Physical activity and the workforce
Physical activity is essential for good health and contributes to positive wellbeing, resulting in a stronger workforce.
Many of the leading causes of disease and disability in our society – such as coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, colorectal cancer, stress, anxiety, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and lower back pain – are associated with physical inactivity. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE):
- 1.3 million people who worked during 2009/10 were suffering from an illness (long standing as well as new cases) which they believed were caused or made worse by their current or past work. 555,000 of these were new cases.
- 28.5 million working days were lost overall during 2009/10 (1.2 days per worker), 23.4 million due to work-related ill-health
- The cost of physical inactivity in England – including direct costs of treatment for the major lifestyle-related diseases, and the indirect costs caused through sickness absence – has been estimated at £8.2 billion a year. This does not include the contribution of inactivity to obesity which itself has been estimated at £2.5 billion annually (source, Sustrans).
Providing adults with opportunities for improving health at work
- Workplace physical activity programmes can reduce absenteeism due to sickness, increase work attendance, reduce job stress and decrease healthcare utilization (1).
- Programmes which include both a physical activity and nutrition element have been found to be effective at reducing body weight, cholesterol levels and CVD risk (2).
Research has shown that the benefits of improving health in the workplace include:
- increased motivation of employees and a better working atmosphere, leading to more flexibility and better communication
- a reduction in absenteeism and staff turnover
- increased quality of products and services, more innovation and creativity, and a rise in productivity
- improved public image of the company, making it more attractive as an employer
The most important thing to remember is that you can influence the health of your workforce, the health of the workforce does impact on the business and a little effort does go a long way.
1. Conn VS, Hafdahl AR, Cooper PS, Brown LM, Luck SL. Meta-analysis of workplace physical activity interventions. Am J Prev Med. 2009;37(4):330-339.
2. van Dongen JM, Proper KI, van Wier MF, van der Beek AJ, Bongers PM, van Mechelen W, et al. A systematic review of the cost-effectiveness of worksite physical activity and/or nutrition programs. Scan J Work Environ Health. 2012;38(5):393-408.
Struggling for ideas for a healthy lunch? Why not download the factsheet below from the Leicestershire Nutrition and Dietetic Service...
- Suggestions for a healthy lunch (MS Word, 11.9 Mb)