Making a habit of prioritizing physical fitness can be hard. Just when you’ve got yourself in a groove, life happens … and your schedule, motivation, or ability to stick with your habits are tossed out the window.
We’ve all been thrown a little off track lately. And for many of us, our physical fitness has suffered as a result.
This is where your wellness program and platform can really shine.
Your wellness program and platform can help your employees reignite their prior physical fitness habits—or successfully launch new ones. Either way, employees will benefit:
- Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to address the mental health issues that are plaguing nearly every workforce today.
- It contributes to disease prevention, bone density and preventive care.
- Regular physical activity has even been shown to reduce medical costs – that means lower health care-related expenditures for your company.
Here are seven smart tactics (for best results, do them all) for making your wellness program work for your employees and their fitness goals.
1. Take It Slowly and Set Realistic Goals
Jumping back into an exercise routine at the same level of intensity or frequency may not be realistic. Some of your employees have been primarily sedentary over the past 18 months, in the same way they would be if they were recovering from an injury. In fact, some of them may actually be recovering from injury or illness.
So, this isn’t exactly the time to dive in with the gusto of 300 warriors championing Sparta. Remind your employees to ease back into it and follow a few smart guidelines when ramping up their physical activity:
- They’re playing the long game. This is about retraining their bodies to move after a year or more of reduced physical activity.
- Their goals should be based on their current capabilities. Sure, your employee may previously have been a member of the 300lb leg press club. But, after a year of not going to the gym, expecting to leap back into the saddle (or the weight room) will either set them up for failure or injury.
- Their goals should be SMART. SMART goals aren’t new, but it’s always good to remind employees what they are – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. And the “relevant” part is particularly important. Urge employees to pick goals that get them fired up, whether it’s being able to run for 20 minutes straight or do a headstand.
- They need to listen to their bodies. Our bodies are amazing machines. We have a complex neural network that is constantly giving us status updates. The most important thing your employees can focus on in the beginning is being present and listening to that communication. Mindfulness training can help enormously with this.
- They need to respect pain as a sign to slow down. We know a lot of personal trainers like to say, “no pain, no gain.” But there’s a big difference between pushing through the burning muscles of that last half-mile versus ignoring real warning signs. Employees should be reminded that sharp pain is a sign that they’re pushing too hard or need to focus more on recovery.
2. Schedule Specific Time for Physical Activity
While the pandemic seemed to give people a lot of time at home, it didn’t necessarily give them much time for themselves. In fact, the conflicting pulls from work, children, partners, and extended family siphoned even more time out of your employees’ schedule.
When people start to get squeezed out of their “me” time, physical fitness regimens can be the first thing to go. This is the opportunity for your employees to make themselves and their health a priority again.
Even if they only carve out 20 minutes, it’s 20 minutes they spend on themselves. Not only does it benefit them physically, that whole “making time for yourself” thing has a positive impact on their psyche and mood.
And since we’re talking about how your company can support employees and their physical fitness, make sure that “me” time is honored and respected at every level of management. One back-handed comment from a supervisor about an employee taking an exercise break during lunch time could be enough to derail them from their goals.
3. Try Something New
For some employees, rigorous, high-impact exercise like running is no longer a viable option—either due to COVID-related illness or some other reason.
They may also find that they’re no longer inspired or invigorated by the same type of exercise they used to enjoy. Whether from boredom or necessity, trying something new is usually a great way to reinvigorate physical fitness.
If you have a library of information about different types of physical activity, this is a great time to share that content with your employees. Arming your company’s health coaches with this information is also a great way to provide individualized recommendations to employees.
There are so many ways to get physical and ramp back into fitness, like:
- Speed walking
- HIIT (high intensity interval training)
- Body weight training
- Resistance training
Encourage employees to sample from all the fun and challenging ways in which they can integrate fitness into their lives. And if one activity just isn’t a good fit, urge them to keep on trying—they may be surprised to discover they enjoy hip-hop dance, or dodgeball or roller skating. But once they find that “click,” it’ll be much easier for them to make that activity part of their regular routine.
At WellRight, we’re always looking for new ways to help our member clients and their employees improve their health and wellness. That’s why we’ve added more than 1,000 virtual fitness, nutrition and mindfulness classes from Wellbeats a national leader in on-demand, virtual wellness for workplace well-being programs. This partnership gives WellRight users easy access to a wide range of culturally diverse classes, mental health content and personalized recommendations to stay engaged in their well-being journey. Participation in Wellbeats will be integrated directly into the WellRight platform for simple, easy-to-use tracking and rewards.
4. Make Sure to Track Progress
It makes no sense for your employees to set goals but not track their progress. How will they know if they’re accomplishing their goals?
Plus, tracking a habit provides helpful motivation to actually engage in that habit, giving employees an added prodding. What employees track should tie directly to the SMART goals they’ve set for themselves, so they can see meaningful results. When combined with improvement on their biometric health screenings, seeing progress made and goals met can provide a powerful motivator to make—and reach—the next goal.
5. Focus on Mental Fitness
Daily mindfulness and emotion tracking do a few things:
- First, they can help employees see how exercise and nutrition contribute to mood. Studies have shown that physical activity can heal trauma and relieve stress.
- The patterns employees notice about their mood and state of mind from day to day are valuable to share with counselors or health coaches to help guide treatment.
- Lastly, the more employees are aware of their mood fluctuations, the more likely they can start to notice the triggers that signal emotional shifts and begin to anticipate them.
This relationship between physical fitness and mental health is so important because it is a gateway to better self-awareness and a restored sense of calm and control—something that has been missing since the pandemic began.
6. Plan for Celebrations
Your employees are going to need to celebrate a lot to stay on track.
They finished their first workout? Celebrate.
They reached a consecutive tracking milestone? Celebrate.
They achieved a goal? Celebrate.
The more we celebrate success, the more successes we want, so we have a reason to celebrate again. This is where those incentives and rewards can play a huge role. Build in both to entice employees to keep going. Give shout outs to anyone and everyone who is showing up and working on their fitness, no matter what their progress looks like. Incorporate acknowledgement into team meetings and one-on-ones with supervisors.
For your remote employees, celebrations, incentives, rewards and shout outs will help bring the team together in support and encouragement, keeping them motivated and engaged.
7. Leverage Your Wellness Platform
Just as you do for every other wellness initiative in your company, lean on your wellness platform as the clearinghouse for everything your employees need to get back to fitness.
Depending on your company culture, you can create teams and/or encourage employees to work independently and compete against themselves. Whatever you do, make sure you are creating a welcoming, non-judgmental environment that encourages each employee to find their own path to better well-being.
No matter where your employees are on the fitness continuum, they can get back on track – especially with your support and the infrastructure your wellness platform can provide.
If you’re looking for ways to encourage employees and help them get back into physical activity, WellRight can help. Reach out to us and one of our wellness consultants will work with you to develop a creative program for your unique employee population.
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