Tackling obesity in the workplace

Obesity is a prevalent global issue, with a new study from The New England Journal of Medicine revealing that 30% of the world’s population suffer from weight issues.

Of the 4 million deaths attributed to excess body weight in 2015, 40% of these were people that were not technically considered obese, but fell under the classification known as overweight.

And this is not an issue occurring outside of our borders. According to the latest South African Demographic and Health Survey, over 70% of local women are considered obese or overweight – staggeringly high statistics. And the implications of these figures are dire: excess weight is linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoarthritis, as well as less serious diseases that can increase absenteeism and reduce productivity.

So how do you try and reduce obesity in the workplace?

Here are some options to consider:

1. Raise awareness

A large part of this problem is that many people do not understand the direct link obesity has to certain health issues. They may moan about their aching back or their heartburn but they never attribute these issues to their own lifestyle choices. Ensure that your employees are educated on the effects of obesity and then organise a full health assessment for each of them with a nurse, including their blood pressure and BMI (many medical aid schemes offer this service). If they need to lose weight, offer them guidance when it comes to nutrition and exercise.

2. Provide healthy food choices

If you’re stocking vending machines in the office only with fizzy drinks, chocolates and crisps, you’re doing your employees a disservice. Fill a fruit bowl with seasonal fruit to choose from, get some unsalted nuts and popcorn as options and offer healthy meal choices too like yoghurts, salads and wholegrain sandwiches. Depending on company budgets, you could also subsidise healthier meals and snacks so that they become more attractive options for your staff. Also consider placing unhealthy options like chocolates away from eye level so that they don’t easily catch people’s eye when they’re at the cashier.

3. Relook at your workspace

A sedentary life is an unhealthy one. Relook at the environment you’re asking your staff, your most precious resource, to work in every day. Offer standing or even walking desks as alternatives, ensure their chairs are correctly set up ergonomically and encourage regular breaks to stretch and get some fresh air. Also get them walking up the stairs instead of always using the lift, and speak to management about the idea of standing meetings, where sitting is discouraged.

4. Exercise together

Most people don’t thrive exercising alone. If you are exercising with friends or colleagues you’re more likely to honour your regular fitness commitments, and you’ll have more fun while doing it too. Establish company running or walking clubs, with short runs or walks organised during your employees’ lunch hour, especially among those who need more motivation. Offer incentives for exercising, like free juices or coffees for those who achieve certain fitness goals in defined time periods.

5. Make being healthier cheaper

It’s all very well telling people to live a healthier life but the truth is that things like yoga classes, gym memberships and organic food are generally more expensive than unhealthy choices like fast food (and sitting on the couch!). See if you can negotiate discounts with gym companies for example, making it easier and cheaper for your employees to keep in shape.

Provided by Fedhealth.


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