Nurses and other healthcare staff must be encouraged to become active to fight against the “obesity crisis”, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has said, as part of new guidance that suggests employers should subsidise gym memberships and offer yoga during lunch breaks.
NICE has today published a quality standard on encouraging physical activity in the community, including in the workplace.
“As a society we are facing an obesity crisis caused in part by people not exercising enough”
According to figures from NHS Digital, 10,660 hospital admissions in 2017-18 were directly attributable to obesity and 29% of adults are were classified as obese.
To help address the issue, the institute has suggested that employers should produce physical activity programmes for the workplace and offer subsidised gym memberships.
Employers should also highlight lunchtime activities at a local gym, such as yoga or spin classes, and provide staff with information about safe active travel routes to and from work, NICE urged.
It also noted that by encouraging staff to use the stairs instead of a lift would also help individuals to become more active.
One of the statements under the standard suggests that local authorities and healthcare commissioning groups should have “senior level physical activity champions” who would be responsible for developing and implanting local strategies, policies and plans.
“It is vital that employers embrace prevention to ensure their staff stay fit and healthy”
The institute states that such champions should ensure that “physical activity is embedded across all clinical pathways”.
Another statement suggested that workplaces have a physical activity programme to encourage employees to become more active.
The institute argued that having such programmes in the workplace could help to “reduce staff absenteeism levels, increase staff satisfaction and improve the workplace environment”.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that more than 131 million working days were lost to sickness in 2017, including 13 million working days lost to stress, depression or anxiety.
NICE deputy chief executive and director of health and social care, Professor Gillian Leng, said: “If the UK’s 5.7 million small and medium sized businesses encouraged their workforce to be more active, they are more likely to reap the benefits of having engaged employees who are more productive and are less likely to take time off sick.
“Simple things like providing secure bicycle storage, showers and changing facilities can go a long way to enabling people to cycle to work or to meetings,” she said. “As a society we are facing an obesity crisis caused in part by people not exercising enough.
“We need people to change their lifestyle and to take more exercise. If they can do this during the working day, not only will they benefit, but so too will their employers and the NHS. It’s a win, win for everyone,” added Professor Leng.
Public health minister Seema Kennedy said the government has a “world leading plan to tackle obesity with prevention at its core”.
She said that later this summer, the government will be setting out “further action” on obesity and physical activity via a prevention green paper.
“It is vital that employers embrace prevention to ensure their staff stay fit and healthy,” said Ms Kennedy. “Having seen first-hand in my department the positive impact running clubs can have, I welcome the launch of the quality standard as another way to encourage communities to stay active.”
The quality standard is aimed at healthcare commissioners, service providers, health and public health practitioners, employers, schools, voluntary and community sector and the public. Statements in it include:
- Local authorities and healthcare commissioning groups have a senior level physical activity champions who are responsible for developing and implementing local strategies, policies and plans
- Local authorities involve community members in designing and managing public open spaces
- Local authorities prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and people who use public transport when developing and maintaining connected travel routes
- Schools and early years settings have active travel plans that are monitored and updated annually