Study: Exercise At Work Can Improve Mood and Performance

May 25, 2016

There is a significant body of research that demonstrates the benefits that regular exercise has on overall health.  From an employer’s perspective, it would be nice to know if exercising at work also has similar benefits.  A 2008 study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management sought to measure the impacts of workplace exercise.  As one of the “few studies that addresses the acute effects of exercise in the workplace”, the researchers’ findings are of particular interest to employers considering offering exercise classes at work, building out a fitness center, or encouraging at work exercise by providing showers and other amenities that facilitate this behavior.

The study consisted of a randomized crossover trial and a focus group analysis of themes.  The researchers looked at the effects of exercise on self-reported mood and work performance.  The researchers selected three workplaces in south-west England that had onsite exercise facilities, a supportive attitude to exercising at work, more than 250 employees, and where the staff were largely engaged in sedentary work.  From these employers, a total of 201 employees who exercised regularly at work volunteered for the study.

Research participants had to fill out two mood questionnaires (one on an exercise day and one on a non-exercise day).  On an exercise day, participants recorded how long they exercised for and their mood before and after exercise.  On a non-exercise day, they recorded their mood at the start and end of the day.

At the end of both days, participants completed work performance questionnaires, with 10 validated (tried and tested) items and five non-validated items.  These items included their ability to manage “time demands, mental-interpersonal demands and output demands”.  The employees also reported how sedentary their job was, how heavy their workload was on both days, and whether there was anything unusual about either of the days.

The researchers also held focus groups to ask about work performance-related topics. These were recorded by an independent observer with the general discussion themes analyzed qualitatively.


The researchers concluded that “workday exercise can improve white-collar workers' mood and self-reported performance”.  They also said there are “clear implications not only for employee wellbeing, but also for competitive advantage and motivation by increasing opportunities for exercising at work”.  Studies like this are why Wellable launched a Wellness Services division.  Recognizing that having an onsite fitness center is a costly endeavor, Wellable’s fitness classes and other wellness services are designed to be conducted in a conference room or even at one’s desk.

Topics: Facts and Research

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