No Time to Exercise? Blame Your Boss.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Today, in that back-to-school spirit, we have homework for you. Yeah, we know, everybody wants something this time of year, but we're the good guys, remember?

We get a fair volume of comment, especially during our online chats, from people who claim they work in pressure-cooker environments and could never -- no way, absolutely not, impossibilio -- sneak exercise into their workday. They invariably cite overzealous superiors as the root cause and, after snubbing our suggestions of post-work exercise as infringement on their constitutional rights to happy hour, they ask us to help.

We suspect that some of these complainers are just trumpeting their busier-than-thou workaholism with a martyr's sense of pride (oh, sure, Condoleezza, like you're the only one who travels for work). We also assume many gripes reflect reality: We too have toiled in offices where bosses scheduled working doughnut-and-chips lunches and frazzled us with 6 p.m. assignments due at "end of business today."

Luckily some organizations set a different tone, with bosses biking into work, staff playing pickup basketball during lunch and managers holding "business casual" kick-boxing sessions with visiting clients. (Hey, a guy can dream.) An increasing number of companies (including my full-time employer's) arrange discounted or subsidized gym memberships. Some even offer on-campus fitness centers.

This, of course, is sound business: Numerous studies show that people who take activity breaks from sedentary work are more productive and upbeat. Add to that the documented cost to employers of obesity and other chronic diseases related to inactivity, and you have a convincing case for a physically fit workforce.

But back to your assignment: Tell us how your employer encourages or discourages exercise . This could range from budget meetings where every quarterly loss is punished by a month of solitary confinement on the cube farm to executives organizing orienteering outings, or from digitally verified 16-minute lunch breaks to installation of a swank gym.

We also want to know how these facts of worklife affect you, positively and otherwise, and how you manage to wedge some activity into your working days. We're particularly interested in quirky stuff. (Somewhere a CFO combines staff meetings with Krav Maga classes, and we want to hear about it.)

Send your stories via e-mail to move@washpost.com and put "workplace exercise" in the subject line. Anecdotes help -- if nothing else, they can be darn entertaining, and we can always use a few laughs at Moving Crew HQ -- so don't spare the details.

We understand you may not want your name associated with certain comments about your employer (outside of your personal blog, of course). So we will, on request, publish only your first name and the type of organization you work for (for example, "Janet, who works at an iPod accessories warehouse in Jessup". But, hey, we're real journalists here. So we need to know your full name and contact information so we can verify details, including your very existence. We will publish survey results in a future column.

No chat today today -- it's our turn to lead the Hot Yoga session in the conference room-- but we'll be back next week.

-- John Briley


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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