Workplace Physical Activity & Sport

Physical activity is essential for good health. Workplaces can help increase physical activity levels, and thus improve the health of employees, reduce sickness absence and increase productivity.

The importance of physical activity

Physical inactivity has been linked to an increased risk of a range of health conditions including, coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, osteoporosis, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity and mental health problems.



Why promote physical activity at work?

Staff ill health has cost implications for businesses through loss of production, early retirement, staff turnover and absenteeism (both through long term sick pay and the cost of temporary staff).

Back pain is the most common cause of sickness absence from work in the UK, with an estimated 16 million people affected each year, at a cost to industry of £5.7 billion each year. Meanwhile, evidence shows that physical activity can reduce a person's risk from suffering from back pain and can also aid recovery from back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders.

Work related stress, depression and anxiety form the second most common reasons for work related sickness absence, costing the UK economy between £3.7 and £7 billion each year. However, physical activity has been shown to have an anxiety-reducing effect and single sessions of moderate intensity exercise have been shown to reduce short term reactions to stress and enhance recovery from stressors.

How much physical activity

In adults 18-64 physical activity includes leisure time physical activity, transportation (eg walking or cycling), occupational (ie work), household chores, play, games, sports or planned exercise, in the context of daily, family and community activities. 

 Table Tennis

The Chief Medical Officers (CMO) Recommendations state that in order to improve cardio respiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases and depression:

  • Adults aged 18-64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous intensive aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity.
  • Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutess duration.
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity.
  • Muscle strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on two or more days a week.
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