Embarrassment stops staff exercising in the working day

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​Low self-esteem and embarrassment around poor fitness are stopping UK employees exercising with workmates

Research by AXA PPP healthcare found that 22% of the 1,000 employees surveyed cited low self-esteem, while 25% cited embarrassment around poor fitness.

Additionally, 11% were found to be deterred by the prospect of wearing gym gear in front of colleagues. This fear, the research suggested, is not unfounded. The research also polled 500 decision makers in organisations and found that 26% of managers see employees sporting gym gear in front of colleagues as unprofessional.

The research uncovered something of a confused approach when it came to encouraging staff to keep fit. It found 61% of employees feel their employer doesn’t encourage them to lead an active lifestyle. And yet among the decision makers surveyed 78% agreed exercise has a positive effect on employees’ productivity, and 82% agreed it affects their ability to handle stress.

Chris Horlick, director at AXA PPP healthcare, stressed that employers must correct this mixed messages approach, and do more to encourage staff to fit exercise into the working day.

“Whether it’s allowing greater flexibility around working patterns, providing subsidised gym access, or simply encouraging a more active commute, our research shows that employees want more support from their employer to lead an active lifestyle,” he said.

He stressed the importance of counteracting sedentary working lifestyles. “A sedentary lifestyle often comes with the territory of an office job,” said Horlick. “Previous research by AXA PPP healthcare has shown that UK workers rack up an average of eight hours' sitting time a day – that’s equivalent to a UK flight to the Caribbean.

“Yet prolonged sitting has been linked to health risks, including obesity, type two diabetes and some types of cancer, that employers shouldn’t ignore. Promoting an active workforce is in their mutual interest and the benefits of doing so, such as boosting employees’ energy and productivity and their ability to deal with stress, can pay dividends in the short and long term.”

Previous AXA PPP research uncovered the scale of the challenge in getting staff more active. It found that nearly half (45%) admit they don’t do the 30 minutes of daily exercise five times a week recommended by the NHS. And more than one in four (27%) don’t do any during their working week.

It found that 62% of those with good intentions to exercise during their lunchbreak say they sometimes find themselves having to cancel because of workload or work commitments, and 79% of those who exercise after work but would prefer to do so in the morning blame lack of time before the working day begins.

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