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Employers should 'help employees make healthy changes'

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Wellbeing coach George Anderson said fit employees will benefit an organisation

Employers should be helping their employees to make long-term healthy changes to their lifestyles, according to wellbeing coach George Anderson.

“We did a survey and asked people why they struggle to stay in shape,” he said, addressing the ‘Employee wellbeing programmes – ‘nice to do’ or ‘need to do it’?’ conference at the City of London Club. “The number one reason was a lack of time. We’re all so busy that health and fitness falls to the bottom of our priorities.”

The other two challenges holding workers back from exercise were a general lack of information and too little motivation. “Obviously everyone knows an apple is better for you than a pizza,” said Anderson. “But it’s about helping your employees to make better choices consistently. It’s the right thing to do from a people perspective, and I think deep down we all know that.”

He warned that neglecting diet and exercise can lead to a variety of health problems, including type two diabetes. “From a business perspective that means more sick days, but this is an avoidable disease. You might not be able to quite measure how happy your employees are, or how creative they are, but you will benefit from a healthier, fitter, more resilient workforce.”

Harry Sowerby, co-founder and managing director of British Military Fitness (BMF), suggested that encouraging workers to exercise together has multiple benefits beyond improving health.

“It’s not rocket science; the benefits are endless,” he said. “It helps to raise confidence, you look better, you feel better, and in a group you can motivate each other. It helps your team to work together as a team.”

He cited the company that runs Heathrow airport as a case study. BMF runs outdoor exercise sessions for the staff in the company’s car park. “At Heathrow they have quite a hierarchical structure,” Sowerby explained. “However, you see the receptionist working alongside the head of runways during our session. Now they all know each other in a way they might never have before – because they counted each other’s press-ups last Thursday!”