Sports at work and old age

Exercise encourages you to work out – and prevents back pain and muscle atrophy. Why a number of companies encourage their employees to exercise and how to motivate yourself.

Inertia is a physical principle. She says: Bodies strive to remain in their state of motion. People also want to maintain their condition and prefer to move less than more. More exercises will benefit us for the time being, both in private and professional life. Because: “The coronavirus pandemic has reduced the performance of a lot of people. It will be important that they can return to normal sports,” says Franz Seidelmayer of the Salzburg Professional Medical Service (AMD), describing the situation.

The positive results of corporate sports: more productivity, less sick leave

The Head of Occupational Medicine at AMD Salzburg outlines the positive results of exercise in two main aspects: In terms of companies, exercise and healthy nutrition make the workforce more productive and at the same time more relaxed. Sick days can be reduced because employees stay in better health. Those companies that consciously create sports shows have seen the connection for years, like feedback from companies that have become active shows. More and more companies are slowly learning this connection, and the pandemic has often led to a rethink of improving employee health.

Photo: SN / amd

The pandemic has reduced the performance of many.

Franz Seidelmayr, Head of Occupational Medicine, AMD Salzburg

Skilled managers now allow their employees to exercise during their lunch breaks, such as Zumba aerobics, to get their brain cells and musculoskeletal system active. Others have set up gyms where “brain workers” sit in front of a PC row, run and do circuit training. Some skip the mark, for example when someone with a fear of heights is run over while climbing in company. Franz Seidelmeier emphasizes the need for companies to proceed with a sense of proportion and common sense. Most who provide company sports do so anyway. They offer younger employees who run groups and older employees, who may not be able to walk due to knee problems, Nordic Walks together. Training together creates advantages: “You encourage each other to come regularly. Social skills increase as well as exchange between each other. All of this also increases motivation to work,” Seidelmayr says.

Measures and bonus packages make sense. For example, an occupational physician describes his workplace at AMD: “The elevator is not used on a ‘healthy’ Tuesday. I walk seven floors from my car on the third floor to the office. Then there’s a free bowl of fruit as a bonus.”

It is relatively easy for companies to participate in major events such as running a business. When a colleague hears the phrase, “We need a fourth person for our season,” it often serves to overcome human inertia. Structural adaptations are more complex. If companies wanted to encourage employees to cycle to work, changing rooms with showers and room to hang wet clothes were needed. Franz Seidelmeier asserts: “Something like this must be experienced by management, and then work.” The Health Insurance Fund, which recently awarded 45 companies in Salzburg the Quality Seal for Health Promotion in the Workplace, has a supportive effect. Outdoor sports courses held directly at the sports facility are an alternative to their own sports facilities and companies that do not have shower facilities.

‘No sport is not a solution either’

If you (also) especially want to do more sports, you can use some tricks to jumpstart your life. In her book No Sport Is Also No Answer (Patmos-Verlag, 2021), German writer Christine Friedrich presents a valiant motivational program for “no exercise” as it was until her 60th birthday. We are getting older, Friedrich asserts, but many of us have lived longer. Sports can be used to prevent and counteract it. If you want to stay healthy, you can start exercising after the age of 60. Of course, it makes sense as of the age of 30. “This is the time when physical decline begins and muscle mass diminishes by about one percent per year,” stresses the author. Building muscle can help prevent muscle atrophy, for example with weight training in the gym. Besides endurance training such as running or cycling, many medical professionals see the optimal combination. In the best cases, there are also feelings of happiness during or after exercise.

The best primary motivator (besides training colleagues) is the inner attitude. “Ask yourself what you still want to be able to do in old age,” advises Christine Friedrich in her book. Once you know what you want, you need to make a plan, which (not too big) are the tangible goals you set for yourself. The SMART formula is practical, according to which goals should be of five types: meaningful (S), i.e. worthwhile, measurable (M), attractive (A), realistic (R), time-limited (T). The goals must be completed by a certain time in the future – so as not to give in to procrastination.

For running, Friedrich recommends consciously discovering new ways of running. Buy shoes, shorts and a running shirt. Use an app to measure progress and set weekly goals. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts against boredom. It is generally easier for those who reward themselves for stage successes, both at work and in their spare time.

Book tip: Kirsten Friedrich: “No sport is not a solution”, 2021, Patmos-Verlag.

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