“Are you going to wait until something happens, or are you going to make some changes in your lifestyle?” This was what John Mack, a sales manager at a car showroom in Illinois asked himself after two of his employees were diagnosed with heart problems within 6 months of each other.

Considering it a wake-up call, Mack’s workplace – an Advantage Chevrolet showroom at Hodgkins, Illinois – decided to take up the two-hour lunch breaks that the company allows its managers, with the extra hour meant to accommodate a workout. The rest of the full-time staff is allowed to avail 90-minute lunch breaks for the same purpose. Company representatives believe that this has made the employees more productive as well. “They are more alert. They are healthier,” said Crystal Roberts, the variable operations director at the firm.

The fast-paced work environment that we’re all familiar with today leaves very little time for fitness before or after work hours. And yet, the stressful and sedentary jobs most of us are in only mean that we need to think about our health choices more than ever before. Chronic signs like exhaustion, depression, obesity and cardiovascular irregularities are extremely common among employees in the global workplace today, and several of these are direct consequences of inadequate exercise and unhealthy diets.

Thankfully, several corporations are catching on and striving to make exercise a part of the employees’ everyday lives through innovative health and wellness programs. Some large companies have naturally gone all out: the Googleplex offers (among other things) free fitness classes, four gyms, and organized intramural sports, while the Twitter HQ at San Francisco provides CrossFit training in their on-site gym.

However, as most health experts will tell you it’s not so much the size or the facilities offered by your workplace but their attitude towards creating a healthier and more active environment that can eventually produce results in the long run. The goal is create a culture where the employees choose to live a healthier lifestyle, rather than being forced to do so. And this can be done in several ways.

A small football field at the Zappos office
An outdoor activity area at the Zappos office

For example, Fitbit’s “Workout Wednesdays” allows employees to participate in various activities throughout the day. Similarly, online retailer Zappos follows and initiative called Wellness Adventures, where a small group of employees from different departments are taken offsite to do something fun away from their desks, like an hour-long golf lesson, laser tag or trampolining. Other companies like Airbnb offers weekly yoga classes, while Rodale, publishers of Runner’s World and more goes above and beyond, by offering an organic, farm-to-table eatery and an on-site gym with free daily fitness classes. Employees can also take a jog on the mile-long trail around the HQ or work with the Rodale Garden Club to grow their own fresh produce.

These are but a few examples, but what’s important to note is that this trend is not only catching on but also being encouraged across workplaces irrespective of their size or function. After all, fit, strong and happy employees can only make for a more well-balanced and efficient workforce, the positive effects of which can hardly be understated.

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