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Are 1 in 3 UK Workers really embarrassed to exercise with their colleagues?


I work on heart health projects at the BHF, and a survey we did recently has turned up a worrying trend – more than one in three UK workers are reluctant to exercise on the job because they’re embarrassed that their colleagues will see them in gym clothes.

We also found that eight out of ten workers don’t get the recommended amount of exercise a week. The British Heart Foundation recommends 150 minutes a week to maintain a healthy heart, that’s 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week, and 81% of the people we talked to did less than that.

And when a recent government report estimates that at the current rate of waistline expansion 36% of men and 28% of women in England will be obese in just five years, paving the way for a surge in heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, you can see why we’re worried.

Is it our workplace culture? Maybe we’re just not motivated to move. We found that over half of the workforce spend more than half their working day sitting or standing still. Nearly half eat their lunch at their desk – and one in six revealed they feel pressured to take an even shorter lunchbreak. What can we do to change this and promote healthier attitudes?

The good news from the survey is it suggests that there’s a really robust argument for keeping fit and active in the workplace. Half of UK workers admit they won’t travel more than 10 minutes from work or home to exercise, so what better place to do it than the office?

Bosses should understand there’s a massive return on investment here. Simple measures to improve the health of your workforce – like swapping tea-break biscuits for fruit, or getting the team together for a lunchtime kickaround in the car park - can improve productivity, reduce staff turnover, and mean fewer sick days.

You can see for yourself what kind of effect it’s had on refuse collectors from Bath, warehouse operatives in a Leicestershire Asda and a housing company in Cornwall.

We’re talking about this now because Sunday 26 September 2010 is World Heart Day, and this year’s theme is work wellbeing. We run our own Health at Work programme, helping workers get active and lead a healthier lifestyle, and we’ve got loads of free resources that HR professionals, health and safety officers, health coordinators and corporate social responsibility officers will find really valuable. Join us today!

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