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Focus On: Physical Activity

Physical activity is any form of exercise or movement that results in energy expenditure and increases strength, flexibility and endurance. Physical activity is essential to good health. The benefits of physical activity for individuals include better stress management, improved mood, and decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, adult onset diabetes, osteoporosis and some forms of cancer. To achieve health benefits, Canada’s Physical Activity Guide recommends that adults aged 18-64 should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. This is above and beyond our normal activities of daily living.

Why Physical Activity at Work?

More and more employers are recognizing their role in promoting the health of their employees - their most valuable resource!  As well, employers recognize that workplace physical activity programs:

  • Reduce health care costs and insurance premiums
  • Reduce the number of accidents on the job
  • Reduce worker’s compensation claims
  • Lower turnover rates
  • Act as an incentive to recruitment


Workplace Costs of Inactivity

We know that sedentary employees have more hospital days than exercisers and that the severely overweight are more likely to cost the company more in medical claims. Increased physical activity has a measurable positive impact on:

  • Absenteeism
  • Productivity
  • Disability claims related to heart disease, diabetes and back-related injuries

Shift work and Physical Activity

Shift workers report not exercising regularly.  Exercise has 3 major benefits for shift workers:

  • It can improve general health
  • Exercise can increase alertness on the night shift
  • Exercise improves sleep during daylight hours

Employers can expect all the benefits of physical activity to be effective for shift workers too. Providing access to this exercise equipment during the shift and educating shift workers on the benefits of exercising during the shift, will benefit productivity and reduce injury.


Promoting Physical Activity in the Workplace

It is evident that business benefits from workplace physical activity programs. To be successful the program will:

  • Involve a senior manager that supports individual health management
  • Meet the needs of employees
  • Be well-planned, officially introduced, and include a health-education component
  • Encourage employees to incorporate active living into their daily lives
  • Support physical activity at work
  • Establish a baseline measure of employee health before any initiative is started so that the post-participation benefits can be measured


What Other Companies are Doing

Have you ever wondered what other companies are doing to promote and encourage physical activity? You don’t have to build an onsite gym to get your employees active. Here are some interesting and innovate tactics other companies are using to get their employees moving!

  • Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. Head office features unique onsite amenities including baseball diamonds, golf driving range, beach volleyball court, horseshoe pitch, walking trails and a 16 hectare stocked trout pond, fully-equipped fitness facility with free memberships, and employee lounge with outdoor patio and picnic tables.

  • Mars Canada, encourages employees to stay healthy with employee-organized sports teams and free membership to an onsite fitness facility as well as an outdoor beach volleyball court and outdoor running trail -- the employee-led running club also hosts Learn to Run classes.

  • Merek Canada Inc, offers a wellness account to help subsidize the costs of health, wellness, and personal lifestyle expenses, such as gym membership fees, yoga classes, fitness equipment, and ski passes (up to $300 each year)

  • Verafin Inc., St. John’s. Computer programming; Provides an open concept environment office featuring small fitness stations throughout, including yoga mats, weights, exercise balls, chin-up bars and skipping ropes.

Source:  Canada’s Top 100 Employers, 2015 edition.


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Revised: November 17, 2015


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