Health-related New Year's resolutions more sustainable if supported at work, experts say

Shawn Francis, right, is a fitness trainer at Linked Strength and Conditioning in Charlottetown. He says gyms are always busier at this time of year.  (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Shawn Francis, right, is a fitness trainer at Linked Strength and Conditioning in Charlottetown. He says gyms are always busier at this time of year. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

At a time when many Islanders may be making New Year's resolutions to become more active and healthy, some experts say those goals are more sustainable if supported by employers in the workplace.

Gyms are always busier at this time of year, said Shawn Francis, a fitness trainer at Linked Strength and Conditioning in Charlottetown. He said it's great to see people motivated, but always reminds them to take it slow and steady.

"Don't do too much too soon," he said. "Stick to the basics, the basics work — don't make it overcomplicated."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Lisette Prefontaine has been working out under Francis's guidance for a few weeks.

She doesn't believe in New Year's resolutions, but she said she thinks January, like the fall, is a great time to take stock of what's important.

Making fitness a priority

"I find January is like a renewal for everything," she said. "You know, what you prioritize in your life, and fitness is one that I prioritize."

Prefontaine is a retiree, but said she has heard some workplaces offer incentives like gym memberships, and thinks employers can play a large role in motivating employees.

"The educational part of it," she said. "It sharpens your mind and, you know, you don't feel lethargic."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Victoria Grainger is the founder of Wellness Works Canada, in Edmonton. She said there's an increasing trend in Canadian workplaces to promote well-being, with a specific post-pandemic emphasis on mental health.

She said wellness initiatives are especially effective when employers are "really being strategic and intentional about supporting well-being holistically ... finding out what employees need but integrating it into your daily work practices so that it's sustainable."

Grainger said there are proven benefits of embedding wellness initiatives into the workday.

"There's a ton of research around if you give employees time, even if it's only 15 minutes to go on a quick walking break with their team or maybe it's half an hour a day to invest in their well-being that the dividends will show for themselves in terms of the increased level of productivity and creativity."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Working out — at work

The RCMP has on-site gyms at many of its locations, which can be used during the workday when time allows.

"Our mandate and priority is kind of the frontline police officers, but we offer all of our services to all employees of the RCMP as well," said RCMP fitness and health advisor Kyle Aucoin.

Other employer examples include UPEI, which offers a free walking track membership for staff.

Federal and provincial government employers also told CBC News they help employees with gym memberships and other activities.

Submitted by RCMP
Submitted by RCMP

The P.E.I. government offers a fitness club for civil service employees, said a government spokesperson in an email. The program offers a discounted rate to several fitness facilities across P.E.I. Employees of the civil service can then choose what facility best fits their needs, and participate in a payment plan where the rate is deducted from their pay bi-weekly.

The province also recently launched the You Matter mental health resource, which encourages employees to take part in activities like stretch breaks, walking, exercise, outdoor activities, body relaxation, meditation and more.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Back at the gym, Francis said he thinks workplace encouragement and incentives for employee well-being would have significant health benefits — both physical and mental.

"That would be huge," he said. "You would see a lot less stress levels, more energy and people would be in better moods as well."