Here’s why exercise could make employees more productive

Treadmills

Daily exercise may help employees get more work done.

Physical activity could add five days of productivity per employee each year, according to a new survey from non-profit research organization RAND and Vitality, a health and wellness solution provider. Investing in the physical health of employees can reduce absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as improve mental health and sleep.

“The study points to a significant relationship between inactivity and productivity loss, driven largely by ill-health related presenteeism,” says Hans Pung, president of RAND Europe in a statement. “We hope that these insights will support policy makers and employers with new perspectives on how to enhance the productivity of their populations.”

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Employers are already making moves to improve workers' physical fitness. About 58% of employers offered wellness programs in office this year — although that number is down from 70% in 2015, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Companies are also investing in innovative solutions to help employees get active. The School District of Lee County in Fort Myers, Florida, for example, uses a zombie-themed walking challenge to keep employees physically fit. About 3,000 of the district’s 14,000 employees have used the program and so far engagement has been high, says Heather Parker, the district’s employee wellness coordinator.

“With this game, it keeps you engaged so much so that you can get addicted to it, which is a good thing,” Parker says.

Insurers are also incentivizing healthy habits. John Hancock provides its life insurance holders with a wellness program through Vitality. The program rewards members for physical activity, mindfulness, improved nutrition and preventive screenings.

“When more people take small, everyday steps to improve their health and wellness, our society and global economies benefit,” says Brooks Tingle, president and CEO of John Hancock.

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Employees should try and meet the World Health Organization's guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. If employees follow these guidelines, they will be more productive and engaged, RAND finds.

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