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Workplaces should help staff get fit to reduce sick days

Employers should do more to encourage staff to be more active during the working day, to tackle obesity levels and boost staff satisfaction, according to health officials.

Bosses should make employees aware of lunchtime fitness classes, offer subsidised gym memberships and encourage using the stairs instead of the lift, says health regulator the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The organisation has issued new guidance as part of a wider aim to reduce sedentary behaviour in the UK.

Workplaces should also provide information about safe active travel routes to work, and introduce company exercise programmes to improve employee health and boost happiness and productivity levels.

More than 131 million working days were lost to sickness in 2017, including 13 million working days lost to stress, depression or anxiety, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. NICE believes focusing on physical activity is key to reducing this figure.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: "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. 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."

One in four people are now classed as obese, according to 2016 data, compared to one in six in 1993. Public Health England says physical inactivity is as deadly as smoking, as it is estimated to be responsible for one in six deaths.

Sarah Ruane, strategic lead for health at Sport England, said: "Research shows that to make getting active easy for people, we need to provide attractive and affordable opportunities that are easy to fit into their lives. We believe that the environments in which people live, work and travel can provide the right conditions for people to be more physically active."

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