Playing sports like football and rugby at work could not only keep you healthy but improve your productivity as well

Workplace sport plays an important role in keeping people physically and mentally healthy as well as improving productivity, a new study has found.

People who struggle to fit in physical activity around their busy lives should take advantage of sporting opportunities with work colleagues, according to research by Loughborough University.

Playing team games such as football, netball, volleyball and rugby will naturally improve fitness, health and wellbeing.

However, in a study of workplace sport in UK businesses, What Benefits Does Team Sport Hold for the Workplace?, researchers also found benefits for team function and organisational productivity, as well as employee health.

Authors Andrew Brinkley, Hilary McDermott and Fehmidah Munir of Loughborough’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, said the benefits were multifaceted.

Andrew said: “Our review adds to the literature base and suggests workplace team sport as an alternative to leisure time physical activity to improve physiological factors, including VO2 peak, exercise heart rate, body composition, and psychological and mental well-being health outcomes.

“Improvements in individual health outcomes can impact societal challenges and reduce the risk of non-communicable disease and all-cost morality.

“Further, workplace team sports should be considered by organisations due to the organisational benefits, such as reduced sickness costs and increased work performance and team cohesion among those participating.”

“… employees participating in any type of workplace physical activity where interaction takes place between employees in a team or group format to reach a competitive or non-competitive shared common goal or outcome – for example winning, skill-development, task completion.”From the paper

Other activities which the researchers looked at included cycling, walking, swimming, table tennis, climbing and canoeing.

The sports are a suitable alternative for people who find it difficult to fit in physical activity during leisure time.

“Due to work-life barriers during leisure-time physical activity such as times, such as childcare, can impede people when it comes to exercise,” said Andrew.

“We’re not suggesting that workplace sport is any better for you physically than leisure time physical activity, but it is an equally as beneficial alternative – especially if it’s the only opportunity for exercise you’re going to get.”

The study investigated 18 previous papers based on the various benefits of workplace activity.

Each study was rated on its methodology and scientific quality and the findings were collated for employee health, workplace team function and organisational productivity.

Andrew said: “The findings of this study support the promotion of team sport within a workplace setting.

“Programmes such as Workplace Challenge may form a feasible form of participation for employees.”

Read the full paper here.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 17/145

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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world to study sports-related subjects in the 2017 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 6th in the Guardian University League Table 2018, 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and 10th in The UK Complete University Guide 2018. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.