The Watercooler: is physical activity the key to workplace wellbeing?

·2-min read
 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

We’re inching toward the halfway point of January, and as if on cue, a study has found that physical activity improves wellbeing more than money or socialising. It’s exactly what most of us want to hear, when our bank balances and our diaries are looking a bit bare.

The study, carried out for Red January — a nationwide initiative to encourage people to move more for their mental health — found that not only did those with active lifestyles report wellbeing scores 25 per cent higher than others, but those who upped their activity, even just a little, experienced the biggest boost.

So how can employers use this news, and the resolve many of us have at this time of year, to help create lasting behaviour change around wellbeing at work?

Well, activewear brand Asics already has. Last year it worked with Dr Brendon Stubbs, a clinical-academic physiotherapist at King’s College London, to develop a scientifically proven Movement for Mind programme, which combined walking or running with mindfulness for two 30-minute sessions per week over eight weeks. Dr Stubbs found that those taking part in the trial spent less time sitting and more time active (even outside the sessions) and that their moods significantly improved.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the executives at Asics are all for this sort of thing — they do make trainers, after all. But now they’ve made the programme available to other businesses, hoping to spread the health.

 (The Watercooler)
(The Watercooler)

As always, key to the success of anything like this is culture. As well as making wellness initiatives available for staff, workplaces need to nudge their people to make use of them, rather than raise eyebrows when someone steps away from their desk.

Right now, when 39 per cent of workers say they are doing longer hours from home and a quarter are taking fewer breaks, the best way for employers to make workplace wellness work is by creating space in the day for it. Otherwise, no matter how well-intentioned the offerings, they won’t have any impact.

But if businesses can help their staff feel healthier and happier, can they also nudge the nation toward feeling more well? That’s what we’ll be talking about at The Watercooler next time…

The Watercooler takes place on 23-24 February at Olympia, London and will include 5,000 workplace wellbeing professionals, 120+ speakers and 120 hours of free learning. Contact for commercial opportunities or register for free at

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