Exercise Guidelines in the UK
Exercise Guidelines were published by the four UK Chief Medical Officers, covering early years; children and young people; adults; and older adults. This is the first time UK-wide physical activity guidelines have been produced and represents the first time guidelines have been produced in the UK for early years (under fives) as well as sedentary behaviour, for which there is now evidence that this is an independent risk factor for ill health. Physical activity should be encouraged across the population, with the latest evidence showing there is a clear link between physical activity and chronic disease. The new guidelines offer more flexibility for achieving the recommended levels of physical activity. The guidance has a renewed focus on being active everyday and spells out the recommended minimum levels of activity for each age group:
Under-fives: 180 minutes – three hours – each day, once a child is able to walk.
Children and young people (5-18 year old): 60 minutes and up to several hours every day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity. Three days a week should include vigorous intensity activities that strengthen muscle and bone.
Adults (19-64 years old) and older people (65+): 150 mins – two and half hours – each week of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (and adults should aim to do some physical activity every day). Muscle strengthening activity should also be included twice a week.
Keeping fit at work
For many types of work such as gardeners, construction and engineers, for example, keeping fit is not a problem. However, with the number of sedentary and office based jobs on the increase and a decline in manufacturing keeping fit and achieving the targets of the exercise guidelines is not so easy to do. Workers have to be reminded about getting up from their chairs and a whole industry of alarms and keystroke monitoring software is available to help remind office workers to take regular and frequent breaks as specified in the Display Screen Regulations.
Keeping arms and legs in static positions can increase the chances of musculo-skeletal disorders (pains in arms and wrists), and by not following the exercise guidelines the chances are that obesity could result and associated health problems eg diabetes or heart disease.
Wellbeing and health promotion initiatives in the workplace can help educate and remind workers of the dangers of not doing enough exercise.
Employers can also negotiated reduced gym membership and provide on site showers and facilities to store bicycles and helmets. With the aging workforce and associated costs of long term absence it is important to consider how best to care and instruct your workers. Ask your occupational health service provider to focus their campaigns on this one area for good health results.