Increased physical activity among employees could save billions through improved productivity, research suggests
‘The Economics of Exercise' report, carried out by PJM Economics and commissioned by AXA PPP healthcare, has found that if all employees met the recommended 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity a week - just over 20 minutes a day - UK businesses could save up to £6.6bn each year.
Drawing upon a range of sources including academic literature, official statistics, studies by government departments and evidence reported by private organisations, the research uses economic value transfers to quantify the value of exercise to organisations.
The study valuation does not include less tangible wellbeing benefits which help create a caring workplace culture for employees, and potentally also save money for employers.
"For many of us, finding the time to be more active around work and life is challenging," said Eugene Farrell, mental health lead at AXA PPP healthcare. "Our latest FIT-SE Index looking at physical activity, along with barriers and motivators to exercising, confirms this with one in three Brits saying they're too tired after work to exercise and a further one in five saying their job prevents them from regularly exercising. While this might not be surprising, it does reinforce that employers are in a unique position to positively influence change that supports and enables employees to be more active before, during and after the working day."
AXA PPP healthcare's recent FIT-SE Index found that almost four million Brits are not doing any exercise at all.
Dr Paul Metcalfe, founder of PJM Economics and author of the report added: "While additional research is needed to fully capture and understand the benefits exercise can deliver to UK businesses, all evidence points to there being an important role for employers to promote the wellbeing of the large working population, with benefits to be reaped at a business output level."
Director of wellbeing for restaurant chain Leon, Julian Hitch, is a martial arts expert. He added: "Whether you're working in the service industry and on your feet all day, or working in an office, today's fast-paced, high-pressure environment can have a serious effect on your physical and mental health. Constant neck and back pain and reduced gut health from being desk-bound are now pervasive. Similarly, a lack of exercise affects your mental health and the brain slows down from too much sitting down. Physical activity helps address those effects on the body, as well as boost employee wellbeing overall."
Leon started Kwoon, a wellbeing centre for staff offering free classes for martial arts, Zumba and yoga. "The centre - and our at-work integration of principles of martial arts - have had a huge effect on employees," said Hitch. "Indeed, class attendees record reduced stress levels, allowing them to feel happier in their work, along with supporting a better service to our customers. We've had positive correlations between this and reduced staff turnover."
On National Fitness Day, AXA PPP healthcare, as part of its Flying Start campaign, is encouraging businesses to push back the start of the working day by an hour to give staff more time to do exercise.
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