Physical activity is important to improve and maintain cardiorespiratory fitness. More recently, additional wider health benefits of physical exercise have been highlighted, including reduction in obesity and promoting mental wellbeing. Increased recognition of these benefits has led NICE to issue recent public health guidance in this area (PH13; promoting physical activity in the workplace). These recommendations aim to help employers and workplace health professionals prevent diseases associated with a lack of physical activity. We have audited the approach taken to physical activity at work taken by two large organisations, using PH13 to develop 23 appropriate gold standards (GS). For example, GS1 states that ‘There is an organisational policy to encourage and support employees to be more physically active’, GS5 that ‘There are organisational goals for physical activity in the workforce’ and GS10 that ‘There are policies to encourage employees to be physically active while travelling to work (eg, walking and cycling)’. 44 employees from a health provider (Health) and 63 employees from a public sector organisation (PSO) underwent a self-completed questionnaire enquiring about a broad range of workplace-based exercise issues, each question mapping to an a priori defined gold standard. Various clear differences emerged between organisations in attaining the GS, although compliance by both with certain of these was good. For example, GS7 stated ‘A multi-component programme is in place to encourage and support employees to exercise’. Overall, employees from Health and PSO were positive about the facilities to encourage exercise, the majority of employees being aware of various facilities in place including safe bike storage (PSO; 73.0%, Health 52.3%) and showers (PSO; 87.3%, Health; 40.9%). Compliance with other GS was poor. For example, GS9 required that there was employee knowledge of an ‘incentive schemes to encourage exercise’. Despite the presence of incentives to exercise at each site, only 14.3% of PSO employees (Health; 13.6%) were aware of financial incentives and 9.5% (Health; 9.1%) aware of non-financial incentives to exercise. Whilst exercise is an important contributor to health, further work is required to ensure that recent PH guidance aimed at improving exercise at work has maximal worker benefit.
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