The workplace is where most people spend most of their waking hours. That’s why it’s so important to collaborate with employers to encourage activity during the workday, says Lauretta Stace.
New Year’s resolutions, and the attendant focus on living a healthier lifestyle after the excesses of the Christmas season, will have resulted in the past couple of months being the most active – or well-intentioned – that many Australians will experience this year.
During this period we are inundated with a plethora of advertisements for the latest magic pills, diets and shortcuts to reduce our population’s growing waistlines. Fortunately, we also see many people taking the more sensible decision to join a gym or engage the services of an exercise professional.
But with more than nine million Australians either sedentary or participating in low levels of exercise, it would seem we’re only scratching surface.
This is a major concern when you consider that physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide1 and the economic cost in Australia is estimated to be $13.8 billion2 – the majority of this attributed to lost productivity in the workplace.
Of particular concern is the fact that although physical activity (including walking) is the second most important factor in disease prevention in Australia after quitting smoking3, and is easier than quitting smoking, the number of Australians who are physically inactive is far greater than the number of smokers – and the gap is widening!
Fitness Australia’s strategy for targeting physical inactivity is a three-staged approach involving collaborations to build evidence, facilitate and promote the benefits of physical activity. This includes working with:
- health organisations to build evidence and promote the link between physical activity and overall health
- governments to offer solutions through policy and targeted funding; and
- employers to support a healthy workplace through encouraging physical activity by their employees.
As an industry we can’t ignore the fact that many Australians find it difficult to fit anything else into their day. Outside of home, the workplace is where most people spend most time. That’s why working with employers to encourage activity during working hours is so important.
As I have said on previous occasions, good health is fundamental to Australia’s social and economic wellbeing – and the fitness industry plays a critical role in helping people achieve good health.
Healthy workplaces can help make businesses more productive and employees more engaged. Studies show that by implementing healthier workplace policies, employers benefit from improved performance and productivity, a reduction in absenteeism and sick leave, and improved morale, satisfaction and motivation.
As an industry we are able to offer employers assistance in introducing a variety of cost-effective initiatives to suit their workplaces. These initiatives include team challenges, group training sessions, individual adult pre-screening tests and discounted fitness facility memberships.
Fitness Australia is of the view that governments can also do their bit through implementing policy that promotes physical activity in the workplace by expanding the current tax benefits that apply to services provided within the workplace (which are almost exclusively provided by the big end of town) to include fitness and exercise services delivered by any registered gym or exercise professional.
If you are interested in discussing Fitness Australia’s advocacy, and in working to create healthy workplaces, call 1300 211 311.
1. World Health Organisation http://www.who.int/topics/physical_activity/
2. Medibank Private Limited, The cost of physical inactivity. October 2008
3. Wesley Corporate Health, Future@Work Health Report, 2006
Lauretta is a leading advocate for the health and fitness industry in Australia. Since becoming the CEO of Fitness Australia in 2006 she has embarked upon a systematic and strategic journey to raise the profile of the fitness industry, help integrate it within the health sector and ensure that it is recognised for its important role in helping millions of people improve their health and wellbeing.