employers workplace wellness

‘How Can Employers Help Employees Increase Physical Activity Levels?’

It’s a key question for any well-run workplace wellness program: “How can employers help employees increase physical activity levels?”

We noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a Workplace Resource Center that serves as a “one-stop shop for workplace health promotion that gives employers resources to create a healthy work environment.”

One key document: The CDC’s “Physical Activity in the Workplace” guide, created in partnership with the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

How Employers Can Help

To address the question “How can employers help employees increase physical activity levels?,” the authors “have prepared the following recommendations and specific strategies using evidence-based literature reviews and interviews with leading experts.” After all, “given the extensive health and business benefits that come from a physically active workforce, employers are interested in learning how they can increase physical activity levels in their workplaces.”

The tips include:

  • “Build a culture of health. The experts agree there is no ‘one size fits all’ physical activity program, but there are certain key components that are part of most, if not all, successful programs. One crucial step to success is building a culture of health… This means fitting physical activity into a worker’s day-to-day workflow without asking permission from a supervisor. This also implies having written and unwritten policies and unambiguous support from leadership to encourage health promotion in the workplace.”
  • “Leaders should provide strong, active, and visible support. Offering active leadership support for programs is a critical element to building a culture of health and a key to its success. It is important that leaders from all levels of the company offer support… having high-level leaders on board with a program is important but not sufficient; middle managers direct daily activities of employees and, unless they support workplace wellness, they may erect barriers to success.”
  • “Develop partnerships and social support. Employees live in their communities, not their offices, and businesses have an opportunity to leverage their relationships with community leaders to maximize messaging and social support for healthy lifestyles… Employers should also take advantage of opportunities to build and strengthen support networks. Social support programs help employees build, strengthen, and maintain health-based social networks. Examples of support programs include walking clubs, social contracts about physical activity, and group exercise activities in the workplace. These programs help individuals adhere to daily physical activity goals and provide friendship and support. Workplace support networks lead to increases in time spent being physically active, increases in participants’ fitness and knowledge levels, and decreases in body fat.”
  • “Use existing resources first. Every workplace has an existing physical activity environment waiting to be optimized: hallways, sidewalks, and stairwells. Changes need not be drastic, and might be as simple as improving lighting and placing signs to encourage stair use or beautifying the landscape around the worksite… research that shows people who walk, bike, or take public transportation to work are more physically active, on average, than those who drive to work. Active transportation programs (subsidized train or bus passes, providing bikes and gear, providing showers or bike racks at worksites, and improving accessibility for bikers, walkers, and transit users) can facilitate increased physical activity at a relatively low cost.”

Tomorrow we offer additional guidance on how employers help employees increase physical activity levels.