Why physical activity is great for mental and physical wellbeing

Blogs 7 Jan 2022

Learn about the benefits of building physical activity into your day and how it can benefit your physical health and mental wellbeing.

Running your own business can be time-consuming, especially during busy trading periods, meaning that it can be easy to forget to build some activity into your day. However, regular physical activity is good not only for your physical health but also for your mental wellbeing.

Whether you’re working for yourself or encouraging your team to get active, learn more about the benefits of physical activity and how moving more can support your wellbeing.

What are the benefits of physical activity for physical health?

Physical inactivity can have a damaging impact on our physical health. It’s estimated that 67% of men and 55% of women meet the guidelines of 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Long periods of sedentary behaviour can impact both your health and your performance at work.

There are several proven benefits of activity for physical health according to the NHS, including a 30% lower risk of early death, 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and 50% lower risk of colon cancer. It can also improve sleep, increase energy and help to maintain strength.

The British Heart Foundation estimates that being more active can reduce the risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases by up to 35%. Regular activity can help you to control your blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol and maintain a healthy weight.

What are the links between physical activity and mental health?

When you go for a run or workout at the gym, the movement releases endorphins in your brain, also known as a ‘feel-good’ chemical. According to the Mental Health Foundation, physical activity can have a significant impact on our mental wellbeing. It can:

  • increase mental alertness and energy
  • increase self-esteem
  • reduce stress, anxiety and depression
  • have a positive impact on our mood

Mind has more information about the link between physical activity and mental health, including simple ways to get started.

What are the benefits for employers?

Full-time workers spend around one-third of their day at work. With so many different types of workplaces, as the business owner you’re best placed to understand how you can support your team. Understanding the needs and wants of your employees can be a great way to determine what support they need to move more at work. There are lots of small and easy ways to help your team move more. Sometimes the simplest and smallest ideas, like pop-up reminders to move, work best, as they are easy to integrate into your day.

Encouraging your team to get active - and showing this is something you value - is not only beneficial for their health and wellbeing, but it can also have positive impacts on your business. There are many small things you can do to help people build in more movement. For example, did you know that physically active workers take 27% fewer sick days, or that the cost of physical inactivity in England alone has been estimated at £8.2bn a year?

A resource created by the Workplace Movement states that increased physical activity can lead to:

  • reduced absence
  • reduced presenteeism, where productivity is impacted by someone not fully functioning at work due to an illness or other medical condition
  • improved performance at work
  • improved morale, teamwork and concentration

Ready to get moving?

There are lots of simple ways to get started. Discover seven ways you can have a more active workday and encourage your team to be more active. Start by speaking with your team about what they want and need.

A workplace health assessment looks at how your employees’ health is supported or affected in the workplace and how you can put measures in place to improve this. Public Health England and Healthy Working Future’s Workplace Health Needs Assessment toolkit can help your business to carry out an assessment. It also provides practical tips and advice for supporting your employees. Wellbeing programmes in the workplace can give employers an edge and are increasingly expected by employees.

Don’t forget to keep your employees involved in this process – you could even go through the toolkit with them to get their feedback.

Where can I find more information?