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A Guide to Setting Up a Gym in the Workplace

July 29, 2019

Woman at desk with workout shoes.
Linsey Knerl

Working out has so many benefits, from increasing mental clarity to helping reduce the risk of serious disease. While working out in our private lives makes sense, there's a push to combine the interests of career and personal fitness by setting up a gym in the workplace. For those who don't know where to start, it's essential to prioritize what works for your unique space and teams. From buying equipment to addressing the risks, here's how to make your office gym one that everyone can enjoy.

Don't Blow the Budget

Buying all-new equipment with the latest tech advances is tempting. In reality, most people do just fine with the more basic tools that work for a variety of fitness levels and skills. Start small to begin with, and if you see that the office gym is truly gaining popularity, look for affordable ways to expand. It can be risky to purchase used equipment; if you decide to buy pre-owned, look for a dealer that offers a warranty with their products.

Offer a Well-Rounded Workout

Setting up a gym in the workplace should create value for everyone, so it's important to give workers different ways to exercise. Look for equipment that nurtures both cardio and strength-training goals. For cardio, treadmills are a simple solution, along with an elliptical or stationary bike (which may be easier on knees and joints).

Strength training may only require kettle bells or small free-weights. If space allows, look for strength-training machines that do many exercises in one unit. Your goal isn't to train pro athletes; skip the Olympic-sized weights, which aren't used by the larger population and may lead to damaged property or hurt employees.

Include some extras — like yoga mats, bands and balls — for those who aren't into machines. You'll also need designated spaces for gentle stretching or a Pilates workout. The most popular fitness routines will require some room to move about.

Take Advantage of Outdoor Space

It's amazing how much room a simple treadmill can require, so use your indoor space wisely. If you can't accommodate more than one type of machine, make it easier for employees to move about outside of your office. From bike rentals to walking paths, outdoor activities count, too. They also offer the added benefits of fresh air and sunshine!

Mitigate the Risks

Exercise isn't without its perils; someone unfamiliar with the workout equipment could injure themselves. You could host a mandatory orientation session to cover the proper way to work out. You may also want to consider liability waivers; enlist your legal department to research how to do this and if additional liability insurance will be required. Keep your equipment maintained and clean, and never allow workers to use the office gym alone. A buddy system ensures that there's help when it's needed.

Emphasize the Benefits for Everyone

An empty office gym doesn't help anyone; encourage management to lead the way by demonstrating how easy it is to get in a short workout. Make it easy for employees to schedule activity in their day, offering end-of-day workout sessions for those who don't want to work up a sweat in the middle of their shift. Consider incorporating trackable workout goals into a company rewards program. It's up to leadership to send the message that work can wait — at least while you're working out!

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