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Exercise – Healthy body and healthy mind

Kirsty almost ran into me the other day. In the literal sense, that is. She was out running after work and I was walking briskly to get air and exercise after another incredibly busy day. I was so busy thinking and walking that I didn't notice the svelte runner loping along until we almost bumped into each other. I am so pleased that my team members take the time to look after their health. It really is important.

Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person's weight divided by the square of his height.

The World Health Organisation definition is:

  • a BMI greater than or equal to 25 is overweight
  • a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is obesity.

There are lots of free calculators online if you’re interested in finding out your BMI.

It is no secret that obesity is on the increase in the UK. Reports earlier this year suggest that almost 25% of the nation is already obese and by 2050 more than half the nation will fall into the same category. While I am no fan of stick-insect thinness, obesity really is a wretched state of affairs for many different reasons. Poor body image, the inability or limited ability to engage in many physical activities (including quite ordinary ones like walking upstairs or carrying an ordinary bag of shopping without running out of puff) and serious health issues starting at a young age. Another of the major side effects of obesity is depression.

As we all know social trends inevitably come to work and employers have to deal with it. Obesity and depression are already having an impact on the work environment. It is estimated that depression alone is costing the country more than £11 billion a year in loss of earnings as employees take time off feeling they cannot cope with the added stress of working life. The Court of Justice of the European Union are currently considering whether obesity should be classed as a disability. Frankly, I should be horrified if they decided it did but que sera sera. Currently employers have a duty of care to make reasonable adjustments for those who suffer from impairments due to being obese, however if obesity becomes a disability employers will have to make adjustments for those who have difficulty in performing day to day activities such as walking, travelling or using particular tools or machinery.

Obesity is entirely avoidable should the employee wish to draw that conclusion. Encouraging exercise is a simple way that employers can help reduce not only obesity and depression but many illnesses, working to reduce the loss of earnings for employers. Exercise also brings many other benefits to your employees. At Clare Stables, while employees are welcome to have their lunch here (not at their workstation – unhealthy and unhygienic),I encourage them to go outside, get some fresh air and take a short walk. We also have shower facilities for those who wish to run or cycle to work.

Encourage employees to build embrace fitness and build physical activities into their day-to-day lives. There are plenty of good reasons.

    • Exercise strengthens the immune system meaning employees are less like to pick up the old that is going around or take time off from the latest sickness bug.
    • Increased and longer lasting energy levels. More energy will mean your employees are able to stay focused on tasks.
    • Regular exercise increases self-confidence. By being able to achieve personal fitness targets employees feel better about their selves and tend to challenge themselves for greater achievements in all areas of life, including work.
    • Those employees who have greater self-confidence because they are fitter inspire confidence in others.
  • Employees who exercise often set their own goals and find realistic ways to achieve them in good time. This is an excellent skill to translate to the workplace and can come naturally to many who often put it into practice in other areas of life.
  • Exercise releases endorphin's giving you that ‘feel good’ factor. This, as a result can bring a more positive attitude into the workplace.
  • So many employees say they are stressed. Exercise released physical and mental tensions of life lowering the stress levels of employees.
  • If you know your employees like to engage in exercise it presents excellent opportunities for team building. This will enhance working relationships and help employees discover new ways of working together.

Career success at the most senior levels and obesity rarely go together. We can’t all be whippets, especially as we get older, so I’m not talking about the slightly plump. How many very successful people can you think of who are seriously overweight? In his excellent book, Success!: The Need to Succeed is in Your Genes, the Way to Succeed is in This Book, Richard Hall writes that to be able to achieve the things you want to do you have to make the decision to live more healthily and cut down on alcohol and fatty foods.

So if health is better, moods are lifted and productivity is enhanced, what better reason can there be to encourage exercise in the workplace?

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