P4. Physical Activity in the Workplace

“We will increase physical activity in the workplace, for example through modifying the environment, promoting workplace champions and removing barriers to participation during the working day.”

The following provides background and supporting information to help organisations understand what this pledge sets out to achieve and how, by becoming a Responsibility Deal partner, you can help deliver this pledge.

What this pledge sets out to achieve, and why it is important

This pledge will increase levels of physical activity among the working age population.

This pledge asks business, voluntary, community and other organisations to create a work environment, that encourages their employees to be physically active and removes barriers in the workplace that may affect their employees’ ability to be more physically active.

Evidence shows that nearly three-quarters of children and two-thirds of adults do not meet the Chief Medical Officer’s recommended guidelines for physical activity, outlined in Start Active, Stay Active: a report on physical activity from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers.

Physical inactivity places a signficant burden on the economy.  The costs of lost productivity are estimated to be approximated £5.5 billion a year from sickness absence and £1 billion a year from the premature death of people of working age.

Benefits to public health

The health benefits of regular physical activity are significant and well evidenced, as are the health risks of long periods of sedentary behaviour. Regular physical activity also helps reduce the risks of developing long-term/chronic conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and some cancers.  People who are physically active reduce their of developing stroke and type 2 diabetes by up to 50 per cent and the risk of premature death by up to 30 per cent.

The wider benefits include helping people maintain a healthy weight; contributing to better mental health – helping to combat depression and lead to an improved sense of wellbeing; as well as helping to improve social interaction.

Helping inactive people to undertake low or moderate levels of activity will produce the greatest health gains and a much reduced risk of developing long-term/chronic health conditions.

Benefit to employers/employees

A healthy, active population is good for business and the economy as a whole. Promoting physical activity as part of a wider health and wellbeing programme for your employees can reduce absenteeism, keep people economically active for longer, and increase your productivity and prosperity.

It sends a clear signal that your organisation takes the health and wellbeing of its employees seriously.  Employees are more likely to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing if they see a genuine commitment to this at senior management level.

How you can deliver this pledge

Organisations should look to promote physical activity as part of a wider employee health and well-being programme. This should include disseminating information via induction packs and other communication channels on the health benefits of regular physical activity and how to become more active. This could include information on local opportunities to be physically active (both within and outside the workplace) taking into account the needs of particular groups such as shift workers.

Employers should consider the viability of appointing workplace champions for physical activity who can encourage their less active colleagues to be more active and provide peer support. The Central YMCA has an established programme Workplace Activator, which trains workplace physical activity champions and is seeking to train over 700 activators with the aim of engaging thousands more in physical activity.

Organisations should also adopt policies which encourage employees to walk, cycle or use other modes of transport involving physical activity (to travel to and from work and as part of their working day). This could include making environmental changes, where appropriate, such as the provision of secure, safe and accessible cycle parking, good quality changing, showering and locker facilities or the provision of cycle training to give employees the confidence to cycle to work. Walk England also offer training for Employee Walk Ambassadors and bespoke maps encouraging employees to walk in their lunch break.

Workplace physical activity challenges are also a great way to encourage employees to become more active and provide a competitive element between teams. These don’t need to be complex and costly, but could simply involve, for example, a walking challenge where teams record the miles walked each week using pedometers.

As part of an employee health and wellbeing programme, organisations could also consider the offer of a confidential, independent health check, administered by a suitably qualified practitioner, and focussed on the promotion of sport and physical activity.

Your pledge delivery plan

Shortly after signing up, partners will be asked to provide pledge delivery plans, laying out how they intend to meet each of the pledges they have signed up to.  They will have up to 500 words to describe their plans for each pledge they are signed up to.  All delivery plans will be published on this website.

Reporting progress on your pledge

Partners will be asked to report on their progress by the end of April each year.  For some pledges, partners will be asked to report using pre-defined quantitative measures, while for others they will be asked for a narrative update.  Further information on the reporting arrangements for each pledge is available.  All annual updates will be published on this website.

We are currently developing a web-based system that will allow partners to complete their delivery plans and annual updates online from 2013.

Partners signed up to this pledge.

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