For people who rely on fitness classes, gyms, and other public settings to get their workouts in, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a vexing wellness challenge.
Without commutes to worry about, many of us found ourselves with more time to exercise. But with gyms closed, classes canceled, large gatherings discouraged, and winter weather making some outdoor activities dicey, the question has become where to exercise.
Why Your Employees May Need an At-Home Fitness Plan
We should point out that, as of this writing, most gyms across the U.S. have reopened, provided they practice physical distancing, provide proper sanitation and air circulation, and require the wearing of masks.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers several guidelines for staying safe at gyms and fitness centers, such as keeping your visits short, limiting high-intensity activities, and avoiding contact with others.
Some may find these measures too much of a bother and skip the gym altogether. Others—especially those in high-risk categories—may feel it prudent to wait until the pandemic gets down to more reasonable levels before heading back to their favorite workout center.
Ultimately, it’s up to your employees and their healthcare providers to decide whether it’s safe to work out in gyms or attend fitness classes.
One thing we can say for sure though is that giving up on exercise while the pandemic persists is not a healthy choice. Physical activity contributes significantly to good physical and emotional health—something we all need, especially right now.
How can you help your employees be active while they’re at home?
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to create a high-quality at-home fitness plan. Here are some ways you can help your employees:
1. Offer Virtual Fitness Classes
Several popular fitness activities, such as yoga, Pilates, and aerobics, lend themselves well to a virtual format. These exercises require very little or no equipment, and qualified instructors are plentiful.
Online fitness classes are readily available on YouTube and other platforms, but videos lack the interactivity of the in-person coaching experience. Live virtual classes delivered via Zoom or the communication tool of your choice help bring the gym into your employees’ homes.
Many gyms now offer virtual classes, so you could consider partnering with a local fitness center to offer exclusive online classes to your employees. Fully interactive virtual classes offered by Strive Well-Being are exclusive to each client and their employees–including a registration platform, automated email reminders, and a reporting dashboard to track utilization.
Be sure to schedule classes when your employees are available. You might want to poll your employees to find out what times work best for them. You can also offer on-demand recordings of the classes so your employees can redo their workouts whenever they choose.
2. Encourage Use of Fitness Apps
Fitness apps and digital fitness platforms were growing in popularity before the pandemic, but they really took off in 2020.
For example, the company Peloton—known for its Internet-connected exercise bikes—saw a 232% revenue increase. From the first quarter of 2020 to the second quarter, downloads of health and fitness apps grew 46% worldwide (according to one study). Ring Fit Adventure, an exercise-based video game for Nintendo Switch, has been consistently selling out throughout the pandemic.
Fitness apps and other digital fitness tools make it easy for people to create and execute an at-home fitness plan while tracking their progress. Just as important, these apps often make fitness fun, improving the odds of employees sticking with it.
While many of these apps are free, most of the best charge subscription fees. Your organization can pay those fees for your employees or offer to reimburse them as part of your benefits package. (Keep in mind that some workout platforms require equipment purchases, as well.)
3. Share Tips for At-Home Bodyweight Workouts
You don’t necessarily need equipment for a great at-home workout, which is great news for many people. With children, spouses, and home office equipment competing for space, who has the room for weight machines and dumbbell racks?
Experts at the Mayo Clinic say bodyweight training can be “as effective as training with free weights or weight machines.”
Run an internet search for bodyweight workouts, and you’ll find plenty of high-quality routines that require nothing more than a few square feet of space (and perhaps a mat). This article in Self is one of our favorites.
At the start of the pandemic, we spoke with Jen Zygmunt, Chief Revenue Officer at Wellbeats, an on-demand fitness provider. She suggested adding simple things like pushups, sit-ups, or burpees to your at-home exercise routine to help keep in shape with no equipment needed.
Your company can share at-home bodyweight workout ideas with your employees through your wellness program. Again, you may also choose to partner with experienced fitness experts or on-demand providers, such as Wellbeats, to offer exclusive online classes or videos focused on gaining or maintaining muscle without expensive, bulky equipment.
4. Provide a Stipend or Reimbursement for At-Home Fitness Equipment
While bodyweight workouts and equipment-less cardio can be more than enough for an effective at-home fitness plan, some people just do better with equipment. For example, many people don’t like or can’t handle the shock of jogging or running and prefer low-impact equipment like exercise bikes or elliptical machines.
Employers have long reimbursed employees for gym memberships. Maybe it’s time to think about reimbursing your employees for their home gyms.
Or you could offer a fitness stipend. Some of your employees may choose to spend the money on exercise equipment, while others may invest in a good pair of running shoes or a mindfulness or meditation app.
At-Home Fitness Is Here to Stay
By this time next year, most people will hopefully have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and it will be safe to return to gyms and fitness classes. However, it’s likely many people will choose to continue their at-home fitness plans, either complementing or replacing their gym-based routines. And while the inability to go to the gym may be frustrating, employees will at least benefit from developing a routine that gives them the emotional and physical benefits of activity, anytime and anywhere.