Eight success factors for corporate health and fitness

By Chris Miller

Launching a new ISOC training course for 2017, Wellness in the Workplace trainer Chris Miller defines eight communication tools to motivate employees in workforce health and fitness programmes.

Wellness in the workplace

When organisations build health and fitness into an effective wellness programme, the benefits really stack up. Fit and healthy team members are more productive, more energised, more creative, less stressed, less likely to get ill and able to recover faster. People are also more loyal when they feel valued and treated like human beings and not robots.

However, workplace fitness initiatives often struggle to get off the ground because they require people to change deeply ingrained habits and beliefs. Change is often resisted, even when the goal is positive, because the brain and body like to conserve energy and change is energy intensive: you have to consciously think about it.

Most people have habits running on auto-pilot doing the same thing, day in, day out, whether they are positive or not: not living life, but surviving. On top of that, many people associate health and fitness with suffering in the gym or starving on a diet. Nobody likes to be told what to do – and lots of people don’t have the first clue what to do.

So what’s the secret? How can organisations motivate people to join a workplace health and fitness programme and stick with it? Unfortunately, there is no magic pill, no one fitness routine that beats all the others, no special scheme that works instantly and automatically.

What we do have are a set of tried and tested success factors that help employees understand that this may be hard work – but might also just be the most rewarding thing they ever do.

1)    Don’t try to change everything at once. Pick one easy thing that you know will make a positive impact on your health and start there. Focus on that one thing for two weeks before you even think about changing anything else.  If you don’t know where to start, get some professional help.

2)    Figure out why you want to change and be honest with yourself.  The “why” is so much more important than what you do or how.  We change when we see the benefit of change and, that must act on an emotional level otherwise it just won’t last.

3)    Be consistent and stick with it. To start the journey requires constant, daily focus on small habits. Be realistic: don’t expect major changes immediately. Patience will be rewarded.

4)    Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  You are trying to change habits that have been ingrained for years. Your body and mind are obviously relatively happy or else the change would have happened sooner, so this is going to be tough. Accept it – maybe even embrace it – and do not try to fight it. You won’t win.

5)    Rest, recovery and stress reduction are crucial. Many of us are chronically stressed, so piling more stress on top of that isn’t the answer.  Yes, you need to move more and yes, you need to challenge the body to do more than it can right now; but if you don’t find ways to manage daily stress then all your efforts may be in vain.  Short daily meditations, stretching routines, getting all the electronics out of your bedroom, eating more slowly and having tech free days are all ways to bring stress levels down and put your body in the right place to lose fat and get healthier.

6)    Focus on where you are rather than how far away you are from where you want to be.  Let’s put it this way: if you see yourself as 50% away from your perceived ideal then you’re focusing on a negative.  You’ll have conversations along the lines of, “Oh no, this is hopeless, look how far I am, look how much work there is to do, I’m never going to get there.”  Instead, look at it from the other end of the spectrum: you’re not dead so, you have to be a minimum of 50% healthy, right? And if you do something every day to make yourself healthier then by the end of a week you’ll be even further along.  Celebrate your wins!

7)    Stop living in the past.  The past is just that: the past. There is nothing you can do about it, so stop worrying and certainly do not beat yourself up for some perceived slip-up, whether it’s eating chocolate or missing a workout. It happened. Wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

8)    Take responsibility. How we feel and how we are impacted by everything that has ever happened to us is 100% our responsibility.  All the good stuff in your life is on you; all the bad stuff is on you too.  It’s scary, but also incredibly liberating.  If someone upsets you, does you being upset serve you?  Does it make your life better?  No. So choose another path.  What does it matter if they said something mean about you?  It only has power if you let it, so choose not to let it!

None of these things is easy, but it is rarely the easy things that really make a positive impact on our lives easy.  The point is that there are ways to make change easier – and mostly that boils down to you owning it.

Find out more

This article draws on content from the ISOC course Wellness in the Workplace.

About the Author

Chris Miller is a health and fitness professional specialising in wellness programmes and an ISOC trainer on Wellness in the Workplace: a two-day course on how to promote happiness, health and well-being in the workforce.

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