Sally Gunnell: Should employers encourage staff to take up fitness activities?

Encouraging and supporting a healthy, happy lifestyle will be essential for the best employers in the future.

The only question is: which are the best schemes for improving engagement and making a positive impact on absenteeism, presenteeism and productivity?

Fitness is coming to the fore in the prevention and treatment of many health and wellbeing problems, just as public and medical opinion is converging on more holistic approaches.

The research is mounting up, so whether the main priority is reducing musculoskeletal disorders or mental health problems, investing in a fitter workforce is more justifiable than ever.

The beauty of a scheme encouraging fitness is that it can impact so many areas of the workforce. Physical injury and sickness leave are key areas of benefit, but more subtle effects include improved concentration, better-quality sleep, reduced stress levels and more energy.

Fitness activities can also be a great tool for enhancing social cohesion, and they don’t have to be as daunting as many people fear. Engaging, fun activities can break down barriers and bring staff together.

The message for staff is to find activities they enjoy and make small changes to their lifestyle. It may be as simple as going for a walk at lunchtime or adding one or two yoga postures to their morning and evening routine. The challenge is to inspire individuals to be healthier for their own benefit, which also benefits their employer.

Sally Gunnell OBE is a former Olympic champion and designer of Sally Gunnell’s Healthy Living Programme