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Rebecca JacobsOctober 249 min read

Movement is Medicine: 7 Ways to Encourage Movement in the Workplace

As you’re likely aware, wellness in the workplace is more important than ever. For starters, happy and healthy workers are key to a healthy, successful work environment. You’ll likely see increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and burnout, improved retention, enhanced employee engagement and collaboration, and improved job satisfaction, to name a few. And while corporate wellness programs and access to mental health resources are undoubtedly part of the equation, simply prioritizing movement in the workplace could help your team thrive. 

Why is this important? Well, the dangers of sitting are becoming more and more apparent — and the typical working adult does a lot of it. 2022 research in JAMA Cardiology showed that higher sitting times was associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. And considering the average adult sits anywhere from 8 to 12 hours per day and 80% of jobs are sedentary in nature, action needs to be taken! A simple solution to help your team? Think of movement as medicine. 

The good news? It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. In fact, there are simple ways to promote movement in the workplace, even if the majority of your team's workday is spent at the office. With these movement tips and some workplace support, say goodbye to the sedentary office life and hello to a healthier, happier work environment. 

But first, why is regular movement so important?

Why Movement Breaks are So Important in The Workplace 

When talking about movement in the workplace, planning a daily team workout or mid-day walking meeting is great. But don’t call it quits on movement for the rest of the work day! Unfortunately, daily exercise doesn’t negate the effects of too much sitting. It will, of course, contribute to employee health, but moving (regularly) throughout the workday is extremely important. According to research,  even a mere 2 minutes of movement per hour can decrease this risk for chronic disease by 33%! 

To put it simply, the body is designed to move. Aside from reducing your risk of illness, employees will be more energized, focused and productive. And it doesn’t take much to get the benefits — it can be as simple as stretching or standing up! 

So, let’s keep your team active with these simple, seamless movement hacks.

Movement is Medicine | How Employees Can Add More Movement to Their Workday 

#1 Encourage Frequent Mini Breaks

Far too many employers believe hard work is synonymous with non-stop work. But this simply isn’t true — even the science says otherwise! According to research, active work breaks can actually increase employee productivity and performance while simultaneously reducing stress and preventing burnout. This can be as simple as pausing for a 5-minute desk workout, walking to the break room to pour a mug of coffee, or grabbing a nourishing snack. Anything that gives employees the opportunity to move their bodies, and rest and reset their minds.

#2 Start a Company-Wide Step Challenge

Because who doesn’t love a challenge? To promote workplace wellness, start a step challenge. You could make it an individual or team challenge and set a daily or weekly step goal. Keep the challenge board in a common area and make it fun! 

To promote participation and engagement, provide ways to increase steps at work. This could be walking team meetings, suggesting employees park further away, or encouraging the use of entrances and exits furthest from the building. 

Have each employee keep track of how many steps they walk per day and tally it up at the end of each week. These extra steps add up faster than you realize!

P.S. This is a great way to prioritize movement and team-building at the same time! 

#3 Encourage Employees to Take Their Lunch on The Go  

Getting out of the office for their lunch break doesn't just help with movement, but it's also a great way to boost employee productivity when they return to this office. Whether it's walking to a nearby cafe or grocery store and grabbing a healthy bite, or taking their packed lunch to a local park to enjoy, encouraging a mobile lunch break will help employees boost energy and avoid that afternoon slump.

#4 Set An Hourly Timer As a Reminder to Move

Encourage employees to set an hourly timer (on silent or vibrate!) as a constant reminder to keep moving. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or time-consuming — even 2-3 minutes of movement is great! Some ideas to suggest: Refill a water bottle or a cup of coffee or tea or even take a walk around the office. Anything to get their blood pumping! 

#5 Take the Stairs Whenever

Skip the elevator — encourage employees to take the stairs as much as they can! Does your building have a bathroom on the second floor? Maybe a coffee or break room downstairs? Suggest employees use it as an opportunity to increase their steps. BTW — every flight of stairs is an estimated 3-5 calories burned — a fun fact worth sharing with the team! If you’re adding in some extra steps throughout the day (maybe that company step challenge), it adds up.

#6 Encourage Standing/Stretch Breaks  

As part of their active breaks, encourage employees to step away from the screen and stretch it out. A simple stretch can reduce fatigue, improve posture, and reduce the risk of shoulder, neck, or back pain. 

