THE BLOG

Why Your Boss Should Help You Find Time For Fitness

05/06/2014 17:07 BST | Updated 05/08/2014 10:59 BST

We hear a lot about health and safety in the workplace.

And while we all have certain expectations on the safety front, should we be asking more from our employers about keeping us healthy?

The all-party parliamentary group on primary care and public health certainly thinks so.

Warning that inactivity leads to 37,000 people dying prematurely each year in the UK, the MPs called for councils to work closely with local employers to provide more opportunities for people to exercise.

The new boss of NHS England, Simon Stevens, also spoke last week about how his former employer had helped him lose weight.

Mr Stevens wants employers in the UK to follow the example of those in the US who offer incentives to staff who follow healthier lifestyles.

These interventions are welcome and timely because the scale of the challenge is vast.

In addition to the terrifying death toll, work-related illness and injury costs the economy £13.8bn a year.

The all-party group said obesity costs the NHS alone £10bn a year and sedentary lifestyles risk making that worse.

But the situation isn't helpless - far from it. To bring about big improvements in the nation's health we just need to find ways to get people moving more often.

That's why at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy we believe our Workout at Work Day initiative is so important.

Hundreds of physiotherapists will go into workplaces and other public spaces across the UK tomorrow to demonstrate the different ways people can build more exercise into their daily lives, and how they can be supported in doing so by their employer.

This could be a lunchtime walking club, or an after-work exercise class. Subsidised gym memberships and bike loan schemes are also effective measures an employer can offer.

Additionally, many employers now contract physiotherapists to provide ergonomic assessments and advice on safe ways of working.

These physios can then provide treatment quickly to any member of staff who begins to develop a problem to ensure it is caught early before it can become a long-term issue that requires an absence from work.

For these examples to become the norm, however, we need to get away from seeing them as perks; expensive add-ons to an employee's basic package.

This is particularly true when it comes to the public sector because the benefit is felt just as much by the employer - and therefore, the taxpayer - as by the individual if it means a reduction in sickness absence.

Take the NHS, which historically has had high levels of sickness absence among staff.

If someone is unwell, appointments are cancelled and waiting times lengthen. This is expensive for the NHS and costly for the people seeking treatment.

But if a health and wellbeing programme can keep people fit for work and delivering those services, it is money well spent.

Of course, it is vitally important that we also take responsibility for our own health, and the results of a survey we released tomorrow suggest poor work habits are potentially creating future problems.

One in five people work through lunch each day, while of those who do take a break, 48% still ate at their desk.

It is so important that people take regular breaks and get exercise throughout the day because we weren't designed to sit down, hunched over a desk, for long periods. We were made to move.

Hopefully initiatives like Workout at Work Day will help people discover the simple ways to get active throughout the week - and demonstrate to employers that it is very much in their interest to make this happen.