Physical exercise and your employees mental health

Mental health is an increasingly important topic of conversation in and out of the workplace right now. With the country still in partial lockdown and an uncertain future ahead, employers need to ensure they are looking after their people as much as they can. Below, we explain the impact lockdown has had on mental health and how encouraging physical exercise can help improve this and improve your overall workforce.


Covid-19 has had a big effect on the population’s mental health. A recent study conducted by the University of Sheffield showed that shortly after the lockdown was announced 38% of their participants reported significant depression symptoms and another 36% reported significant anxiety symptoms. This is in comparison to just a few days before the lockdown where the rates were only 16% and 17%.

So, with lockdown taking its toll on a lot of employees and employers alike now is the time to encourage self-care and help improve your workforce’s mental health.

Why is physical exercise good for mental health?

It has been proven that regular exercise has many benefits for both the mind and body. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Releases endorphins into the brain which can make your employees happier and in a more positive mood.
  • Increases oxygen and blood flow to a crucial part of the brain called the hippocampus.

The benefits are endless and, in the end, this may well lead to a happier and healthier team. With Covid-19 still looming over us for the foreseeable future, it is important to promote exercise to your staff to help with their mental as well as their physical health.

What type of physical exercise is good for mental health?

The answer to this is that any exercise which gets the heart pumping faster and gets you moving can be good for your mental health. When the body works out it also:

Here are just a few physical exercises which you can encourage your employees to take part in and the benefits they and you will see:


Like most physical exercise, cycling is great as it can elevate the mood and can reduce feelings of depression through the release of the endorphin hormones. But, cycling is also great for your employees for relaxation and to use mindfulness.

When cycling outside, it is the perfect time to really absorb the surroundings, noticing sounds, smells and feelings such as the wind rushing past you. By using mindfulness regularly your employees can become more self-aware not only of their feelings but it can also help them break any negative cycles of feelings.


For those who are less active or are new to working out walking is a great physical exercise to get the heart pumping and release those endorphins. Plus, like cycling, walking is a great time for your employees to implement mindfulness and really take in their surroundings. If there are parks or forests near to your offices or employee’s homes encourage them to explore these areas. According to a study conducted by the Wildlife Trust, 38% of their participants had low wellbeing at the beginning of their study. After 6 weeks of volunteering at a local nature reserve, only 19% stated they felt like this after. This shows taking physical exercise within nature has a positive effect on mental health.


Everyone has heard of the runner’s high and it is a fact that running on a regular basis can do wonders to your mental health from improving quality of sleep to elevating mood through the release of endorphins. Even as an employer you can see benefits as well including a boost in creativity and an increase in productivity.


Tennis is one of the activities you can now take part in under the COVID-19 guidelines and it is another good example of how physical exercise can improve your employer’s mental health.

According to a study conducted by ComRes and the Tennis Foundation, 63% of the participants they asked stated that they feel less isolated whilst playing the sport. So with remote working still in place, this is a great sport for your employers to play to improve their mental health and to get out and socialise with people.

There are many other exercises your employees can take part in which will help with their mental health including yoga which can help employees feel more grounded and can be a great activity to de-stress and give them time to focus purely on themselves.

What benefit will I see as an employer if my employees become more active?

A happier, healthier employee brings a lot of benefits to you as an employer. You are likely to see better productivity and more motivation. As well as this, a better night’s sleep means the employees will be more alert and you may even see a higher creativity rate.

It’s also been proven that physically active employees take on average 27% fewer sick days, are less likely to suffer from major health problems, and less likely to have an accident at work. Not only this but it has been reported that employees are more engaged and present at work if physically active.

How can I help encourage my employees to become/stay active?

There are many different ways you can encourage your employees to be healthier both in body and mind. Here are just a few:

  • Introduce discounts for local leisure/activity centres
  • Promote the government’s cycle to work scheme
  • Consider creating activity clubs to encourage physical exercise
  • Flexible working to allow employees to undertake physical exercise
  • If relocating your offices, consider on-site fitness/gyms or relocating closer to leisure centres/gyms or open green spaces for your people to exercise

For more information, NICE have also published some guidelines on how to encourage physical exercise which you can read here.

On the whole, physical exercise offers so much to employees and employers alike and in these uncertain times, it is important more than ever to ensure we can do everything we can to make sure our employees are looked after and remain healthy. Healthier and happier staff are a more focused, more productive workforce which overall will boost the company exponentially.

To give you an insight into just how much COVID-19 has affected the population’s mental health you can read our post here. Alternatively, for further advice and support on your employee’s wellbeing and mental health get in touch with us.