Lancaster University and Foundation for Chronic Disease Prevention reveal direct link between physical activity and workplace productivity


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As economic forces put the squeeze on workplaces, sending working hours skywards, western world employees have never been so stressed or sedentary.

As economic forces put the squeeze on workplaces, sending working hours skywards, western world employees have never been so stressed or sedentary. Presenting perfect storm conditions for pandemic chronic medical conditions, the issue of employee health preservation has become a serious priority for employers facing soaring health-related costs and tight productivity demands.

Pleasingly, a new industry study provides positive news for employers. Research commissioned by Foundation for Chronic Disease Prevention in the Workplace (FCDP) and conducted by Lancaster University's Centre for Organizational Health and Wellbeing, has found that daily, low-impact physical lifestyle changes can deliver a wealth of health and performance benefits to both employees and employers alike. Specifically, significant improvement to employees' physical health, emotional wellbeing and overall workplace productivity .

The FCDP study tracked the physical and psychological impact of participation in leading health program - Global Corporate Challenge on a sample of 752 UK and US employees of varying (adult) age, gender, health and physical ability. Assessment of self-rated questionnaires and onsite biometric assessments (conducted both before and after participation) delivered some favorable findings - most notably:

Improved Physical Wellbeing:

Increased Physical Activity

Employees developed more active lifestyle habits over the 16 week physical activity program, with a 40% increase in employees meeting the World Health Organization benchmark for a healthy active lifestyle (10,000+ steps) . In doing so, employees improved their cardiovascular health and risk level for chronic overweight and obesity conditions commonly caused by a sedentary lifestyle.

Weight and fat loss

More than half (58%) of all employees had achieved weight loss (6lb 2.76oz recorded average) and overall body fat reduction (10% on average). Most employees (62%) also reduced dangerous abdominal fat levels (2.05" recorded average waistline circumference loss) and almost half (48%) reduced their BMI to healthier levels. Through achieving improved weight, employees reduced their risk and impact levels for a variety of chronic conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and many cancers.

Cardiovascular improvement

Most employees achieved improvements in hypertension (75% of employees reduced their BP-systolic and 25% reduced their BP-diastolic pressure) and more than a third improved their cholesterol levels (31% of employees achieved reducedcholesterol levels and 49% achieved increased "good cholesterol" High Density Lipoprotein) , effectively improving their cardiovascular health and reducing risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Improved Psychological Wellbeing

Improved self-esteem:

Employee self-esteem and outlook improved, with considerable reductions in feelings of worthlessness (52% reduction), unhappiness and depression (28% decrease), and a positive lift in feelings of self-confidence (35% increase). As such, results suggest that successfully making strides in physical health supported the sample's self-esteem and self- confidence, particularly as goals were met and exceeded.

Increased engagement with work:

Employees reported increased productivity (20.5% increase) and satisfaction (6%) and in the workplace, suggesting a strong link between physical and emotional health levels, and a positive impact by improved self-worth on social interaction and performance ability.

Improved Performance

Reduced Stress Levels:

Employees reported considerable stress level improvements (12-15% reductions), consistent across a spectrum of personal and professional factors, plus a reduction (17%) losing sleep over worry.

Improved performance under pressure:

Almost a quarter (24%) of all employees reported feeling better equipped to overcome difficulties, with greater resilience and ability to adjust to change (13% increase), both of which help to foster positive emotional wellbeing.

Increased productivity:

Many employees reported improved concentration (12%) and excellent-grade productivity (17%) levels with improved productivity notably recorded in concert with step activity.

Overall, the study findings present a clear correlation between employees' physical activity and health, and their performance in the workplace. Results pertaining to immediate and long-term health and engagement improvements support the swelling evidence base - and business case - for workplace wellness success, and the potential to deliver sustained costs savings across reduced health pensions, absenteeism and employee turnover. In short, the potential to deliver the practical, financial and far-reaching advantages of a satisfied, engaged and committed workforce.

Tom Sermon (pictured),CEO Global Corporate Challenge


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