This study will make you want to buy an at-home exercise bike immediately

Employee wellness has been front and center since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Companies have provided resources — from teletherapy to weekly virtual company powwows — to keep a close eye on everyone’s well-being during these unprecedented times, both personally and professionally.

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the patience of many as our lives have been forced together like the wrong piece of a jigsaw puzzle. While routines have been set since the start of the pandemic in March, workers can get a good sense of where their company stands in providing them resources to not only be successful but also happy, which starts with benefit packages.

For employees during the pandemic, companies that provide fitness benefits is the biggest prize of all outside of healthcare, according to a new study (and there’s a good reason why).

Fitness company ClassPass recently conducted a study on wellness trends during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding that 70% of professionals around the globe said they valued fitness benefits the most outside of healthcare.

The study, which included responses from more than 2,000 working professionals in 19 countries, found that fitness was sought after by employees for a number of reasons including ways it can benefit them and their employer.

Ninety-six percent of respondents said they feel more motivated and less stressed after exercising, while another 89% said they feel more productive during the work day after exercising.

Although out fitness routines have changed since the start of the pandemic, that doesn’t mean workers at home haven’t adjusted. Routines such at at-home yoga and outdoor running increased in the early months. Stationary bikes — like Peloton — saw big booms in demand. But how will the worker approach 2021 with gyms and boutique fitness centers continued to be crunched on space due to social distancing limitations?

Half of professionals said they plan to incorporate a mix of in-studio and at-home workouts, while 40% said they will return exclusively to in-studio programs when they feel it’s safe to do so.

“Offices are now prominently placed in bedrooms and living rooms, making it tough to close laptops and focus on self-care,” Nicole Wolfe, head of corporate programs at ClassPass, said in a statement. “We see the need for employers to meet employees where they are both physically and geographically by providing a wide range of virtual and in-person fitness offerings, allowing for times when employees need to destress and find calm through gentle yoga and meditation, as well as those times when a high-impact cardio class is needed to let off some steam. Corporate wellness benefits are no longer nice to have, they are a must have.”

Lower fitness = higher depression?

In separate findings from the University College London, people who workout less are apparently twice as likely to experience depression or anxiety. The study, published in BMC Medicine, found that low fitness levels contributed to a 60% greater chance of developing anxiety.

The study included 152,978 participants in the UK who completed an exercise routine on a stationary bike and were asked about their mental wellbeing. After seven years, the subjects were tested for depression and anxiety symptoms, which is where researchers made the link between depression and fitness routines.

“Our findings suggest that encouraging people to exercise more could have extensive public health benefits, improving not only our physical health but our mental health too. Improving fitness through a combination of cardio exercise and strength and resistance training appears to be more beneficial than just focusing on aerobic or muscular fitness,” said senior author Dr. Joseph Hayes.