Why Should Companies Allow Employees to Exercise During Working Hours?

In the UK, full-time employees work an average of 36.6 hours per week and commute for 59 minutes each day.  ...

In the UK, full-time employees work an average of 36.6 hours per week and commute for 59 minutes each day.  

It’s a fair chunk of time.

So, it's not difficult to see why some people struggle to maintain a regular fitness routine. It's not just our working lives eating into our free time, either. Modern life comes with many responsibilities, all competing for the handful of hours we have when we're off-the-clock.

And not everyone has an innate desire to exercise. Some people have never had a positive exercise experience; they may not even know where to start.  

But everyone knows that exercise is a vital component of physical and mental wellbeing. Working out reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, depression, cancer and other life-threatening, life-limiting and chronic illnesses. It boosts energy and mood too. The problem is that most people don't get enough exercise. The World Health Organization believes that 1 in 4 adults worldwide don't exercise enough and that 'up to 5 million premature deaths could be prevented each year if the global population was more active'. 

Some companies are now making it easier for employees to exercise during the working day, but whilst we already know exercise is good for people, could it be good for businesses too?  


What are the Benefits of Exercising in the Workplace?  

Understanding the benefits for the employee is easy, but what advantages are there for companies promoting physical exercise?  

Physical Activity Helps Productivity

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, boosting productivity and making it easier to focus. One study found that employees who regularly exercised moderately produced a higher quality of work and performed better than those who didn't exercise. The additional blood flow to the brain supported better cognitive performances, including multi-tasking, alertness and decision making. According to Livestrong, exercise triggers the protein that boosts cognitive ability. Not only that but working out can also reduce afternoon fatigue, which is handy for those of us who feel sluggish after lunchtime. In another study, participants saw a 72 per cent improvement in time management and increased completed workload on days they exercised.  

Furthering this idea, Productivityist wrote about a study by Bristol University where employees evaluated themselves on the days they exercised and the days they didn't. Participants recorded a 21% increase in concentration on the days they exercised, a 22% increase for finishing work on time, 25% for working without unscheduled breaks and a 41% increase for feeling motivated to work.  

 Exercise in the workplace

Exercise Can Manage Stress

Many of us have experienced stress in the workplace at one time or another. Work stress can manifest temporarily due to an impending deadline, key business milestone or even friction between fellow employees or management. It can be long-term, too, relating to poor working conditions, bad practices or inefficient systems.

Personal stress also bleeds into the workplace. It's unrealistic to assume employees will always check their worries at the door when they clock in. Most of us know how hard it is to focus when we're worried, upset or distracted.

According to the Harvard Health website, exercise reduces the amount of cortisol and adrenaline in the bloodstream; both are stress hormones. Exercise also helps produce endorphins which are the 'body's natural painkillers and mood elevators'. The article says that exercise keeps the body busy, which distracts the mind and gives the freedom for more creative thinking. This can help someone develop the solution or opportunity that solves the problem.

The Mayo Clinic goes further, suggesting that it's meditation in motion. Cycling and swimming are good examples of this, and so are running or hiking. Focusing on form or repetitive movements during a workout can help individuals forget what's distracting them.  

Of course, exercise is unlikely to be enough for people with chronic depression, anxiety or stress, but it could be beneficial for day-to-day mental health management. According to HSE, 17.9 million days were lost to stress, depression or anxiety in the UK in 2019/2020.  

One report by Mental Health in the workplace suggests that four in ten employees have suffered from stress. While some employees may baulk at providing exercise on company time, it's important to remember that productive employees are a company's greatest asset and anything that supports productivity is good for the company, too.  

exercising at the office

Exercise Can Help Employee's Health

According to the American Heart Association, sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950 but sitting down for extended periods is now believed to pose a significant health risk. Forbes writes that people who sit for more than 8 hours a day without any physical activity share a similar risk of dying as smokers and obesity.

Sitting down can also lead to a higher chance of developing cancer cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Bear in mind that 8-hours doesn't only include the working day but will also include the commute, socializing, lunch breaks and relaxing at home afterwards.

Using physical exercise to counteract risks to an employee's health is one way of showcasing your company's wellbeing policy.

Whilst this shouldn't be a cynical tick-box checking exercise, it can help make a business look more attractive to potential job candidates. The modern employee is far more discerning about where they work than previous generations. Things like flexible working, job-sharing, team rewards, company ethos and working environment are now becoming as important to job seekers as salary and job title. And, of course, it helps businesses reduce incidences of sickness and presenteeism. 

Employee wellbeing as a means to support productivity and business growth is one reason Energym has developed its office eco-pods. These sustainable and self-contained activation areas are where employees exercise using electricity-generating indoor bikes—making it great for workplace sustainability too.

Exercise Can Help Build a Team

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, has been very open about why putting fitness at the centre of his business was important to him. He told iNews that physical exercise has "brought the company together, improved productivity and had a tangible effect on morale." He adds that the company has seen "more team spirit, more energy and [employees] genuinely seem to get more done." For his company, exercise means PT sessions in an on-site gym, group running and hiking. It could be yoga, football, or an indoor cycling class in your company.

Not all employers will be convinced that exercising in the workplace is their responsibility, but that's almost irrelevant if the result works in the company's favour. And exercise is a relatively small price to pay for increased productivity, stress management and team-building.

Find out more about electricity-generating indoor bikes for your office.


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