Making fitness fit — physical health for high performers

In high-pressure environments, exercise could be the key to greater productivity and increased wellbeing but how can you support time-impoverished employees to make fitness fit? We explore different approaches to ensuring that your workforce can find time to improve their physical performance, alongside their employee performance.

Capitalise on cognitive performance

The individual benefits of regular exercise are well-established; while it reduces the risk of major illnesses, it can also positively improve mental health, cognitive function, energy levels, and the ability to get better sleep.

The benefits for employers in helping to develop a fitter and healthier workforce are there to be realised. Encouraging your people to maintain regular physical exercise offers the potential to improve the overall performance and resilience of your workforce.

Studies have identified that the cognitive benefits include greater creativity, productivity and focus — vital brain power that businesses need in a challenging economic climate.

With the recognition that physical fitness is connected to emotional fitness, using exercise to support the wellbeing of your people makes good business sense.

Removing time as a barrier

Fitting exercise into an already crammed working week can feel like a challenge for many people, especially as workforces across the world have had to face the realities of a ‘lockdown’ environment.

But it does not need to be, as husband and wife team Ben and Nina Gambling of LRG Fitness, an Aon partner, have demonstrated.

They created a digital personal training service designed to make fitness both accessible and effective to busy professionals.

‘We created our fitness program to provide a solution for everyone — a regular series of video workouts you can complete in just 20 minutes, at your convenience. Workouts that are as beneficial for you as 50 minutes to an hour of steady-state exercise.’

With Ben and Nina suggesting an ideal three workouts a week, that breaks down to a one hour commitment over the course of a week — a goal within easy reach of most people if they really want to find the time.

Supporting fitness in the workplace

More than ever people are juggling the time pressures of work and family life, making personal time for exercise a precious commodity. But what if employers could help their employees build this time into their day? Nina shares the positive changes she has witnessed from employers who have made minor adaptations to enable a more flexible approach to fitness in the workday:

‘One of the companies we work with lets their employees take a fitness break at any time of the day, enabling them to fit in a workout at a time of the day that suits each individual. By giving them the flexibility to exercise when they want to, they’ve removed barriers to fitness.

An employee might be struggling with a work challenge they can’t solve, but then come out of their workout feeling good about themselves, ready to focus, and in a much more productive frame of mind.’

Whether it is through a cycle-to-work scheme, gym membership or encouraging a variety of physical activity through the WellOne app, employers can help make health and fitness more accessible for their people.

Making fitness fit

Combining their experience of working in the corporate world with years of high-level sports performance, Ben and Nina share their advice about making fitness fit for time-poor professionals.

1. Plan and adapt
When it comes to high performers, Ben explains that there are some key traits they display that others can adopt:

‘High performers are likely to be more focussed, and when it comes to their fitness are less likely to miss a session. As well as planning ahead for the week to fit their workout sessions in, they are more prepared to adapt to changes that occur in the week and fit in their sessions.’

2. A little goes a long way
For time-poor professionals juggling busy, changeable schedules, Nina explains how being efficient with workouts is the key to success:

‘It’s important to spend your time in the right areas to maximise the efficiencies of your workout. A HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout helps you to burn more calories over a shorter period. If you continually do the same exercises at the gym, or on a home exercise bike for example, your body will start to stagnate and you won’t make the gains you’ve seen previously, which is where motivation can start to wane. By following an evolving program regularly and consistently you’ll start to see those incremental gains.’

3. Make it a habit
Most people are affected by stress and pressure at some point, but regular physical activity can act as an effective stress reliever, boosting endorphins and helping you to release tension. For high performers, with hectic agendas and increased pressure points, Ben explains that making exercise habitual is the key to unlocking the benefits:

‘The biggest difference we see from people who are successful with their fitness goals is that exercise becomes habitual. The secret for everyone is adopting a mindset where exercise becomes just something you do, a part of your routine. If you can change your mindset into thinking like an athlete and focus on your own goals, not what others are doing, you are much more likely to stick with it.’

Establishing and maintaining good habits is key. Employers seeking ways to ensure their workforces are engaged in emotional fitness and physical activity, are turning to technology to support those efforts.

The Well One app delivers personalised emotional fitness coaching, and allows employees to make a real connection between regular physical activity and health through personal scoring. Employers are also benefiting from incentives, incorporating a points budget that employees can redeem in a Rewards Store — further ensuring employees remain engaged in improving their wellbeing.

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