable assets a company can have. This is why employers need to make more effort to encourage physical activity, particularly team based exercise, during the workday.

The health benefits of physical activity

The first and most obvious benefit of physical activity is that it helps us to maintain a healthy weight. With obesity now a major health problem in the vast majority of developed nations, including Australia, this has never been more important.

Some of the serious illnesses that 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can offer protection against include:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Various types of cancer

Maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough cardiovascular exercise is essential in helping the body protect itself against these health problems.

Exercise can alleviate the effects of mental health issues as our bodies release endorphins – aka. Happy hormones – when we engage in physical activity.  This can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, helping us to feel more positive, energised and capable of dealing with pressurised situations. This can lead to vast improvements in the mental health and wellbeing of workers.

The benefits of physical activity for your business

Some of the advantages of having a fit and healthy workforce are obvious while others are sometimes overlooked. Healthier workers are less likely to take time off sick, so this reduces the cost of absenteeism for your business. They are also more likely to feel motivated and productive while at work, play an active role in creating a positive workplace culture, contribute and collaborate with co-workers and are less likely to be involved in workplace conflict.

From the organisations perspective, providing opportunities for your workers to participate in exercise helps with staff retention, as showing them you care about their health will make them feel valued. This encourages more company loyalty. Demonstrations of caring about an employee’s health and wellbeing such as this can also help you attract top talent when it comes to recruitment – people who have a variety of job offers on the table will be more likely to choose a company that can prove it values its workers.

Team based exercise in particular are important for building rapport and common ground amongst colleagues. This translates directly into better teamwork and a more cohesive workplace culture.

What you can do to encourage exercise at work

There are a number of steps you can put in place to ensure your team are reaching their daily quota and get some exercise during the day. These include:

  • Installing an on-site gym or including gym membership as part of salary packages
  • Organising team walks during lunch breaks or walking meetings
  • Encourage workers to get out of the office at lunch
  • Set up printers and other commonly used office accessories away from workstations to encourage people to get up and move.
  • Providing information about local team sports and exercise classes

How you do it is up to you.