Are workplaces holding back employees from reaching their fitness goals?

Sitting at a desk all day can take its toll. Many of us will be familiar with the feeling that we could be more active, but working 9-5 often means that there’s a lot of time spent sitting, and not a lot of time spent standing or walking. In fact, a UK adult spends an average of 9.5 hours a day sedentary.

A new study by Perkbox Medical, of 2,850 people, found that 45% of Brits feel that they aren’t able to reach their fitness goal of 10,000 steps a day because they are ‘not able to walk a lot at work’. A further 40% stated that they ‘don’t have enough time’, further highlighting the issue of work/life balance.

With 58% of Brits trying to reach the target of 10,000 steps a day and a huge 71% of Brits (whether attempting to hit this target or not) not reaching this amount of activity each day, it highlights that many Brits are living a highly sedentary lifestyle. This can contribute to a host of serious medical issues, including depression/anxiety, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

The survey also revealed that 73% attempt to reach 10,000 steps a day to maintain mental health and reduce stress and 64% wish to improve fitness – therefore, with 45% feeling that they aren’t able to reach these goals because they can’t walk a lot at work, it leads to concern that workplaces aren’t placing employees health as a priority.

Workplace stress is a growing issue and regular exercise can have a positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD and more. It relieves stress, improves memory, improves sleep and boosts overall mood – all of which should be of importance within the workplace.

Employees should feel that they are able to take regular short walks at work – the NHS recommends breaking up long periods of sitting with shorter bouts of activity for just one to two minutes.

To increase the number of steps and activity completed in the workplace, Perkbox recommends the following:

  • Education surrounding the mental health benefits of walking – Many might be unaware of the mental health benefits that walking can allow – helping to educate everyone in the company of mental health benefits that a simple short walk can bring, could make a real impact to some lives. If possible, make it clear to employees that if anyone is feeling under any pressure or stress, they are able to step away from the desk and take a short walk to clear their mind and reap the health benefits.
  • Introduce workplace step count competitions – Who doesn’t get a bit competitive at the sound of a challenge? Setting up a friendly competition amongst colleagues, of who can reach 10,000 steps a day the most frequently over a certain period of time, with the winner receiving a small prize, helps to get everyone involved. A shared goal boosts motivation, and the whole office will be feeling the benefits of getting more exercise.
  • Encourage walking lunches – Many of us can’t resist staying at our desks to get a few extra emails out over lunch. However, eating lunch at your desk can decrease productivity and bring the ‘brain fog’ that many of us will be familiar with. Create a culture in the office that encourages everyone to leave their desks at lunch, even just for a short time – the office should seem revitalised come the afternoon.
  • Introduce standing desks – Although not contributing to step count, standing desks reduce the effects of sitting for too long. Standing desks aim to reduce back pain and all the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Having desks which can switch between sitting and standing give people the choice of both and should make it not feel like a chore to have to stand, but more of a treat.
  • Talking in real life? Surely not – Technology makes it so easy to communicate with colleagues without even moving. And whilst we all love slack, sometimes it can mean we don’t move for hours as its so easy to chat with everyone in the room without getting up. Walking over to talk to a colleague gives an opportunity to stretch legs and can often mean that ideas and thoughts are more quickly communicated – encourage an open communication culture and ensure that everyone in the office gets up to talk to others throughout the day