Less than a quarter (22 per cent) of workplaces offer the cycle-to-work scheme, while just 5 per cent allow employees to exercise during their lunch break

Those who do not tend to exercise are more likely to have below average mental wellbeing

Three in five workplaces (57 per cent) do not offer or do anything to encourage their employees to be more active, according to new research from Opinium*.

The benefits of a healthy lifestyle are well known, but employers are yet to realise the benefit of encouraging their workforce to be healthy. At present, only one in five (22 per cent) employers offer a cycle-to-work scheme, 14 per cent have subsidized gym memberships, and 13 per cent provide exercise classes at work such as a running club, or yoga sessions. Just 8 per cent of workplaces have after work sports teams and 5 per cent encourage and allow employees to exercise during their lunchbreak.

Regional divide

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of those living in the East of England said their workplaces do not offer anything to encourage employees to be more active, with 72 per cent in the East Midlands and 64 per cent in the South East saying the same. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Londoners have the most exercise options available to them through their workplace, with 26 per cent able to access the cycle-to-work scheme, 24 per cent offered a subsidized gym membership, and 24 per cent also offered exercise classes through work.

The research also reiterated the positive link between exercise and mental wellbeing, which should not be overlooked by employers. Those who exercised at least once during a typical week have higher mental wellbeing than those who do not tend to exercise**. Futhermore, exercising in a group is shown to elicit more positive feelings than exercising alone:

  • 38 per cent of those who exercise as part of a group feel happy as opposed to 22 per cent who exercise alone
  • 35 per cent of those who exercise as part of a group feel energised as opposed to 24 per cent who exercise alone


The reasons given by Brits for feeling more motivated to exercise as a group include:

  • Having more fun when exercising with other people (43 per cent)
  • Providing the opportunity to socialise as well as exercise (40 per cent)
  • Exercise does not feel like a chore when doing it as part of a group (38 per cent)


Sophie Holland at Opinium states:

“Whether we like it or not, the majority of our time is spent in the workplace. Our employers expect a lot from us and the pressure to perform is always there. Our research shows that the majority of workplaces do not encourage or incentivize their employees to exercise, be it by subsidising gym memberships or other benefits – and this could be unwise in the long term given the links between exercise and mental health”

Sarah Stewart-Brown, Professor of Public Health from Warwick University adds:

“The relationship between mental health and exercise is likely a bidirectional one, with exercise improving mental health, as well as good mental health driving increased exercise. It would be a wise move for more employers to encourage exercise amongst their workforce. Not only would employees that exercise find themselves more motivated and with better mental wellbeing, they would also likely increase their productivity at work too.”

Are you interested in wellbeing at work? Why not join us at Symposium’s Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Forum in November?






Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.