Never has it been more important for individuals and organisations to seriously consider the importance of health and its effect on performance and sustainability in the workplace.
We are all increasingly aware that the world economic climate is becoming more challenging. As businesses are experiencing heightened pressure to succeed, competition and the fight for survival is stronger than ever.
Inevitably, this means the exacerbation of employee stress: demands to achieve more in a shorter space of time, longer working hours and a requirement to constantly change and adapt to new systems and situations.
Studies in the UK
In the UK The Health and Safety Executive reports that around 9.9 million days are lost each year due to stress, anxiety or depression
The National Health Service in the UK reports that stress – related psychological problems are behind one in five visits to General Practitioner Doctors
This situation is further compounded by the fact that the modern technology-driven era has created a sedentary way of life.
Studies show that adults spend at least 60% of their waking day in sedentary pursuits
Many employees spend the vast majority of their time in front of a computer, sitting in meetings or in the car. For those whose work involves international travel, the situation is significantly worse.
Research in various parts of the world has shown that there is a direct relationship between staff illness, back problems and productivity
So … what does all of this mean? The resulting picture is that of a workforce under threat of psychological burnout due to stress and weakened by physical affliction.
It is against this background the whole issue of Corporate Wellness and promoting Work – Life Balance has emerged from being considered as a luxury and to its present status as an absolute necessity to ensure organisational resilience.
Corporate Wellness is a complex topic and worthy of careful consideration and detailed discussion.
However, one very simple and key part of this has to be encouraging and facilitating an exercise regime to form part of each individual’s daily or weekly routine.
Regular exercise is known to create a “feel-good” factor as the endorphins released during physical activity interact with the receptors in the brain which reduce the perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine and act as a natural antidote to the negative stress effects. Introducing a disciplined exercise schedule also balances out the effect of sedentary jobs and lifestyles.
Of course everyone knows that exercise is good for them but all too often, we hear the excuse that people are too busy and too stressed to fit it into their routines and schedules. The reality is, however, that virtually any form of exercise from high intensity interval training to yoga can act as a stress reliever and assist in the conditioning of mind and body. It is not essential to be an athlete or in peak physical condition to make a little exercise go a long way towards stress management and general health improvement.
Here we suggest a few key steps to setting and maintaining a successful exercise programme:
- Medical Consultation
If there are any real medical concerns, or if the individual has not exercised for some time, it is always advisable to seek medical advice before embarking on a new exercise programme.
- Build Gradually
It is always advisable to build fitness levels gradually. Excitement about a new programme can lead to overload and possible injury.
The general guideline is to complete at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity (such as walking, swimming), or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity such as running. It is also recommended that strength training exercises are included at least twice per week.
- Do what you enjoy
It is essential that individuals choose activities that they enjoy. This means that exercising then becomes less of a chore and something that is easily cancelled at busy times and more of a time which is appreciated and protected.
- Scheduling activity
Hectic schedules may mean that exercise routines need to be flexible and move to accommodate important business commitments. It is important to spend time in integrating work and exercise commitments and being creative with this. For example, if time constraints do not allow a 60 minute walk, then three 20 minute sessions could be arranged instead.
- Find a workout buddy
Research has shown that people who choose to workout with others on a regular basis, generally have a higher level of commitment and motivation and are likely to stay with the activity for a longer period of time. Fitness Clubs report that membership renewal rates for those who regularly attend Group Fitness Classes are significantly higher.
About the author:
Randy Roque is Director, Lifestyle and Wellness of PowerBase Consulting. He specialises in working with men and women who want to maintain a level of fitness and a healthy lifestyle, but need to integrate workout and nutrition programmes with challenging professional schedules.