How HR Can Organize Group Exercise in the Workplace - a group of women high fiving after a workout

How HR Can Organize Group Exercise in the Workplace

Trevor Conrod
January 30, 2023
January 27, 2023

In the face of rising obesity levels, exercise is more important than ever. And while many try exercising regularly, work hours may often make hitting the gym challenging. 

HR leaders can help to create a fitness-friendly workplace and inspire employees to follow suit—all with the goal of keeping employees physically and mentally healthy.

The Importance of Group Fitness at Work

When building a team of hard-working individuals, group fitness can become an unexpected assistant in building friendships and increasing camaraderie in the workplace. As with any group activity, engaging in these programs can promote a sense of belonging and increase the feeling of community. Unlike other group activities, however, adding group fitness in the workplace uniquely benefits both the company and the employees.

Employees Benefit

As we know, fitness serves incredible benefits to the body and mind. Your employees will not only learn some tips about fitness that they can use on their own time, but they will be able to practice and develop healthy habits while at work.

Companies Benefit

Your employees will appreciate the opportunity to participate in workplace fitness and their company's concern for their long-term health. Not only will this build healthier employees, but it will also help create loyal employees. The more employees believe their company cares for them, the more they will care for the company.

Becoming A Champion For Fitness In Your Workplace

Like any other work policy or incentive program, we must lead by example. Are you ready to become a champion of group exercise in the workplace? This doesn't mean being the best at everything. It just means getting others on board with the vision you are seeking to create.

Here are some tips to get your employees primed and ready to take action on an exciting new health program:

  • Start slow. Regardless of how expansive your end goal is for your health program, slow and steady additions are key for getting employees to sign on to the idea and adapt new changes to everyday shifts. More on this concept below.
  • Post flyers describing your new program and explain the key benefits employees will receive from participating. Benefits can include energy boost, mood increase, and greater immunity to  diseases. 
  • Frequently check in on employees to see how the program is going for them. Feedback is essential and allows us to further connect with our employees and adapt the program to fit the specific needs. This should be an equal-opportunity health program.

How To Structure And Sustain Your Group Exercise Program

Structure and setup are fundamental to unified group exercise in the workplace. Being at the forefront of a new program, you are bound to face questions and obstacles, but with preparation ahead of time, you can avoid lackluster participation and lay out a clear-cut initiative.

"They started off by sending us emails with simple exercises to try out right at our desks. A few months later, things ramped up to competition-like programs that tracked our steps on our fitness trackers. And for those employees that didn't have one, the company handed them out." Marci M, Cigna Health Care

Cigna Health Care is just one of many companies dipping into the world of workplace fitness. As Marci mentioned, Cigna started their program with simple exercises employees could do right at their desks. By keeping the program simple to start, Cigna could gauge feedback and work its way up to what the program is today. "They now give out prizes and even incentives towards our HSA. I think the most important part of the program is the system. You have to have a solid system in place to keep employees motivated."

Now let's look at another company that cares about their employees' everyday health. Compared with Cigna, Dyno Noble is taking a simpler approach with pre-shift stretches and policies to keep their employees from being overworked and straining on the job. "Each and every morning we run through our shift routine. Nobody gets started without taking a moment to stretch, and we feel better about starting afterwards." Wes S, Dyno Noble.

From expansive and expensive programs to simple morning routines, regardless of what you have in mind, make sure it fits in with the company culture. If your company still needs to have policies or initiatives to keep employees safe and protected, starting there is a must before introducing group fitness in the workplace. Throwing around the suggestion of a new group exercise program without any previous word about physical or mental health will inevitably lead to pushback and confusion among employees. 

Check out these three simple and easy-to-adapt changes that can be introduced to most office environments:  

1. Active Office Meetings

We've all been there, stuck in what feels like an hour meeting that doesn't end. This first tip is to rethink meetings that can be held outside of the office. Think of a standing community huddle, possibly even outdoors, to soak in some sun rays. Keeping your employees more engaged and energized than with a typical sit-down meeting.

2. Guided Stretch or Exercise Breaks

This change is a perfect first step towards integrating group exercise at work. To start, gather 4-5 simple stretches that will empower your employees during their shifts. Stretches like the standing prayer stretch or heel-to-butt quad stretch are perfect starting options (shown below). The exercises you start with should be simple to teach and to understand as well as being easy to adapt for employees with limited mobility or disabilities.

3. Promote Fitness At Home

Building a community of health-minded employees also means getting them comfortable and interested in engaging in the same healthy habits at work, on their own time. While this may seem like an overwhelming leap in building your program, you can take some simple steps to incentivize mindful time outside the office. For instance, using a habit-building or new challenge approach can be beneficial, especially for employees who may have yet to show any interest in a new routine. The framework can be as easy as "A Workout A Week For The Month Of ***". 

When setting up any challenge to be conducted on an employee's own time, it's key to set up frequent check-ins. Check-ins can be done in a team fashion or, in the case of companies with the resources, a stand-alone mobile app/private group. By getting your employees to check in on the challenge they are undertaking, you are further supporting their efforts and building community among those participating.

The Great Change You Can Make

As an HR leader, creating a healthy work environment is essential. This can lead to fewer sick days, less turnover, happier employees, and increased productivity. In addition, when employees participate in healthy activities, they are more engaged and will develop a more positive mindset for their work. This is why many businesses are adding group exercise to work. You can be the leading champion for significant change in employees' lives and in your company. It's time to get started!

For more wellness program ideas for HR leaders, check out What Mental Health Resources are on HR’s Mind?


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Trevor Conrod
Trevor Conrod
Trevor Conrod is the founder and small business owner of LWStrength and a content creator for Nivati. Designed to serve members in-person and online, this facility offers an intuitive and exciting take on the traditional group fitness experience. His primary purpose is to help others find their strength, both physically and mentally, as stated in the company's slogan, “Find Your Strength.”