Two of the biggest challenges employers face on an ongoing basis are keeping employees happy and healthy. With surging health care plan costs, companies are desperate to find solutions to keep medical conditions at bay. While employers cannot fight the cost of prescriptions and hospital services, they can provide preventative programs to help individuals maintain their overall health. Encouraging healthy diets and attitudes toward exercise can not only save employers a pretty penny, but can also save lives. With this country’s diabetes epidemic still at large, creating healthy lifestyle environments for employees is imperative.
When employees reduce their BMI by one point they can save themselves and their employers $1500 in healthcare costs per year. But wellness and exercise incentives offer more than just physical benefits- they can also enhance overall employee performance and morale.
Working in a typical office environment means sitting, hunched over a computer screen for 8+ hours a day. Human bodies were made to move and sedentary lifestyles do nothing for our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeings. Encouraging employees to exercise in on-site fitness facilities or through corporate gym memberships offsets some of the health issues that can arise due to stress and stationary lifestyles. Here are a few of the reasons why an active workforce is every company’s greatest asset.
Exercise Increases Focus
Whether it’s a result of mounting pressures, technological distractions, or poor diets (or, likely, a combination of all three) there’s a shortage of focus at the office. Many employees have to down multiple cups of coffee a day to fight through fatigue and make it through mountainous to-do lists. But regular exercise can combat lack of focus. Exercise is proven to have positive cognitive implications, including: improved concentration, sharper memory, and increased mental stamina. In addition to reducing inflammation, studies have even shown that regular exercise can expand the prefrontal cortex and medial cortex, which are linked to the regions of the brain that control thinking and memory.
Exercise Encourages Happiness
To those who don’t exercise on a regular basis, endorphins may seem like a myth. How can exerting strenuous effort result in euphoric feelings? But in actuality, the relationship between exercise and endorphins is real. Endorphins are neurotransmitters produced by the brain’s hypothalamus; these neurotransmitters spark a reaction in the brain’s opioid receptors which creates a morphine-like high. People naturally feel happier following exercise, and as any employer can attest, achieving widespread and prolonged workplace happiness is no small feat. In addition to facilitating a more pleasant environment, happiness is a natural productivity booster. Happy employees are more likely to be engaged in their work.
Exercise Beats Stress
Regardless of industry or job title, stress is rampant in the workplace and often spurs anxiety, which affects 40 million adults in the United States. Exercise is a natural stress and anxiety-buster because it forces people to take their minds off the problems that have been plaguing them. It’s difficult to replay a difficult client meeting when you’re trying to master a pose in yoga or complete a crossfit round. In many ways, exercise is meditation in motion. Furthermore, regular exercise also releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that essentially quiets activity in the brain. The presence of GABA enables regular exercisers to maintain a degree of calmness when stressful situations arise. There’s also something naturally relieving about running or punching a bag; when stressed out workers do nothing but sit in front of computer screens all day, there’s no outlet for their pent-up energy. Encouraging employees to step outside of the office and move their bodies gives them a natural release.
Employees aren’t necessarily just going to start exercising on their own, because many people struggle to start or resume a fitness routine. Exercise is often the first activity sacrificed for mounting responsibilities at home and in the office. It’s up to employers to set a tone in the workplace that values health and physical fitness. Offering discounted memberships to local gyms, bringing yoga instructors into the workplace once a week, or creating a daily steps challenge are all positive ways to evoke an exercise ripple-effect across a company’s workforce.