Yesterday, the New York Times Well blog ran a story about the effects of exercise on the human brain. For a while now, people have believed that regular exercise improves cognitive function, but a recent study examined just how real those benefits are. Not surprisingly, the results suggested that not only does exercise change the brain, it may also improve thinking skills such as memory and mental multitasking.
It’s not the only study examining the benefits of regular physical activity. One released in April proved that a person’s physical activity today can have a significant impact on their cognitive function decades from now. Other research has proven that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can help reduce anxiety.
That got me thinking about healthy options available in the workplace. Considering that the average American will spend 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime (that’s more than 10 straight years!), you can’t deny the fact that our work environments have an impact on our health.
Last month, Greatist released a list of the 44 Healthiest Companies to Work for in America. The winners spanned a broad range – from huge corporations like Microsoft and Kaiser Permanente, to tiny companies like ZOZI, a San Francisco-based start-up dedicated to travel adventure experiences. We’re not talking about a fruit bowl in the community kitchen – we’re talking on-site physicians and nurses, free gym memberships, climbing walls and unlimited vacation days!
Now, I realize that adding meditation rooms, treadmill desks for every employee and indoor swimming pools may not be realistic for every organization – but there are certainly some other options that might be a fit for your company:
- Running and Walking Groups. Encourage employees to grab a coworker and escape the office for half an hour. At PadillaCRT we just wrapped up our Walking Wednesdays program, an incentivized challenge that encourages employees to get moving in exchange for healthy-lifestyle-related prizes.
- Nutrition and Wellness Classes. Already providing Lunch & Learn opportunities? Bring in a nutritionist, health coach or fitness instructor to help employees learn healthy habits. Classes could include meal-planning, stress management or even yoga – just to name a few!
- Recipe Swaps. Add a recipe sharing page to your company’s intranet or SharePoint system. It can be a great resource for people looking for healthy meal-planning inspiration.
- Bike Storage. Consider adding a space for bike storage for employees who bike to and from work. Want to take it a step further? Encourage employees to bring their old bikes in and start a “bike-share” program for people who want to go for a quick ride during the day, but live too far away to cycle to work.
- Healthy Vending Machines. Most vending machines are stuffed full of chips, cookies and candy bars. By replacing those items with healthy snacks like granola bars and nuts, you can give hungry employees a “fit-friendly” option. And the soda machine? Try filling that with flavored waters, rather than high-calorie, sugar-filled beverages.
What does your company do to encourage healthy life-style choices? Share in the comments below – we’d love to hear your ideas!