The hidden power of exercise


14 June 2017

We all know that exercise is good for us, whether we have a regular regime or not. In fact the health benefits are well documented, and includes lowering blood pressure, BMI, and when integrated with healthier, leaner eating habits that all important reduction in our waistlines. These benefits are self-evident, the positive physical changes that provide measurements that form a basis of a healthier version of ourselves.

But in recent years more has been discovered in relation to the benefits of exercise, providing evidence that it can have a positive impact on our general health and wellbeing, our resilience. This is not so easy to measure or quantify.

The benefits of exercise on your workforce

The fact is exercise can help:

  • Improve concentration
  • Make our memories sharper
  • Increase our capacity to learn
  • Prolong mental agility
  • Enhance creativity
  • Lower stress*

In fact exercise has been proven to increase our good mood, a fact that has positive implications for business – after all the happier your employees are the better their performance. This is a feature illustrated in all aspects of our lives. In fact when we’re happy and content we all know how easy it can seem to get work done, how clearly we are able to think, the quicker the work seems to get done. It all feels so easy. Compare that to when we are not feeling ourselves, when we’re tired and feeling low, even the easiest tasks seem difficult and a struggle to complete and we’re often easily distracted.

So if exercise is key to our good mood and feeling resilient, how do we ensure that we get enough of it? After all there are many scenarios in life that distract us from this valuable ‘me time’.

Getting more of a good thing - promoting exercise at work

We all like to be able to get more of a good thing, but do we think of exercise in that way? Probably not, in fact most of us would say that we don’t have the time - work and life pressures can be distracting and all consuming. But the reality is that we don’t perceive exercise as a priority in our daily lives or even perceive it as a part of our working lives, a contributing factor to our work success.

So, it’s a question of how we perceive exercise. Is it an extra element of living that we have to factor in, make more time for? Is it a luxury, something we would do if only we had more time to do it? Or is it essential, like food and water. The reality is that’s it’s more of the latter. So, how can you build activity into the working day and encourage activity within your employees’ lives?

A study has shown that if we reframe how we think about exercise and attribute it as part of our working lives we’re more likely to make it a part of our daily routine. So how can organisations help their employees achieve this? 

  1. Gym discounts - Perhaps the simplest way to encourage exercise within your workforce, it provides the opportunity for employees to build exercise into their working day if located near work or on the way to work. The option to take up a coached fitness programme to measure and improve performance is available, providing additional motivation that may be needed to successfully navigate gym boredom. Plus there is the option of combing this with wearable technology to monitor and improve performance, which can also be linked with AXA Health’s Proactive Health Gateway. Discounted gym membership and offers on other healthy living products can be accessed through Active+, an exclusive discount site available to AXA Health members. 
  2. On-site health centres – providing fitness equipment onsite for free is also an option, but this is dependent on your organisation’s size and capabilities. Like the gym option above it provides similar options around continued engagement. 
  3. Exercise Groups – group activity is one of the best ways to promote and sustain exercise, after all knowing that others are depending on you will increase your likelihood of maintaining the activity. So whether it’s setting up a Five-a-side Football League or promoting trainer led options e.g. Nordic Walking, Running Group etc., this could provide the engagement your employees need. 
  4. Workspace flexibility – by simply allowing your employees to have access to items that can help improve their fitness whilst at work can help benefit productivity. One example of this can be found in swapping out the office chair for a balance ball, which will help tone core muscles. 
  5. Competitions – Even the least competitive of us like to compete, no more so than when it’s a group activity where we can work together as a team. So group loss weigh-ins, exercise groups and a Team Challenge, supported by AXA Health’s Proactive Health Gateway, can create the motivation and drive to achieve healthier results.


Eugene Farrell


Eugene is qualified in health economics and psychology and he has more than twenty five years of experience in the UK healthcare arena. He has worked in a variety of roles in both the public and private sectors and, for the past seventeen years, has specialised in the development and provision of employee support services.

As well as delivering training on stress, resilience, mental health and managing critical incidents, he has worked with mental health providers, charities and government, advising on the management of mental health in the workplace and the management and delivery of organisational crisis support.

He has authored articles and research on mental health, stress, absence, sickness presence, financial wellbeing, health wellbeing and EAP effectiveness, and has presented at professional conferences and on the BBC. He is an Executive Board member and former Chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association, former Board member and International Director of the U.S. based Global Employee Assistance Professionals Association, and former Executive Director of Employee Assistance European Federation.



Regular exercise is part of your job, By Ron Friedman, posted 03 October 2014

How to motivate employees to exercise

PureGym research 2017 – population size 359