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Health and Wellbeing - August 2016

04 Aug 2016

Weighing up the cost of inactivity

A recent study published by global medical journal The Lancet has shockingly revealed that the implications of unmodified lack of physical activity now carry the same risk factors for premature death as unmodified tobacco or alcohol consumption. In other words, leading a medium to long-term sedentary lifestyle can be just as dangerous to your health as smoking cigarettes and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.

Links between increasing exercise and activity levels, proper nutrition and good health are nothing new, and such information and research is readily available throughout the media and the Internet these days. Statistics around heart disease, youth obesity and diabetes don’t seem to shock us any more – we seem to be too busy or preoccupied for it to register as a priority or social crisis. But things are getting worse and the trends aren’t reversing or even stabilizing – we have a problem.

One other shocking statistic revealed in this report is the global cost of inactivity, calculated at $90B per annum. More relevant to us is the annual cost of inactivity in Australia, which has been calculated at $805M. This can be broken down into direct health costs at $640M and lost productivity costs at $165M. (Sydney University, 2013)

It has been reported that less than 1% of the annual cost impact of lack of physical activity ($805M) is currently being invested in awareness, education, programs and solutions by government bodies today in Australia. This obviously must change, but let’s not wait to be told, well, how to suck eggs. Start with yourself, then your family, friends and colleagues and make some real changes in our levels of activity as we emerge from a really cold winter.

Tackling inactivity in your workplace

Now we know the latest research and the growing cost implications of inactivity, it’s time to build a plan to tackle this in your work place. Here is a list of ideas you can implement in your circle of colleagues and friends that will help you live better, stronger, and for longer.

  • Workplace culture: Complete a quick and honest assessment of your workplace health and wellbeing culture. Do you have any statistics on the activity levels of your employee base? Do you provide corporate health programs onsite or externally with local service providers? Do you reward, recognize or incentivize active and healthy employees?  Do you measure locally the costs associated with inactivity, lost productivity and absenteeism? Whatever your culture, if you haven’t already, form a wellbeing committee and start building your plan to improve activity levels and promote a healthy lifestyle in your workplace.
  • Onsite health and wellbeing programs: Help break down the barriers to exercise and physical activity for inactive workers - bring the programs to the employees! Over the years, we have provided many successful and well-received programs with companies in Docklands. The best thing about bringing the programs in-house is that you can remove mind set barriers like ‘too cold, too hot, too far, too tired, too busy’ and connect the activity with the people who need it the most. Programs should include screening, testing and measurements, education and, of course, opportunities to be progressively more active for at least 30 minutes.
  • Education and awareness: Provide your employees and colleagues with the information they need to be successful. Set targets for activity levels and reward commitment and participation. General targets like ‘30 minutes a day every day’ or ’10,000 steps per day’ are achievable and easily measureable with wearable technology these days. Online tracking and communities can be set up to increase motivation and connections through individual and team goal setting.

It’s August already - the last winter month of 2016. There is no better time to collaborate with your colleagues and plan your broad organizational approach to increasing physical activity in the workplace.

Change isn’t good, it’s great!

Repeating the same exercises, activities and programs over and over again might be a great way to start your exercise program as a beginner. Familiarity will increase confidence and that’s a good thing early on. But if you keep it up for too long then you will not achieve the results you desire, whatever they may be.

If you want to get results then change and variation is your friend and a really good one at that! It doesn’t mean you must do something different every time you train, that would be silly. It’s all about knowledge, structure and planning. Incorporating change will help you stay motivated and avoid a plateau in your results.

Here are some macro elements to consider your workout plan, and variation of these will help you gain and maintain your results more effectively.

  • Time and intensity: These elements are inversely related. The higher the intensity, the less time you can maintain your physical effort and vice versa. Moderate to higher intensity workouts are more effective for general fitness results as opposed to lengthy low intensity ones. You just need to build up to HIIT training or you could get injured early on and go backwards.
  • Resistance: Vary the amount of resistance when training with weights or in the functional zone. Do some heavy days every now and then with a spotter or trainer to safely challenge your limits. Light days with higher repetitions every now and then are also constructive. Try a Bodypump class too – you complete more than 800 repetitions in a Bodypump class as opposed to 300-400 in a regular weights workout; and it’s this high volume of full body movements that generate great results.
  • Variety: Keep things fresh and motivating - mix up your weight training and cardio exercises with some classes and functional training. Consider the postural and wellbeing benefits of Yoga, Pilates, stretching and Barre work. Don’t forget how good boxing or martial arts are for stress release.
  • Setting: Change your environment – the same workout indoors can be very refreshing taken outdoors.
  • Frequency: If you are going to exercise every day (and you should) have a plan that makes sense for your body. Don’t repeat intensive exercises for similar body parts day after day – your muscles need time to recover. Spread high intensity workouts throughout the week.

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