Physical activity: keep active, keep healthy

Physical activity: keep active, keep healthy

It has long been known that physical activity is good for our health. There is increasing evidence that even moderate amounts of exercise can dramatically improve our physical health and reduce the risks of certain diseases.

Physical inactivity has implications for individuals and wider society. For example, people who lead inactive and sedentary lifestyles are likely to experience poorer mental and physical health, are going to be less able to work to their full potential or at all, and physical inactivity is estimated to cost the UK £7.4 billion every year.

Effects of physical inactivity on UK workforce
The UK population, as with most other countries, is much less active than in previous generations. The use of handheld devices has increased, motor vehicles have become a preferred mode of transport and a culture of convenience has enabled more at-home deliveries of food and other goods.

The working world has also changed as people spend more time sitting at desks, a behaviour which has been accelerated by the prevalence of home working as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Recent surveys have found 80% of desk workers spend between four and nine hours sitting at their workstation every day.

This reduction of moving around and partaking in physical activity can lead to weight gain and other associated health risks as well as lower productivity and motivation levels, all of which have a significant impact on businesses and the wider economy.

Physical activity can improve workers’ overall health and wellbeing, including their feelings of motivation and productivity levels which in turn can reduce the likelihood of presenteeism – people who go to work when they feel unwell either physically or mentally or both – and long-term absences.

Benefits of exercise on physical health
Regular physical activity has been proven to improve overall wellbeing as it can help to:

  • control blood pressure and keep it within healthy levels
  • prevent some cancers
  • control blood glucose levels, reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • increase the number of calories people burn to help maintain a healthy weight.

Benefits of exercise on mental health

Regular physical activity can maintain and improve mental health:

  • exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good
  • boosts your overall mood and in many cases reduce feelings of depression.

How to keep active at work and at home
There are many things we can do to keep active and it can be far easier to embed small changes into our day-to-day lives so that exercise isn’t perceived as such an arduous task.

  • Walk or cycle instead of drive: can the trip to the local shop be done on foot rather than by car? Small everyday changes like this can increase your activity and become part of your overall lifestyle.
  • Move around more at work:if it is safe and practical to do so, move away from your workstation regularly and perform another task, like making a drink. It is also a good idea to take regular breaks from your screen to maintain good eyesight and prevent developing musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Change of workstation: following a workstation assessment, it may be deemed necessary to change the height of the desk or screen for an employee, or alter what surrounds their work area, for example investing in a standing desk which can improve blood flow and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Lunchtime walk:whether you are working from home or at an office or factory, a walk during your lunch break is a great way to break up the day and fit in exercise.
  • Join a gym:gyms and leisure centres often have a variety of membership schemes. Local councils may subsidise memberships depending on individual circumstances.
  • Home workouts: if you are spending much more time at home and feel safest exercising indoors, there are a variety of exercises and routines you can do from the comfort of your own home.

Want to help your employees become more active?

We can provide employee wellbeing sessions for your team, which include general medical assessments and an advice service for team members to help improve their overall health.

If you would like support and advice regarding the health of your team, get in touch with us via email: or phone: 0121 601 4041.

Sources: NHS (2022) Mental Health Foundation (2021); (2021); Glasgow Caledonian University (2021); British Heart Foundation (2020); HR Magazine (2018); Personnel Today (2019)