3 Ways Your Workplace Can Promote Your Physical Health

by Symphony Chau, Senior Analyst – Communications, Center for Active Design

Physical inactivity is now comparative with smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the world. As Americans continue to spend more time at work (over 1,700 hours a year), often in sedentary office environments, we must leverage our workplaces to reduce inactivity, encourage physical activity, and support overall employee health.

Since supporting employee illness and injury costs employers greatly, more and more companies are prioritizing an integrated approach to employee health promotion that includes building design and operations. The Fitwel Certification System is a tool for companies to apply evidence-based design and operational strategies to support the health of occupants. Fitwel is currently available for workplace and multifamily residential settings. Fitwel for workplace includes 63 strategies that any company, regardless of size, budget, or location, can implement within their workplace health promotion strategy.

Below are three example strategies within the Fitwel Standard that can help to kick start conversations about how to support health in the workplace.

 Promote and incentive active commuting

Policies and incentives that support active commuting can spur regular use of healthier alternatives. In a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, cycling to work was associated with a 41% lower risk of dying overall compared to commuting by car or public transport and walkers have a 27% lower risk of heart disease and 36% lower risk of dying from it. There are a number of ways that workplaces can encourage employees to participate in active commuting, including:

  • conducting annual commuter surveys to understand employees’ transportation needs;
  • providing adequate bike parking;
  • providing showers to increase the appeal of active commuting in a broad range of weather conditions; and
  • charging fair market value for parking to encourage the use of alternative transportation options.

 Provide employees with access to standing desks

Standing desks can promote movement during the workday. The Center for Active Design and other study partners recently published a year-long study, which suggests that sit-stand desks can encourage people to be more productive and concentrate better in the workplace, and improve overall health after leaving the office. Below are some examples of active workstations:

  • adjustable workstations or “sit-stand” desks;
  • treadmills or bicycle-attached workstations;
  • under-desk elliptical machines;
  • portable desk pedals; and
  • stepper machines.
  1. Promote employee stair use through active design strategies

Implementing active design strategies in your workplace’s stairwell design contributes to increased stair usage. According to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, just two minutes or 6 floors of stair climbing a day burns enough calories to prevent average U.S. adult annual weight gain.

Placing signage in prominently placed locations such as elevator call areas and designing stairwells using active design best practices can encourage employees and visitors to take the stairs and increase daily physical activity. Leveraging this research, Fitwel Strategies encourage projects to post motivational signs, install a music system or creative lighting, moderate stairwell temperature, paint walls a bright color, and hang framed artwork. Collectively, these strategies are a low-cost, high-impact intervention that any workplace can implement to contribute to their employees’ well-being.


To learn more about additional strategies to advocate for in your workplace—such as having healthy food options, emergency procedures, tobacco-free policies and more—download the Fitwel Scorecard at www.fitwel.org. Share with us on social media and tag your healthy workplaces with #fitwelworkplaces!

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