The best part? This can be done anytime, anywhere. Whether at home or at the office, these simple work stretches can help!

Guide employees to the At-Work category in the FitOn app for some quick, guided classes to do during work breaks! 

#7 Encourage a Lunch Break Workout

Encourage employees to squeeze in a workout during their lunch break! Even a long walk or a simple in-office bodyweight workout. Allow their office bestie to take lunch at the same time and join for some friendly competition. 

It would be great to stock the office fridge with healthy post-workout meals or light lunch options, too! Protein shakes, smoothie stations, yogurt, energy bites, and fresh produce are all great options.

The Power of More Workplace Movement 

There you have it — seven simple movement hacks to offer up to your team. From walking meetings and office challenges to lunch break workouts and movement reminders, keeping your team active in the workplace is easier than you think. Get the office in on the fun and build a healthy work environment! Aside from benefiting both mental and physical health, your employees will be more energized and productive at work. So, why not give it a try?

How Employers Can Create a Movement-Minded Environment in the Workplace

We know that movement is medicine, and the more we can stand up and take movement breaks throughout the day, the better. As an employer, there’s a lot you can do to support adding more movement to the workplace outside of encouraging frequent breaks and scheduling in walking meetings whenever you can. Employers can also create a work environment where movement is not only encouraged but also easily accessible. 

Find out how to keep movement in mind when thinking about how to create the most health-centered workplace for your team. 

6 Ways to Create a Movement-Minded Work Environment 

#1 Set Your Team up For Success

Add a gym space or room that is strictly for workouts or movement. Provide bicycle racks to promote mobile transportation and stock the fridge with good-for-you foods. You can even put a suggestion box in the common area for feedback on what’s working and what’s missing from the work environment!

#2 Invest in Standing Desks 

According to Harvard research, the task of simply standing can benefit your health (and thus, that of your employees). Standing increases calorie burn compared to sitting and helps to reduce the risks that come with being sedentary and sitting all day long. 

So, consider investing in standing desks for your office! Even just one or two is a great start — employees can sign up to use the standing desks available for specific periods of time throughout the day.

#3 Make Meetings Mobile and Take Calls on The Go  

Whether you’re in person or on zoom, use your meetings as an opportunity to promote team movement. If there’s no need for a sit-down chat, allow the team to put in their AirPods and take the call on the go! If it’s an in-person meeting, ask your employees or team to join you for an outdoor stroll while you walk and talk. Aside from the physical benefits of moving and grooving, new research from the University of Miami suggests walking meetings help boost employee attentiveness, mood, and productivity!

#4 Encourage In-Person Communication

Is your team glued to Slack, Trello, Zoom, or Google Docs? Is text or email your preferred in-office method of communication? When working in-office, encourage employees to communicate in person — it’s a great opportunity to add more movement to everyone's workday. Plus, it’s nice to connect with others face-to-face! And honestly, you’ll probably streamline office communication. Let’s be real, in-person responses are much faster! 

#5 Designate Movement Stations in the Office

Designate certain tasks or areas of the office with a specific movement or exercise, and get your team in on the fun! Every time you go to the printer, do 10 air squats. Each time the phone rings, do a set of calf raises. When you stand up for a bathroom break, do an extra loop around the room or hallway. Asking employees to join in on the action not only adds an added layer of motivation but also makes for a healthier office environment!

#6 Consider Having Exercise Equipment Available  

Supply employees with desk-friendly exercise equipment like resistance bands. It’s a great way to encourage employees to take those stretch breaks after sitting at their desks for hours at a time! 

Speaking of boosting movement at the desk, try other movement hacks, like swapping out chairs for exercise balls. Your team will be glad to know it’s a simple way to improve posture and activate your core (thanks to the engagement of your stabilizer muscles)! 

Make Your Workplace Movement-Friendly

The science is clear — sitting all day comes with health risks, but short and frequent movement breaks can make a big difference. Plus, research suggests that frequent breaks throughout the day may actually increase productivity, so it’s a no-brainer for fostering a healthy working environment for the entire team. 

When thinking about how to encourage your employees to stay active throughout the workday, consider ways to make the workplace more movement friendly. From investing in standing desks to having exercise equipment available, there’s a lot you can do to set your team up for success. 

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