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Obesity epidemic - what can employers do?

By Rosie Hewitt
Rehabilitation and Delegated Claims Manager

The work place can play an effective supporting role in the public health campaign for the prevention and treatment of obesity. Encouraging exercise and healthy eating through cycle-to-work schemes, discounted gym membership and the provision of free, fresh fruit in offices, once a week, are some ways to address the issue.

Others include:              

1. Encouraging employees to take a full lunch hour, during which they take some form of exercise. Many employees eat their lunch at their desk or skip it altogether which can have a negative impact on their health. 

2. Providing employees with pedometers so that they can measure their physical activity. Many people are surprised at the level of walking required to achieve the recommended 10,000 steps a day. Pedometers can be hugely motivational and can be used to  set team challenges or as a basis for fundraising events.

3. Linking in with the NHS's Change4Life, where there is excellent information about diet and exercise.

4. Providing employees with information on reputable weight-control apps. There are plenty to choose from and information on calorie calculation, exercise and diet can be downloaded for little or no cost.

5. Identifying someone in the office who is very engaged in physical exercise.  Make them a wellness champion and get them to encourage and motivate other staff to participate in lunch time walks and exercise.

6. Educating employees. Create informal 'lunch-and-learn' type sessions about the link between being overweight and/or obese and the development of chronic disease.

7. Providing ongoing training and awareness programmes to combat prejudice and discrimination against obese people in the workplace.

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