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Could Mandatory Exercise in the Workplace Become the Norm?

Read time: 3 mins

It’s not uncommon these days to go to the gym on your lunchbreak. In fact, your employer may even encourage it. Some companies in Sweden are pushing the idea even further by making it compulsory for office workers to workout on company time. 

A city water company  and a construction consultancy firm, both located in Stockholm, are aiming to boost productivity and at the same time foster camaraderie amongst employees by introducing weekly employee ‘keep fit’ classes. The Swedes have long been known for their healthy, outdoorsy lifestyle which emphasises physical fitness, but could this trend extend to Ireland in the future? 

Mark O’Reilly of Fitvision, one of Irish Life Health’s Wellness partners, thinks that exercise should be mandatory in all workplaces. Fitvision runs corporate wellness and wellbeing programmes, as well as offering personal training and sports education in the workplace.

The benefits of exercise

Exercise class stretching

“The benefits of exercise are amazing,” says Mark. “When combined with a balanced diet, it can lead to fat loss and improved strength, as well as making you more toned and improving your cardiovascular fitness.

“In addition to this, exercise also has powerful psychological benefits. It can help reduce stress and anxiety. It improves your mood and memory capability and makes you more focused. This means your concentration at work is improved.” 

What’s more, it also improves the social culture in a workplace because employees are working out together and generally having fun. 

Group exercise fosters camaraderie

Stretching in the park

“I see it all the time in my job,” says Mark. “Group exercise helps to foster camaraderie and improves the overall culture in a workplace. Often employees from different departments get to interact when they wouldn’t normally. It definitely creates a better working environment.”

Mark stresses the importance of eating right whilst exercising in order to reap the full benefits. “The correct diet and exercise go hand in hand,” he says. “But I do believe there’s too much emphasis on exercise in relation to weight loss in this country. We should view exercise as an important tool for keeping us both mentally and physically healthy.”

15 Minutes can make a difference

Looking at watch

Even just 15 minutes a day can make a big difference he says, and is guaranteed to improve productivity. What’s more, you don’t necessarily need a gym. “Even a room with space for workers to move around or lie on yoga mats can be utilised to start a wellness programme,” he explains.

It appears to be a win-win situation for both employees and employers. Research by Stockholm University in 2014 found that exercising during office hours boosted productivity because employees were more focused. It also led to a 22% decline in employee absenteeism.

“It makes for a happier, healthier workforce," says Mark. "In the long run, this benefits both the employer and the employee. And with National Workplace Wellbeing Day coming up on April 13th, it's the perfect time to avail of a workplace wellbeing programme.”

For more information about Fitvision visit www.fitvision.ie