Workplace Wellness: Benefits of Exercise in the Workplace

Benefits of Workplace Exercise: Spotlight on Japan

One of the best ways to improve the overall health and well-being of your employees is to introduce different opportunities to exercise into the workplace. Exercise is one of life’s miracle cures, however as more people adopt a sedentary lifestyle, the culture of exercise is being lost along the side of the sofa with the remote control. One country that has established a strong culture of exercise both in and out of the workplace is Japan.


Before we get started on how they exercise let’s examine why establishing a culture of activity would be of benefit to both your employees and your company as a whole

No. 1: Exercise controls weight
Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. If you burn more calories than you consume your body will begin to burn fat, leaving you with a healthier, leaner physique. Not only will this improve health but it is also shown to improve confidence as, let’s be honest, everyone likes to look their best!

No. 2: Exercise combats health conditions and diseases
Exercise has long been known to combat health conditions and diseases. High blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes are just some of the conditions that can be prevented or managed by regular activity.  Being active actually boosts “good” cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This keeps your blood running smoothly and decreases the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases. This is especially important when you consider workers who could already be battling with their health or might be at high risk for developing certain conditions.

No. 3: Exercise improves mood
We have all been there at work.  Our bad mood etched across our face after a stressful day. Each cup of strong coffee further fueling our agitation; desperately searching for light at the end of the tunnel.  Few like moody co-workers, but the solution to lifting the cloud probably doesn’t lie at the bottom of your coffee cup. The answer to improving how you feel could actually be a quick workout at the gym or a brisk 30-minute walk. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals such as serotonin that should leave even the grumpiest employees feeling happier and more relaxed.

No. 4: Exercise boosts energy
If you find the workplace a subdued, somber place perhaps you need to find a way to inject some energy back into your employees. Nothing drains energy quite like a Monday morning meeting or a day stuck behind a desk.  Exercise can actually go a long way to boosting energy.  Many entrepreneurs swear by their early morning exercise regime. Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily chores.

No. 5: Exercise promotes better sleep
Another reason for low energy levels during the working day may be a terrible sleep the night before.  We have all been there at times of high stress. A million tabs open in our brain as we will our weary mind to fall asleep. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep, leading to bright eyed and busy tailed workers!

Group Exercise in the Workplace: Spotlight on Japan
It is fairly obvious to see that implementing exercise into the workplace would be beneficial to both individuals and the company as whole.  However, finding a way to implement a successful exercise initiative into the culture of your workplace is a far more difficult feat.

One country that has successfully sewn exercise into the very fabric of their culture and workplace is Japan. In Japan, the national radio plays a special tune in the morning along with simple stretching instructions that encourages residents of communities to exercise together. Many companies follow the program in their workplace, where employees exercise together, usually in the morning before work begins. This little morning ritual is called “Rajio taiso”. Companies can take 10-15 minutes during work hours to exercise together as part of the work schedule. This not only enhances social interaction but would gradually benefit everyone's health.

If you're thinking that a program like this would never work in American culture, it's interesting to note that the initiative actually started in America. In the early 1920's, MetLife Insurance sponsored daily 15 minute calisthenics programs to be broadcast over the radio to American audiences in an effort to make them healthier and fitter.  Although it didn’t catch on in America, visiting Japanese officials loved the idea and it became a sensation in the east.

If you consider the fact that the rates of degenerative diseases caused by physical inactivity are much lower in Japan and neighboring countries with a tradition of morning calisthenics it seems like a simple and effective way to get the ball rolling with workplace exercise.

Gentle group exercise at the beginning of the day could be a great way for your company to improve social interaction and foster a culture of exercise.  If feedback has shown you that employees would be keen to partake in some type of exercise initiative, introducing a fun, low intensity group workout as part of the working day could be a fantastic starting point to improving the overall health and well-being of your employees. Keep it fun and lighthearted and see your workers spirits rise and their cholesterol falls!

If the idea of group exercise still sends a chill up your spine then don’t despair. In the next blog we will examine a variety of alternative ways to introduce a culture of exercise into your company.

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