Fitness and frivolity in the workplace must involve everyone

There’s a good reason why public parks are packed with grownups playing tag on all fours and running piggy-back relays. Adult play is now part of the booming health and fitness industry.

Start-ups like Rabble – specialising in interactive games for adults – are helping grownups find their inner kid and partake in fun physical activitites like ducking dodgeballs to increase speed, agility, coordination, strength and endurance.

Games for grownups can, of course, double up as heart-pumping, adrenaline-fuelled team bonding sessions if colleagues get involved together.

Meanwhile, one in seven members of the British public is now a gym member, according to the Leisure Database Company, fuelled by the rise of flexible, low-cost, budget gyms.

Both play and gym-based exercise share the same manifold benefits: increasing blood flow to the brain to enhance productivity, improving fitness, burning calories, tackling the obesity epidemic, boosting the immune system and reducing sick days.

But playing games won’t suit everyone. Why? Because it doesn’t involve targeted strength and conditioning. Some bodies need to use exercise to aid specific goals like counteracting age-related muscle loss or strengthening weaker parts of the body.

Read: Play for adults - nostalgia, commercialism or therapy?

Getting involved in group games could aggravate an injury that has not been fixed so, for those with pre-existing injuries, or lacking a good existing level of fitness and strength, the risk of injury is higher than a gym session under instruction.

For this reason, employers encouraging fitness and wellbeing should promote a range of different physical activities to suit everyone, and to ensure maximum participation.

The sliding scale below includes five ideas for group play and exercise, ranging from low to high intensity:

1. Board Games

Board games are all the rage. Hipster pubs have shelves groaning with Monopoly, Frustration, Scrabble and Cluedo and beer gardens featuring giant Jenga, croquet and chess sets. Many host regular board game nights.

Workplaces might want to think about stacking their shelves with games, too, because this board game trend reminds us there’s beauty in the analogue. The chance to socialise without having to resort to small talk is compelling, and you can tell a lot about another person by how they play a game.

2. Drama and improvisation

Improv is being used by the likes of Google and McKinsey to improve critical business skills like rapid response off the cuff, listening and communicating, enhancing presentation delivery, negotiation and pitching techniques.

Audience members set the scene and performers cannot prepare because they don’t know what will happen until they get on stage. The unfolding narrative can be developed as new performers swap in. It builds confidence, and provokes plenty of laughter.

3. Virtual, real-time group exercise

The rise of flexible and mobile working means teams are often scattered. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Social running app Racefully connects friends and strangers who can jog together in real time, while Zwift offers social group bike rides on virtual roads, when paired with a indoor training gear i.e. a compatible turbo trainer or rollers.

4. Small group gym training

For something higher intensity, consider small group fitness training sessions such as those offered by WeGym. Those taking part in personal trainer-led sessions will benefit from the attentive eye of a professional who can tailor exercises around existing injuries and weaknesses.

The employer benefits from the lower cost of group sessions, and all the productivity, health and wellbeing benefits to employees that a good gym workout offers. Because you’re working in a pair or small group, the instructor will usually instil some competition into the mix to make participants work harder.

5. Epic sporting challenges

Before launching Spotter, I worked for a price comparison business that encouraged staff to take part in sporting team challenges of epic proportions, ranging from the endurance and obstacle event Tough Mudder, to cycling from London to Paris, to swimming the English Channel. Not only did these challenges raise thousands of pounds for charity, not wanting to let the rest of the team down was an incentive to train like no other. Often, employers will agree to match donations, host fundraising events and provide kit.

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