It’s National Walking Month, which is encouraging people to #WalkThisMay by getting out and about in the fresh air for 15 to 20 minutes each day.
It’s also Mental Health Awareness Week(May 10 to 16), a campaign which pushes for wider community support for people severely affected by mental illness.
This is crucial at a time when many people feel isolated, stressed or anxious as a result of remote working or the prospect of embarking on a new routine as restrictions ease.
In fact, KPMG recently revealed that 94% of workers are stressed due to COVID-19 and how this is impacting progress at work, job engagement and task performance.
Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, lower feelings of anxiety and depression, boost self-esteem and improve sleep. Within the workplace, this can lead to feeling happier, healthier and more motivated. So, we’ve taken a deeper look at how physical activity can improve your mental wellbeing while also benefiting your work performance and productivity.
Being alert affects your ability to be productive. Even when you do mild exercise, the amount of blood flowing to the brain increases. This, in turn, boosts oxygen levels in the brain, resulting in heightened alertness and focus. For people whose work involves complex tasks and analysis, staying focused can make a noticeable difference to performance and productivity.
Exercise has a positive impact on body image and mood, thanks to the release of chemicals such as endorphins. This enhances confidence, which is essential in the working environment, especially when it comes to public speaking, giving presentations or undertaking an interview. Similarly, regular exercise can help to mitigate the effects of anxiety and depression, which can negatively influence self-confidence.
Enhances creativity, while reducing stress and illness
Going for a walk is known to boost divergent thinking, which is the part of creative thought that generates ideas. Cognitive benefits aside, workers who exercise regularly will also benefit from improved moods and lower stress levels, which will prevent illness, lower absences, boost overall well-being and encourage employee retention.
What can we do to encourage physical activity?
It’s for these reasons that employers should consider allowing workers to exercise during the working day. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that employees who are sitting at their desk all day, staring at a screen, are at their most productive. But research has shown that this is not the case.
Here’s how employers can support and sustain a healthier workplace:
Team sports, such as rounders or five-a-side football, provide a good way to promote the health of your staff, while cultivating stronger relationships between colleagues.
Organise a sponsored walk, or encourage staff to get involved in a charity fitness challenge, such as #WalkThisMay. Not only will you be helping a good cause but this sort of activity is great for your organisation’s reputation.
Advocate cycle-to-work schemes, so that people can make the most of their commute by incorporating their physical exercise quota.
Introduce subsidised gym memberships. The initial outlay would pay for itself over time, through an energised, fitter and more engaged workforce.
Be good at communicating. Take the time to educate people about the benefits of exercise and then go the extra mile by supporting their efforts.
Showing your staff that you care about their health and well-being shows how much you value them as people, not just as employees, which will engender a happier workforce and a loyal ethos and culture.
Follow team MERJE’s #WalkThisMay competition on LinkedInand Instagramto see who will achieve the most steps throughout May. If you would like to discuss anything we cover in our articles, please get in touch:firstname.lastname@example.org