Why is obesity such a major problem in the workplace, and what can responsible employers do to help?

Why is obesity such a major problem in the workplace, and what can responsible employers do to help?

Obesity in the UK is regularly described as being at ‘epidemic’ proportions, with rates which make us one of the world’s most overweight nations. Obesity can lead to all sorts of serious health conditions, including type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and various types of cancer, among other things. Despite numerous health campaigns to encourage people to lose weight, the number of adults classed as being overweight or obese is still on a steady upwards trajectory. So is it time responsible employers stepped in to take action?

A public health emergency

In the UK, it’s estimated that 63% of the population are classed as either overweight or obese. Around 26% of men and 29% of women now fall into the obese or morbidly obese categories, figures which have alarmed governments but rarely spurred them into action. With the health service already under strain, admissions to hospital for illnesses linked to obesity are also on the increase and doctors struggle to treat the most overweight patients.

While many of us are living busier lives, those lives are also becoming more sedentary. Jobs involving physical activity are increasingly uncommon, especially when compared to previous generations, and there’s also been a growing dependence on ready meals, processed foods and eating ‘al desko’ during office hours. As jobs have become more office-based, obesity rates have more than tripled since 1975. With half of the employees wanting their companies to take a more proactive role in their wellbeing, responsible employers could be playing a much larger part in the battle against obesity.

Lack of opportunities

People in most developed nations are now working longer hours, but longer hours don’t always equate to increased productivity. It’s widely recognised that mental health problems are also on the rise alongside obesity, with many workers suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. Each year the UK loses an estimated 141.4 million working days to illness, mental or physical, which is why employers should be taking the health of their staff more seriously.

Many workers would say a lack of time and opportunities are the main things preventing them from embarking on a real fitness regime. In order to improve the situation, caring employers could be creating in-house fitness programmes or running mindfulness workshops and other sessions aimed at enhancing both physical and mental wellbeing. The opportunity for employees to work out during the day does not detract from working hours, but may in fact improve staff productivity. Exercise has been shown to boost concentration levels and leave people with a greater sense of motivation, benefits which are reflected in the quality and quantity of the work they produce.

Could you be doing more?

If you think the time is right to do more about workplace health, then MVP is here to help. We run workplace-based fitness programmes which are specially tailored to each individual, helping them lose weight in a fun and sustainable way for the long-term. To learn more about the services we provide, feel free to get in touch today. Together, we can make a big difference.