Employee health and wellbeing – simple exercise messages can help ‘pandemic’ of inactivity

The UK is facing a “pandemic” of physical inactivity, research has argued. Simple, easy-to-stick-to workplace-based support and education may be one answer.

Employee health and wellbeing – simple exercise messages can help ‘pandemic’ of inactivity

The UK is facing a “pandemic” of physical inactivity, which is resulting in premature mortality rates, particularly in deprived areas, a study has concluded.

Research by the not-for-profit health organisation ukactive http://www.ukactive.com/policy-insight/turning-the-tide-of-inactivity has concluded that in some areas of the country up to 40% of the adult population can be classed as inactive, with 12.4 million failing to raise their heart levels for more than 30 minutes a week.

The health watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has also urged local authorities to do much more to improve the health and wellbeing of their local communities http://www.nice.org.uk/newsroom/pressreleases/NewNICEBriefingLocalAuthoritiesImprovePeoplesHealthWhileSavingMoney.jsp

Separately, but along much the same lines, a survey by pharmaceutical company Astellas www.astellas.com has concluded that just a quarter of British workers do enough exercise to stay fit and healthy.

Minimum activity

The majority (64%) of the 2,000 adults polled were failing to do even the minimum amount of exercise needed to stay fit and healthy each week, such as 150 minutes of fast walking or cycling.

And, just adding to the weight of evidence building in this area, a poll of 1,000 UK office workers by Sanlam Private Investments www.spi.sanlam.co.uk has concluded more than half (55%) of their working day is spent sitting down, with almost 60% admitting they do not take a lunch break.

The ukactive research in particular has suggested a number of recommendations, for government, local authorities and the “activity sector”.

These include, among others, developing and delivering “a cross-party, cross-government and crosssector national inactivity strategy” (government); prioritising and resourcing “physical inactivity programmes to the same level as other top tier public health risks” (local authorities); and focusing “on engaging and supporting inactive people” (activity sector).

Role of employers

But there is, of course, another resource that society should be able to call on: employers.

The role employers can play in promoting and encouraging healthier, fitter lifestyles has been well-recognised, as have been the potential return benefits in terms of engagement, productivity and energy levels.

But perhaps the message needs to be that, given the scale of the problem facing our society around sedentary lifestyles, employers need to recognise even simple messages have value.

Simple steps

So it doesn’t need to be about encouraging people to go all-out and head off to the gym; it can be as simple as encouraging people to walk upstairs from time to time, taking a walk around the block at lunchtime, getting off one stop earlier and walking the rest of their commute and so on.

This sort of activity is, of course, pretty much the absolute minimum people need to be doing to retain and protect their health.

But it’s better than not doing anything and, just as importantly, could be a starting point from which people over time increase their exercise levels as they feel and see the benefits coming through.

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Posted in Occupational health by OH Assist on the 17th April 2014

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