May is Employee Health and Fitness Month

In this Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, make it a point to promote the importance of fitness and a healthy diet whether you are an employer or an employee. After all, this could improve the health and wellbeing of employees and could save Companies £££s. 

According to research from AXA back in 2017 nearly half (46%) of workers spend 4 to 6 hours sitting during office hours and a further 25% spend 7 to 8 hours being seated. For most of us the time we spend sitting isn't just limited to office hours as a large percentage of us also commute to work. The C.I.PD also reported on this in 2019 finding that on average, office workers now spend 75% of their day sitting at their desks.

The medical profession defines sedentary behavior as prolonged sitting whether at a work desk or in front of the TV, for at least six hours per day. So, for most of us when we take account of our work, commuting and a bit of T.V in the evening there is no question that we’re living a sedentary lifestyle.

The combination of the physical and mental impact to health makes a sedentary lifestyle particularly problematic, but I’m not going to go on about the long-term health impact of this lifestyle, we all know what we should and shouldn’t be doing to stay healthy. But how can we make the time and how can our employers, who generally benefit from this sedentary time, assist us to make a change?  

The role of employers is more crucial than ever during this month since they are the ones who create different initiatives that not only spread awareness regarding how essential good health is but also urge their employees to participate in projects and activities that have physical and mental health benefits. 

The exercise guidelines advise us to cut down on sedentary time where possible and recommend doing light physical activity to break up long amounts of time sitting down. In terms of how much physical activity to do, in addition to breaking up sedentary time, guidance recommends:

  • two-and-a-half hours (150 minutes) a week for activities of moderate intensity
  • one-and-a-quarter hours (75 minutes) a week for activities of vigorous intensity
  • smaller amounts of activities of very vigorous intensity

Or a combination of all three. So that’s not so bad, we could probably all find 2½ hours across the week to up our game. We should also aim to do some light physical activity which includes:

  • walking
  • housework
  • easy gardening
  • anything really that gets us moving around

Evidence suggests that even these everyday chores have some health benefits such as lowering the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer. 

So here’s the good news for employers who might be wondering what the return is on the time and effort required for a new initiative - Just a 1 hour reduction in sitting each day can lead employees to:

  • feeling more energised, focussed and productive
  • feeling more engaged at work
  • feeling less stressed
  • experiencing less back and neck pain
  • an improved quality of life

Whilst it may take employers a little time to consider what new initiative might help their workforce, there are things employees can do in the meantime to reduce the amount of time spent being sedentary – a few ideas:

  • standing rather than sitting on public transport
  • walking to work
  • taking walks during lunch breaks
  • setting reminders to stand up every 30 minutes when working at a desk
  • investing in a standing desk or asking the workplace to provide one – working from home- try utilising the ironing board as a standing desk
  • taking a walk or standing up during coffee or tea breaks
  • making excuses to leave the office or move around the building
  • taking phone calls outside and walking around at the same time
  • taking the stairs instead of using the elevator
  • Ask a colleague if they would like to have that discussion while walking around the block / site

Step 1 is simply taking some time to consider what this will look like and what works best for you. Why not set up a small working group to brainstorm ideas for your organisation? 

If you need more encouragement to see how important a change is for the organisations and its employee’s please get in touch, whether you’re a current client or new to us we will find some time to chat about the different ways you can start to develop your plan and the importance of these changes.