The average salaried worker in Ghana drives or takes public transport to work, does a 9 to 5 shift and spends most of the workday seated behind a computer or in a corporate meeting. The only time he or she gets up is during lunch breaks, a few minutes walk to the bathroom or a walk to the printer, which is only a few steps away. Clearly, the level of physical exertion is alarmingly low!
Recent research reveals that people with such sedentary jobs have a high risk of obesity and other cardiac related diseases. These facts about the health risks of prolonged hours of sitting should make uncomfortable reading for any employer. An unhealthy workforce will inevitably have adverse effects on productivity. Therefore finding ways to improve the health of employees through exercising during the workday should be seen as a worthwhile investment.
I am not suggesting that a company converts its meeting room into a state-of-the-art gymnasium, but a little inventiveness within the workplace will do the trick. Companies can incorporate certain activities into the daily routine at the workplace that will help increase the physical mobility of otherwise stationary workers, as well as help burn any excess calories.
Employers can introduce 10 or 15 minute fitness breaks in which employees can walk a couple of laps around the office building or perform stretching exercises at their desks. This will be extremely beneficial for bank tellers and others who spend a fair amount of time at work, sitting.
Backache, which is a big concern for many Ghanaian workers, can be easily prevented by using a stability ball as opposed to a chair for a few hours a day. This will help exercise your core muscles, which are responsible for balance, posture, trunk stability and are also the foundation for movement. Strengthening these core muscles by spending an hour or two a day on the stability ball while at your desk will help prevent backaches.
Companies can provide showering facilities and changing rooms at the office, employees can be persuaded to jog or walk to work. Those who live fairly close to the office can jog or walk the whole distance, while those living further away can be encouraged to do half of the journey to work on public transport and jog or walk the other half. Employers can make it more fun by encouraging employees who live relatively close to each other to meet up at a convenient midway location, before jogging or walking to work as a group. A nice cold shower after such a fun workout session is the best possible start to the day.
Contrary to the belief that exercising causes fatigue, low-intensity exercise on a regular basis helps boost energy levels. When we exercise, we increase our blood flow. This helps deliver more oxygen throughout our bodies. As more oxygen is delivered throughout our bodies, more energy is created. Therefore, after a workout, you are likely to find that, you feel much more energetic. Also, exercise releases endorphins in our bodies. These are hormones that give us a “feel good” sensation. An employee in a good mood will undoubtedly be more productive than one feeling all stressed and fatigued.
This is a win-win situation for both employers and employees. Not only do these workout sessions improve the general physical well-being of employees, it also promotes team work and good camaraderie amongst the workforce.
As companies continue to invest heavily in staff training programmes in hopes of improving productivity, it is critical that we recognise the fact that an individual cannot function efficiently without sound physical health. As John F. Kennedy aptly put, “physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”