New guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) urges employers to ensure offices have adequate bike storage and changing facilities. The organisation says this would encourage more physical activity and so help combat obesity. Another recommendation is that employees be offered subsidised spinning classes during their lunch breaks.
Roughly two-thirds of people in the UK are either overweight or obese, reports ITV. NICE also believes that the 15.4 million working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety in 2017-18 could be greatly reduced if employers took a more active role in promoting physical wellbeing.
“Workplaces that have physical activity programmes to support employees to move more when travelling to and from work and during the working day will positively increase physical activity levels,” reads the guidance. “This may help to reduce staff absenteeism levels, increase staff satisfaction and improve the workplace environment.”
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: “If the United Kingdom’s 5.7 million small and medium sized businesses encouraged their workforce to be more active, they are more likely to reap the benefits of having engaged employees who are more productive and are less likely to take time off sick.
“Simple things like providing secure bicycle storage, showers and changing facilities can go a long way to enabling people to cycle to work or to meetings.
“As a society we are facing an obesity crisis caused in part by people not exercising enough. We need people to change their lifestyle and to take more exercise.
“If they can do this during the working day, not only will they benefit, but so too will their employers and the NHS. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Dr Andy Cope, director of insight at Sustrans, added: “Cycling and walking to and from work is one of the best ways to incorporate physical activity into our lives.
“In 2017 alone, walking and cycling on the National Cycle Network prevented 630 early deaths and averted nearly 8,000 serious long-term health conditions, with more than 56 per cent of the journeys taken being for functional reasons, such as travelling to work, taking children to school, visiting shops and friends.
“We encourage all employers and their workforces to embrace the Nice quality standard and make physical activity an easy, attractive and practical choice for everyone.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said that exercise could have a hugely positive impact on physical and mental health. “We would urge employers to seek to swiftly implement these recommendations in some capacity as ultimately, a healthy workforce will be a more productive, and hopefully happier one.”
The NICE guidance recommends offering staff access to Cycle to Work schemes and suggests providing a pool of bicycles for short‑distance business travel.
It also suggests providing information about walking and cycling routes, including public transport options, details on the distances involved and cycle parking availability.