Physical Activity


Changes in how we live, work and play have led to a huge decrease in the amount of physical activity Physical activitypeople undertake.  There are many ways to engage in physical activity such as sport, running, cycling, swimming, group fitness classes, gardening, hunting, horse riding, as well as things like housework, taking the stairs and using active transport (e.g. walking or cycling to work instead of driving). The Ministry of Health recommend that adults engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week.

To find out why Physical Activity is important in your workplace view click here.

See the following sections for examples of how to address physical activity using a multi-level approach.

Organisational Change

Organisational change ensures the workplace’s policies, practices and culture support incorporating physical activity into daily routine.  Examples of what you can do in your workplace include:

Develop a physical activity policy or include physical activity in a standard employee wellbeing policy. Consider including:

  • Raising awareness of the importance of being active
  • Support and promote occupational health and safety with stop and stretch breaks and manual handling training
  • Support active transport and physical activity during lunch through provision of facilities (bike racks, showers, lockers) and flexible working arrangements

Encourage brief periods of activity through the day including:

  • Stretching before starting work or a physically demanding task, or to break up prolonged sitting
  • Incorporating activity in work tasks such as walking meetings, standing up when talking on the phone, walking to peoples desks  rather than sending emails, placing printers and bins further away to encourage standing up

Encourage a culture which promotes physical activity:

  • Manage workloads and working hours to ensure employees receive adequate breaks and have opportunities for activity before or after work
  • Encourage employees to take regular stretch breaks
  • Develop a Workplace Travel Plan to provide opportunities for active transport
  • Introduce a guaranteed ride home scheme in emergency situations for all employees who walk or bike to and from work

Encourage management to lead by example

Environmental Change

Creating a healthy working environment can encourage physical activity. Examples of what you can do in your workplace include:

Making stairwells more appealing with paint and artwork to encourage use over lifts

Providing active transport facilities such as bike racks, lockers and showers, provide bike maintenance tools for emergency repairs

Reduce prolonged sitting time in the workplace by altering the design of the work space i.e. provide standing desks, or locating printers or files away from the workspace, encouraging stop and stretch breaks

Provide weather protective gear for employees working outdoors or taking part in physical activity (e.g. hats, sunscreen, umbrella, rain coats)

Provide company shared bikes for at-work use

Conduct a workplace walkability assessment to determine if walking options are safe, pleasant and accessible and map local walking routes

Provide onsite gym or space for physical activity (where feasible)

Individual Change

Individual change focuses on opportunities for knowledge and skill development to support employees Physical Activity.  Examples of what you can do in your workplace include:

Provide opportunities for employee knowledge and skill development such as:

  • Health assessments or checks to motivate employees
  • Information sessions or resources on the importance of physical activity, opportunities available (e.g. walking groups, sports clubs, local events, walking or bike tracks), or relevant topics such as cycling road-safety and bike maintenance
  • Promote the free Adult Green Prescription Programme
  • Provide motivational signs, posters, emails regularly on benefits of being active or stretching regularly during the day
  • Promotion of active transport through maps outlining safe walking/biking routes to and from the workplace, testimonials from employees who routinely walk/bike to work, active transport tips such as leaving work shoes/clothes at work and road safety instructions
  • Support your employees to overcome barriers to participating in physical activity

Encourage participation in physical activity through:

  • Participation in national/local events, corporate challenges e.g. Walk to Work Day, Bike Wise Month, Go by Bike day, community runs, charity walk-a-thons, promotion or sponsorship of employees in team sports
  • Provision of corporate discounts to gyms, bike shops or other physical activity opportunities
  • Organisation of lunchtime activities like walking, running, cycling or yoga groups
  • Provision of incentives for employees to participate in physical activity – providing a biking starter kit, holding monthly prize draws, highlighting successful stories in the workplace newsletter
  • Encouragement for pedometer use by providing pedometers to employees or organising a step challenge

Sign up to e-newsletters and promote to the employees. Examples of local e-newsletters with physical activity information include: Sport BOP, Bikewise and WorkWell.

Community Links and Partnerships

To access a variety of useful services and resources relating to Physical Activity see our Community Links page.

Page updated 16 Feb 2021