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Time Out for Exercise Improves Productivity


If you want to be more efficient at your job, instead of working “harder and smarter”, try taking an exercise break. A new study, published in the August Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, finds that those who exercise during work hours are more productive plus have less absenteeism.

Taking Time Off of Work to Exercise Improves Employee Health

Drs. Ulrica von Thiele Schwartz PhD and Henna Hasson PhD of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, randomly assigned the employees of six dental health care workplaces into three groups. Dentistry is considered the most stressful of the healthcare professions, according to the background information presented in the article. A total of 199 individuals participated in the study.

The first group was involved in a worksite wellness program which reduced their working hours by 2.5 hours per week (30 minutes per day). The second group worked their regular hours without the exercise break. The third group received the reduction in work hours, but was not involved in the physical education program. Participants evaluated themselves after 6 and 12 months. Objective data regarding productivity was collected from the human resources department of the parent organization.

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Overall, the study was intended to investigate how workplace health promotion intervention, taking place during work hours, affects productivity. Those participating in the exercise program had significant increases in self-rated measures of productivity, meaning they felt more productive while on the job. The workers had higher output during work and missed fewer days due to illness.

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Absenteeism accounts for 29 to 46% of total healthcare costs. “Presenteeism” – where an employee shows up to work sick, but doesn’t perform well – may cost a company up to 74% of total healthcare costs.

More on eMaxHealth.com - Worksite Wellness Programs May Retain Employees and Reduce Absenteeism

Worksite wellness programs consistently show benefits for both employees and employers. A separate study, published in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, finds that workers who enroll in their employer’s wellness centers are less stressed, and consequently make better choices about diet, tobacco use and physical activity. The reduction in workplace stress also appears to improve personal interactions and relationships, even at home.

Dave Gallson of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada says, “Unaddressed workplace stress undoubtedly has negative repercussions for employers.”

Drs. von Thiele Schwarz and Hasson conclude, "Work hours may be used for health promotion activities with sustained or improved production levels, since the same, or higher, production level can be achieved with lesser resources."

Journal References:

  • Von Thiele Schwarz, Ulrica PhD; Hasson, Henna PhD, “Employee Self-rated Productivity and Objective Organizational Production Levels: Effects of Worksite Health Interventions Involving Reduced Work Hours and Physical Exercise” Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine August 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue 8 - p 838–844
  • Clark MM, et al. “Stress level, health behaviors and quality of life in employees joining a wellness center” Am J Health Promo 26(1), 2011.

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