The physical benefits of regular exercise are well known, while there is also plenty of research to suggest it can have positive effects on mental health, such as by reducing stress.

But employers may also want to consider taking measures to improve their staff’s fitness levels as a means to improve productivity.

According to Jan Hills, partner at talent strategy and HR consultancy Orion Partners, studies suggest that exercise can improve employees’ performance in a number of ways, including improving memory and cognitive functions.

In an article for, she cited studies that have recorded improved test scores for fitter students and greater productivity among fitter employees.

For example, one study claimed that fitter employees are as much as 15 per cent more productive, while in another, scientists contended that the brain functions better when people are walking or at least moving around.

“It seems that not only does exercise help manage stress [and] have positive physical effects, it also increases working memory and boosts mood which is itself known to help to make connections and to improve cognition,” said Ms Hills.

“Scientists believe that exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which may help prolong healthy brain cells.”

She suggested several workplace guidelines which employers could follow to increase staff fitness levels and improve productivity.

“One idea is to role model what you expect of others. So instead of booking a meeting room conduct the meeting on the go. Arrange to meet and walk maybe to the coffee shop but better still just around the block or office campus discussing your agenda.”

Ms Hills also recommends scheduling breaks for staff frequently throughout the day.

“This refreshes the brain and is also beneficial for freeing up tension, which builds from sitting in front of a computer,” she said.

The health and fitness of staff can be a major issue for employers, with numerous studies suggesting that many employees lead dangerously sedentary lifestyles.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Work & Health Research Centre, Loughborough University, revealed that in a typical working week, people spend on average five hours and 41 minutes per day sitting at their desk, while nearly 70 per cent of employees surveyed did not meet recommended guidelines for physical activity.