Doctors and researchers have always recommended that individuals establish a regular exercise routine as part of a healthy lifestyle, especially as they age. Exercise not only keeps the entire body and its organs working in tip-top shape, but also helps regulate the body’s natural cycles, including sleep and mood. Earlier this week, the journal PLos Medicine published a study linking moderate exercise to life expectancy. This is great news for employers who are trying to incorporate exercise initiatives in their wellness programs.
The life expectancy study was conducted by the National Cancer Institute, and showed that individuals who engage in 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise – or 1.25 hours of vigorous exercise – on a weekly basis live an average of 3.4 years longer than individuals who didn’t exercise. Data was collected from a sample of 650,000 individuals over the age of 40. This study’s result brings new light to the goal of exercise.
Exercise to stay healthy, not to lose weight
Many individuals who maintain a “healthy” BMI between 20 and 25 assume they don’t need to exercise. The National Cancer Institute study actually showed that physically inactive individuals with healthy BMIs were more likely to die within the next 10 years than their overweight or obese exercisers. A daily 10-minute walk or equivalent is all that would be required to start extending an individual’s life span.
Maintaining a regular exercise routine – however light – becomes increasingly difficult for employees who are tied to a desk for 8 hours or more. Long hours and increasing workload often make it difficult for employees to get some exercise in during breaks and/or after work.
Employers can help their employees take steps in developing a regular exercise routine that will improve their wellbeing and extend their life expectancy. Some essential initiatives include:
• Increasing exercise awareness – Employers can spread the word about the importance of exercise for all employees, regardless of weight and fitness level. This can easily be done by introducing exercise campaigns that use visuals, like posters around the office, as reminders to all employees about the importance of exercise.
• Creating walking groups – Developing a walking group in your office is a great way to help employees motivate each other. Walking groups can easily meet for a quick 10-minute walk during breaks or longer exercise routines during lunchtime.
• Participating in local charity walkathons – Employers can encourage their employees to participate in local charity walkathons. Employees can make a difference, while enjoying the benefits of a great workout.
• Providing discounts to fitness centers – Discounts can encourage employee participation in a fitness center or local gym.
• Providing onsite exercise classes – Onsite exercise classes can provide employees the exercise they need during working hours, if they’re unable to do so after work.
The bottom line
Exercise is no longer just about weight control, but about total wellbeing. Recent studies now show that regular exercise can extend an individual’s life expectancy up to 3.4 years. Employers can take steps to encourage their employees to develop regular exercise routines by incorporating awareness and participation initiatives in their wellness programs.