May Is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month – 11 Ways Companies Can Participate

May Is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month – 11 Ways Companies Can Participate

Businesses benefit when their employees engage in healthy lifestyle choices. According to the CDC, healthier choices:

  • Lower healthcare costs for employers and employees
  • Boost employee productivity
  • Reduce absenteeism, and
  • Improve employee morale.


What Is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month?

Global Employee Health and Fitness Month (GEHFM) is an international event founded in 1989 and takes place each May. The intention is to promote the benefits of healthy living for employers and employees. Companies are encouraged to plan activities and programs to encourage healthy behaviors inside and outside the workplace.

Health and fitness are more important to emphasize than ever before. According to the CDC, over the past 20 years, U.S. obesity rates increased from 30.5% to 41.9%. During the same time, severe obesity rates (BMI of 40 or higher) have nearly doubled from 4.7% to 9.2%.

What Are the Benefits of Improving the Health and Fitness of Employees?

Recognizing the importance of health and fitness is as obvious as seeing the human in Human Resources. Your employees aren’t robots or machines. People aren’t at their best when they aren’t feeling well. When employees feel energized, well-rested, and healthy, they can perform at their best.

Mood is impacted by stress levels. Stress levels can be reduced with proper exercise. When your employees are in a better mood, they are more likely to be positive with co-workers and customers. According to the American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, proper exercise results in:

  • “Improved cognition, including memory, attention, and processing speed
  • Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s, several types of cancer, and some complications of pregnancy
  • Better sleep
  • Less weight gain, obesity, and related chronic health conditions
  • Better bone health and balance, with less risk of injury from falls
  • Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Better quality of life and sense of overall well-being.”

When your employees are injured or hurt, they can’t help you grow your business. When your employees are suffering from brain fog and drowsiness, they’re not able to be their most productive and creative. Support employees’ health so they can support your business.

As noted by the American Heart Association, there is a clear connection between physical health and mental health too. According to the John W. Brick Foundation, 89% of all published peer-reviewed research between 1990 and 2022 found a positive, statistically significant relationship between exercise and mental health.

The Foundation reports that three to five 30-45-minute moderate to vigorous exercise sessions per week deliver optimal mental health benefits. When your employees say they need a “mental health” day, they mean it. Burnout is real. Reduce turnover in your business by supporting healthy lifestyles.

How Can Businesses Participate in Global Employee Health and Fitness Month?

Here are 11 ways:

1 – Schedule Stretching Breaks During the Day

A simple 5-minute stretch break at the same time each day can alleviate stiff muscles and get the blood circulating. Decades ago, it was common for workers to take smoke breaks. Replace these with ad hoc stretching breaks. Employees can take a quick mental break, socialize, and stretch their legs.

2 – Provide Healthy Snacks

The company pantry doesn’t need to be full of chips and soda. The snack room can also be a source of healthier options like apples, bananas, baby carrots, blueberries, celery, hard-boiled eggs, and more. Instead of soda, provide employees with a selection of teas, coffee, and sparkling water.

3 – Reimburse Gym Membership Fees

Some employers offer partial reimbursement for gym memberships. While other companies have on-site fitness centers available to employees. Either tactic makes it easier for employees to participate in exercise programs.

4 – Home Gym Equipment Allowance

Businesses can offer workers a set amount of money to use towards equipment for use at home. Many remote businesses offer a budget per employee to pay for office equipment such as a comfortable chair or desk. Companies can do the same for equipment that makes their employees physically stronger.

5 – Allow and Encourage “Moving” Meetings

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was known for his walking meetings. If your work environment permits it, you may be able to conduct your one-on-one meetings or small meetings while walking outside or around the hallways.

Remote teams can meet while walking on treadmills or using cardio equipment they’ve purchased with their home equipment allowance. According to Stanford research, a person’s creative output increases by an average of 60 percent when walking.

6 – Promote Active Commuting

Make it as easy as possible for employees to bicycle or walk to work. Companies can provide bike racks and reimburse employees for bicycle equipment. A small public relations firm in San Diego called Mixte Communications was awarded the Bicycle Friendly Business Gold designation from the League of American Bicyclists. They provided employees with showers, a flexible dress code, bike parking, and workshops on bike maintenance and safety.

7 – Create “Steps” Competitions and Walking Clubs

Games with prizes make it fun for workers to get moving. There are fitness apps designed for small and medium-sized businesses that make it easy to set up monthly competitions. A walking club can be as simple as a sign-up sheet for folks who want to walk together during breaks or after work to socialize.

8 – Set up Afterwork Team Sports

Build camaraderie by playing kickball, volleyball, tennis, softball, bowling, or just about any sport. Organizing a league or participating in an existing league with your company represented as a team can be fun and support healthy habits.

9 – Promote Healthy Lifestyle Choices Outside of Work

Businesses can let employees know about places to walk, bike, roller-skate, kayak, ski, hike, and more in their local area. Companies can also highlight healthy food choices and restaurants. A company newsletter can include these items during Global Employee Health and Fitness Month or anytime.

10 – Hire a Fitness Instructor to Come On-Site

Offering a fitness class at your place of business before, during, or after work that’s free for employees can really incentivize participation. If equipment isn’t available, it’s still possible to conduct classes for yoga, non-contact martial arts, cardio, push-ups, sit-ups, jogging in place, and so on.

11 – Celebrate the Conclusion of Global Employee Health and Fitness Month with a Party

Host a healthy meal and discuss how the initiative felt for everyone. Talk about which policies worked best and which could be improved upon. If it’s within the budget, gift employees with a voucher for a professional massage. Or select a certain number of employees to receive the gift based on their participation level in GEHFM.

Next Steps

Bring together a committee to plan Global Employee Health and Fitness Month. Smaller businesses can show they care for employees by simply acknowledging Global Employee Health and Fitness Month by promoting healthy choices and backing it up with at least one of the actions listed above.

This information is provided with the understanding that Payroll Partners is not rendering legal, human resources, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from a lawyer, HR consultant or other professional.