Employees who keep fit perform better at work, find their jobs less taxing and have better relationships with their colleagues in the office.
A new study, published in the US-based Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, has established a direct relationship between exercise and work or, as the study puts it, “that lifestyle-related modifiable health risk factors significantly impact employee work performance.”
Researchers led by Dr Nicolaas Pronk of the Minneapolis-based Center for Health Promotion examined the lifestyles of 683 workers to gauge levels of physical activity, physical fitness and obesity. These assessments were compared with indicators of job performance.
The study found that employees who do a moderate level of exercise produce work of greater quality and demonstrate better overall work performance. Those who follow a more vigorous exercise regime also produce a higher quantity of work and report that they expand less effort to do so. Fitter employees also demonstrate better interpersonal relationships.
Employees who are overweight were found to have higher rates of absenteeism and worse relationships with their colleagues. However, the study found that “the association between physical activity or exercise and absenteeism is as of yet unknown or ambiguous at best.”
According to Dr Pronk, fitter employees perform better because they have higher resistance to fatigue.
"A useful analogy is to look at sprinters in the 100 metres,” he said. “All the athletes get up to the same speed quickly, but the one who is the most resistant to fatigue is the one who succeeds."
"If companies have concerns about the level of work by employees, then maybe they should introduce breaks for physical activity, while weight management programmes might have an impact on rates of absenteeism."
But the research found that the evidence that workplace-based physical activity programmes reduced stress and employee turnover and increased job satisfaction was “inconclusive”.