When it comes to meeting physical activity goals, most people focus on increasing the frequency or the intensity of their routines. Even national guidelines—150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of the two—are defined by these two factors. While it’s important to get active on a regular basis and push beyond comfort levels to achieve better fitness results, those aren’t the only things to consider.
Researchers from New York University looked at over 9,800 adults across the U.S. and their physical activities between 2003 and 2006. The data revealed that a greater variety of activities was associated with meeting exercise guidelines; active adults did at least two activities per month, while the most active participated in five.
Top activities included walking—with 30% of adults averaging four 40-minute walks each week—as well as cycling and dancing. These are relatively accessible activities for anyone to participate in, making it clear that complicated exercise routines aren’t the only way to achieve physical fitness goals. Susan Malone, the study’s author, believes that simply “mixing up… workouts to vary the type of exercise could be beneficial” to overall activity levels.
Unfortunately, 44% of those studied reported no physical activity at all. Many of these inactive adults also had chronic health problems as well as unhealthy lifestyle habits. While it is unclear if unhealthy behaviors led to inactivity or vice versa, those with poorer health stand to benefit the most from increasing their activity levels. Promisingly, there were still some very active adults with chronic conditions, revealing that it is possible this most at-risk group can make those positive lifestyle changes.
Encourage Employees To Engage In Multiple Activities
A good employee wellness program not only guides its participants by providing content with the latest health research, but also gives them real opportunities to implement the best tips and practices into their lives.
Give specific ideas for how employees can add new activities into their lives. This can be as simple as providing information about different physical activities and advice for beginners. If new fitness centers or programs are opening up or if there are upcoming events in the area, such as a 5k, encourage (or even reimburse or incentivize) employees to join or participate.
Wellness challenges and continuous programs can also introduce employees to more activities. Continuous programs can shift focus and set different physical fitness goals periodically to make employees change up their routine. In addition to rewarding milestones focused on amounts (such as achieving a certain number of steps per week or getting their heart rate up for a certain period of time) challenges can reward variety, such as distributing points for each new activity an employee begins. These programs can also be focused around multiple activities, such as Wellable’s new Go For Gold Challenge. In anticipation of the upcoming Summer Olympics, this wellness challenge introduces participants to a new physical activity each week inspired by the original games in Olympia.
Ease The Transition To An Active Lifestyle
Increasing physical activity is one of the most effective ways that individuals can improve their overall wellness, but most Americans are not active at all. Many of these inactive adults can feel intimidated by the amount of time or skill they believe exercise requires of them, or the activities they have tried in the past were not enjoyable enough to continue.
By showing that there are many types of activities and ways to add movement into their life, companies can ease an employee’s transition from an “inactive” to “active” lifestyle. Activities can be informal, low-cost, and fun. They can be easy for beginners and those of all skill levels. Individuals don’t need to commit to one type of fitness regime, and if something doesn’t work for them there are plenty of other activities to try. Increasing fitness levels can have incredible results for an employee’s physical health; and, ultimately, these big improvements to workforce wellness lead to better performing workers.