A new survey reveals that 84% of workers are struggling to meet NHS physical activity targets.

The third Wellbeing Index Report highlighted the impact on health from being deskbound for large chunks of the day. More than one in four workers spend nine hours or more sitting down. Such a sedentary lifestyle can leave staff at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

The research, produced by Westfield Health, showed that while more than 60% of employees are aware of the risks associated with spending several hours each day sat down, few were able to make an impact towards cutting sitting time. The survey showed that only 12% were able to cut the time they spend behind their desk. A lack of time, low energy levels and low mood were cited as the main barriers to exercise.

Dave Capper, chief executive of Westfield Health, said: “When it comes to physical wellbeing, the Wellbeing Index shows it’s not really a lack of awareness that’s the problem, people know the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, it’s a lack of responsibility.

“As individuals, only 12% of us are trying to reduce our sedentary time; as employers, we have to recognise just how much the structure of the workday and the office environment contributes to this escalating national health issue.

“We have to take action to protect our health and our businesses. To remain competitive at both a national and business level, we have to become more productive. That can only happen when you take good care of your team and create an environment where they can perform at their best.”

The survey discovered that less than half of employers provide basic fitness facilities such as changing rooms or bike storage. 67% of staff surveyed stated that employers have a responsibility to support staff wellbeing.

Mr Capper added: “UK businesses spend up to 16% of annual salary costs on absence and absence management. Yes, putting in showers, offering on-site classes or putting in an active space costs money, but the longer-term costs to individuals and companies of ignoring our physical wellbeing is so much higher.”

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