Workplace sport plays an important role in keeping people physically and mentally healthy as well as improving productivity, a new study has found.
People who struggle to fit in physical activity around their busy lives should take advantage of sporting opportunities with work colleagues, according to research by Loughborough University.
Playing team games such as football, netball, volleyball and rugby will naturally improve fitness, health and wellbeing.
However, in a study of workplace sport in UK businesses, What Benefits Does Team Sport Hold for the Workplace?, researchers also found benefits for team function and organisational productivity, as well as employee health.
Authors Andrew Brinkley, Hilary McDermott and Fehmidah Munir of Loughborough’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, said the benefits were multifaceted.
Andrew said: “Our review adds to the literature base and suggests workplace team sport as an alternative to leisure time physical activity to improve physiological factors, including VO2 peak, exercise heart rate, body composition, and psychological and mental well-being health outcomes.
“Improvements in individual health outcomes can impact societal challenges and reduce the risk of non-communicable disease and all-cost mortality.
“Further, workplace team sports should be considered by organisations due to the organisational benefits, such as reduced sickness costs and increased work performance and team cohesion among those participating.
“… employees participating in any type of workplace physical activity where interaction takes place between employees in a team or group format to reach a competitive or non-competitive shared common goal or outcome has many benefits, for example winning, skill-development, task completion.”
Other activities which the researchers looked at included cycling, walking, swimming, table tennis, climbing and canoeing.
The sports are a suitable alternative for people who find it difficult to fit in physical activity during leisure time.
“Work–life barriers to leisure-time physical activity, such as times and childcare, can impede people when it comes to exercise,” said Andrew.
“We’re not suggesting that workplace sport is any better for you physically than leisure-time physical activity, but it is an equally beneficial alternative – especially if it’s the only opportunity for exercise you’re going to get.”
The study investigated 18 previous papers based on the various benefits of workplace activity.
Each study was rated on its methodology and scientific quality and the findings were collated for employee health, workplace team function and organisational productivity.
Andrew said: “The findings of this study support the promotion of team sport within a workplace setting.
“Programmes such as Workplace Challenge may form a feasible form of participation for employees.”