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Should Employers Require Regular Exercise?


It would be ideal if each employee felt that wellness was valued so highly at their company that taking a 30 minute fitness or meditation break would be supported whole-heartedly. But until this ideal is a reality, employers may want to consider the full range of benefits of regular exercise.

Conscientious companies are getting in-tune with what Arianna Huffington calls the Third Metric of Success and are making workplace wellness a top priority. In reading Harvard Business Review’s Regular Exercise is Part of Your Job, there are simply too many benefits for the individual and employer to ignore.

Physical Benefits
Exercise is most often heralded for its myriad physical benefits.

  • lower blood pressure
  • healthier heart
  • healthier body weight
  • reduced chronic health conditions and disease

Mental Benefits
According to Harvard Business Review, social scientists have found compelling evidence that showsexercise has an even more immediate impact on the way we think. “Our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work.”

  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper memory
  • Faster learning
  • Prolonged mental stamina
  • Enhanced creativity

Emotional Benefits
Exercise also protects our emotional core by elevating our mood, thanks to the influx of natural brain-soothing chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Chances are you might react differently in that heated meeting, or send a more rational response to a coworker’s snarky email if you’ve had your daily workout.

Can a Company Force You to Exercise?

Yes an no. Employers can make physical activity a condition of work, but they must also provide reasonable accommodations for employees that are unable to participate. However, employers can offer financial incentives for reaching healthy milestones or participating in wellness programs. This enables them to promote wellbeing, rather than forcing employees into mandatory exercise or wellness activities.

The Bottom Line: Mandatory Exercise at Work

Harvard Business Review sums up their article citing a study by Leeds Metropolitan University which found that “on days when employees visited the gym, their experience at work changed. They reported managing their time more effectively, being more productive, and having smoother interactions with their colleagues. Just as important: They went home feeling more satisfied at the end of the day.” So when you think “I can’t afford time to exercise today,” remember that you can’t afford not to! And if you’re an employer or manager, is it really worth the increase in sick days, health care costs or attrition of putting one more meeting in place of a 30 minute workout? Try having a one on one meeting while you take a walk.

Whether or not companies today or in the future begin to require regular exercise from each employee, remember that you can help influence greater workplace wellness by taking a 30 minute wellness break during your day (without sneaking it!), or by setting aside time in your schedule to workout and asking your team to do the same. Not every company has a corporate fitness facility, but anyone can follow our DIY Workplace Wellness Program tips and start your own!




Caring For Remote Employees

Many organizations continue to work in remote and hybrid models as the pandemic winds down, but many employees, when given the option to return to work, would actually prefer to continue working remotely. Our new guide, Taking Care of Remote Employees: The Key To Business Success Beyond the Pandemic, gives you actionable steps to ensure that your employees feel supported no matter where they are working. 

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