Squeezing in a workout between all our daily responsibilities can be tough. Busy work schedules, commutes, kids, chores at home – there's always a reason to skip that spinning class. But, perhaps if more workplaces encouraged employees to do workouts at lunch, that wouldn't be the case. At least that is the new message being spread by the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).
Nice has issued the new guidance as part of a wider aim to increase levels of physical activity among British workers. Health officials say it will help curb rising obesity levels and boost staff satisfaction.
Employers should be offering subsidised gym memberships so workers can attend fitness classes, from yoga to CrossFit, mid-way through their working day, Nice adds. It also suggested workplaces have bike storage and changing facilities.
“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,” said Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at Nice.
“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.”
Last year it was reported that the number of people in England, Wales and Scotland diagnosed with morbid obesity is expected to double by 2035. That's close to five million people over the next two decades.
Will it work for the UAE too?
In the UAE, a number of initiatives have been sparked to tackle the country's issue with obesity, including a new rule that Dubai restaurants must display the calorie content of meals by January.
These seem to be working, as in March the results of a five-year National Health Survey showed obesity and diabetes are on the decline. The prevalence of hypertension, or high blood pressure, however, increased, according to the poll of 9,400 Emiratis and residents by the Ministry of Health and Prevention. "While the results are positive, it does show areas that require more work," said Dr Hussein Al Rand, assistant undersecretary for health centres and clinics at the ministry, at the time.
Meanwhile, earlier this year at the Dubai Health Forum, it was revealed nearly one-third of the emirate's population – an estimated 1.3 million people – are in need of mental health help. Data from 2016 showed there were 1.53 million visits to mental health facilities in Dubai, with that figure increasing by eight per cent annually since.
Exercise is widely proven to be one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health, having a positive impact on depression, stress, anxiety, and more.
While many of the UAE's employers join in annual campaigns such as the Dubai Fitness Challenge, and few are improving support services to employees struggling with mental health issues, perhaps they too should turn this battle into a full-time job.