What exercise should staff be doing?
If you’re tasked by your organisation with offering a well-balanced health and wellbeing strategy, then at some point you will need to address the issue of physical exercise. Gym membership is a commonly offered option. However, we’ve found that successful take-up is often amongst those staff members who would have become gym members anyway. Which leaves the rest of the staff without alternatives.
‘Moving more’ is a key component in Public Health England’s national adult health campaign, One You. The other six elements are: eating well, becoming smoke free, drinking less alcohol, lowering stress and sleeping better.
Amongst all these components, we believe that physical movement has the greatest potential for effecting change because:
- there is a low barrier to entry (and success)
- positive results are often immediate
- the range of exercise available is wide enough to cater to many different tastes
- exercise can have a powerful effect on the other elements either physically (improving sleep) or mentally (reducing stress, encouraging good behaviour elsewhere such as eating well)
So what kind of exercise should you encourage staff to pursue? This article suggests a framework to help identify exercise options for your staff, based closely on how Muddy Plimsolls Ltd works with individual clients to identify an achievable, enjoyable and holistic path to physical fitness.
- Find out what ‘fitness’ means to your staff
A survey or group or individual discussions will draw out opinions. From a fitness professional’s point of view, there are 5 commonly-agreed basic components of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, muscular strength, muscular endurance and body composition. Most people have some or all of these elements in mind when they talk about wanting to ‘get fit’. Knowing how much each of these elements are important to your employees will help construct attractive offerings for the staff.
- Offer a range of effective options
Offer options that help address the more common obstacles and achieve some of the more common goals (those 5 components of fitness). People put up a lot of barriers to exercise (lack of time, energy, budget, motivation, interest or experience, for example) even though most people report positive outcomes after having exercised.
So to lower the barrier to entry and maintenance, choose exercise options that are realistic for your staff. Local, affordable and sustainable options will improve take-up. You need enough exercise to get a result but not too much that it discourages long-term adoption.
Base your offerings on issues such as how much time do the staff have, what level of fitness are they coming from, how far do they want to go, what are the constraints of their job, what location do they work from?
- Resist calls for exercise fads
Be aware of the difference between trends and fads in fitness. A fitness tend is thinking on a subject, backed up by exercise science, that becomes popular with fitness professionals and the public alike and becomes a mainstay of a well-rounded fitness programme.
Fitness fads are untested exercise systems that often attract media attention because they are either very extreme, very easy, or a surprising combination of elements that makes for entertaining reading. Fitness fads came and go and so the studio class you offered to staff this year is no longer there in six months. More importantly, there is no widespread grassroots agreement amongst fitness professionals that a fitness fad is a productive use of your exercise time.
I hope that these three suggestions help you to put together an effective range of fitness/exercise options for your staff. I would recommend, finally, that, as much as possible, you also integrate with and impact on the other elements of your H&W strategy such as eating well, lowering stress, reducing smoking, etc. Exercise is well known for encouraging concurrent behaviours but that needs nurturing as it is not always obvious.
About the author:
Jason Doggett heads Muddy Plimsolls Ltd, a fitness services company based in London. The company and its team of exercise experts offers individuals and organisations personal training, mentoring, fitness strategy audits, consultations and motivating content to achieve their fitness goals within a wider health & well-being context. www.muddyplimsolls.com