Exercise breaks at work - pipe dream or a potential reality?
Has the 17:00 closure time of gyms & exercise facilities thrown a spanner in the works of your exercise habits?
If so, you're certainly not alone. For some, a transition to exercising in the morning before work is applicable, but for others this shift is simply unable to occur (due to work scheduling, parenthood, etc.). Meaning that a large portion of working adults here in the Netherlands will likely now be faced with a stark drop in their exercise levels.
The immune system-boosting effects of regular exercise are clear, but it's now becoming apparent the extent in which regular exercise can impact your response to COVID-19, if you're unfortunate enough to catch it.
A large study observing outcomes from over 48,440 COVID-19 patients revealed that patients who were consistently inactive had a significantly higher risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes, including hospitalisations, admissions to the ICU, and death, when compared to people who were somewhat active and who were regularly active.
The study showed that you don't have to train like a maniac to reap the protective benefits of exercise, but you do need to be doing something. With this in mind, the potential for the 17:00 closure to reduce society-wide exercise levels has an ominous feel to it.
But what's the alternative?
1. Companies could allow and promote employees to take exercise breaks to ensure they're staying healthy
There's a silver-lining with everything, and perhaps a positive that has come out of intermittent lockdowns is that is has served as a conversation starter around employee wellness. Right now, there is growing support for changes in work format which would, in effect, allow (or ideally promote) employees to take one or two 'exercise breaks' per day.
This could perhaps be two shorter, let's say 20-30 minute, periods where one could go for a walk, or do some home/office-based exercise. Or perhaps it would be one slightly longer period where employees could head to the gym, attend an exercise class, or do whatever it is that stimulates them in an exercise capacity.
A change such as this, if supported by organisations and adopted by employees, could actually come at a huge benefit to companies. Forgetting the long-term benefits of exercise for a moment, for which there are many. Lets right now focus on the transient.
Exercise elicits a plethora of positive, short-term health benefits, which, on the surface, would manifest as a significant increase in mood, memory, cognition, ability to problem-solve, concentration, so on and so forth.
So allowing employees to exercise throughout the work day, scientifically speaking, could quite easily improve the productivity of a company.
We're not naive to the fact that changes such as this, although potentially positive, take a long time to implement and execute on a large scale. But the search for an alternative mode for physical health shouldn't stop there.
Even if no change is implemented, great health benefits can be accessed by:
2. Incorporating short bouts (3-5 min) of exercise into your workday
We've spoken previously to the potential treasure trove of physical health and productivity benefits that lie within this method of daily wellness. Research suggests that the best way to implement and adhere to this is to use a tool that provides users with personalised exercises and promotes them to complete it throughout the workday.
Companies and organisations are oftentimes considered as a sum of their parts and, most frequently, the most important part that drives the success of these engines are the employees working there.
So, with that, investing in the health and happiness of employees seems like a no-brainer for companies.
Large Study Article: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/55/19/1099