With revelations early this year from Marcel Kittel and the tragic passing of track cyclist Kelly Catlin back in March, professional cycling and mental health has become a hot topic within cycling media and an issue to be addressed by those at the top of the sport.
However, for the everyday cyclist or fitness enthusiast, the benefits of a quick spin are endless, from weight loss to stress relief, and an enhanced social life.
But not all of us can benefit from a long outdoor ride to brush away the day's stresses. Lots of us work long hours in challenging jobs, and it can often be a battle to come home and work out.
Research by the World Health Organisation finds that around 23% of adults (worldwide) don’t get enough physical activity within their working day. Lack of physical activity can lead to further issues and health complications, from weight gain and heart difficulties to depression and anxiety. Reports of ill mental health in the workplace are rising rapidly; The Telegraph reported that 13million working days were lost to stress and depression in 2017, so what could workplaces be doing better?
The effects of exercise on wellbeing and stress reduction have been proven time and time again. Stressed out employees are likely to struggle to focus or think clearly, whilst exercise has been proven to reduce cortisol levels, so you could argue it makes sense to add a level of movement into your working day. Leading the way in workplace wellness, Bjorn Borg, a sports clothing and underwear manufacturer, close operations every Friday for an hour of mandatory exercise and employees are set yearly fitness and wellness goals which are supported by a personal trainer. Social media scheduling platform, Hootsuite, introduced yoga classes during lunchtimes. And now, Swedish IT company Sigma have introduced a Wattbike Atom and Zwift set-up in their office after introducing a new initiative called Tech Boost, designed to increase morale and productivity at work.
Team Leader and .Net developer, Johan Fischer, suggested the Wattbike room, taking inspiration from his hectic home life as a father of two. He’d already built a pain cave in his garage in order to train both early mornings and late nights, so he knew it would be beneficial for himself and others to be able to take the time to train at the office. This would mean that they could spend more time with their families when they get back home.
“By exercising during office hours, we are not only just making ourselves better for the future, but making the future better for others as well.” - Johan Fischer, Team Leader and .Net developer at Sigma.
All employees at Sigma can book sessions on the Wattbike Atom and the response amongst Johan’s co-workers has been hugely positive. Sigma IT say that health in the workplace is important and should be prioritised. The addition of the Wattbike room has also added something in that has not only been beneficial to the employees' wellbeing, but the use of the room is incentivised so that Sigma donate to charity based on the total amount of time trained in the room.
But it’s not just employees that can reap the benefits of exercising at work - employers will see them too. According to 2017’s Thriving at Work report produced by the UK Government, it’s estimated that mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year due to employees being less productive, taking leave and high staff turnover. To help combat this, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggested that workplaces should recognise the potential benefits of cycling, and make the effort to at least advertise local exercise classes such as spin classes, have adequate bike storage, showers and even access to a pool of bikes for staff use.
A study by Bristol University also found that employees that could exercise at work were ‘more productive, happy, efficient and calm,’ and exercise re-energised staff, improved concentration and made them feel calmer.