One of the best ideas we’ve heard for getting an out-of-shape workforce up and moving is an idea that dates back to elementary school – recess.
Remember the thrill of running outside and taking a break from class, hanging out with your friends and breathing in the fresh air of a sunny spring day? Those days may be returning, thanks to several new programs that advocate employer-sponsored exercise.
Adult recess would involve a 10-minute break in the workday, when employees would be led through a series of fun routines involving dance and sports-like moves. The idea is steadily catching on, according to an article in HealthDay. Employer-sponsored exercise is a big part of the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan, a cooperative effort by a number of health and fitness organizations to promote physical activity in public settings such as businesses, schools and churches. Partners include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association, the YMCA and the AARP.
A key benefit of adult recess ties into physical activity guidelines put out by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, which recommends that all adults receive at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. Even if only 10 minutes long, a session of moderate or vigorous effort will benefit a person’s overall health.
One work site where adult recess has been implemented is Latino Health Access, a nonprofit group in Santa Ana, Calif. Many of the 55 workers there participate in a 20-minute walk every other day and daily 15-minute aerobics classes. Workers feel more energetic and focused and are less likely to feel lethargic in the afternoon.
Businesses in Japan have been doing this sort of thing for years, but it’s been tough to sell Americans on the idea of doing jumping jacks and other calisthenics.
Another program is called “Instant Recess,” developed by Dr. Antronette K. Yancey, a professor in the department of health services at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health and co-director of the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity. The 10-minute programs feature different sets of moves taken from dance and sports and performed to music, and they can be done by anybody at any time in any attire.
“I found that eye-rolling occurs mostly at the beginning,” Yancey said. “People aren’t sure what to expect, and it seems a little hokey. What happens is people, after the first few minutes, start smiling, start laughing, start engaging with each other, egging each other on.” Her research has found that productivity increased and workplace injuries decreased at businesses where Instant Recess has been implemented.
We agree that encouraging – better yet, sponsoring – some type of physical activity for employees can have significant effects on people and their productivity. Short bursts of activity at work can improve moods and heighten energy levels. In turn, this helps boost productivity, presenteeism and alertness, which result in better attitudes at the office.
Employees also benefit from joining together with their colleagues and working toward a healthful lifestyle. Once a few people engage in healthy activities and others see the results, more start to join in. A culture of health may even develop where it’s the norm to make choices that positively affect health and well-being.
And that’s where real change begins, because new habits are forming that will become part of a person’s lifestyle.