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One in five workers say their job prevents them exercising

6 Sep 2019 By Elizabeth Howlett

Public sector is the UK’s least active, survey finds, though employees understand the link between physical and mental wellbeing

The poll of 2,000 UK employees found 19 per cent of respondents said work was their “main excuse” for not exercising. A further 32 per cent said a lack of time prevented them from hitting the gym or engaging in an active lifestyle.

It also found just under a third (29 per cent) of those polled showed evidence of burnout, which the report suggested acted as another barrier to exercise.

The study, conducted by AXA PPP, found that public sector employees, including those working in the government and civil service, were among the UK’s least physically active.



One in 10 (13 per cent) public sector employees admitted to not undertaking any daily exercise, up from 9 per cent in 2018, while fewer than half (45 per cent) managed 30 minutes of daily exercise. This included moderate walking during their commute.

The fittest sector was found to be agriculture, as employees spent an average of 115 minutes per day engaging in some form of exercise, just ahead of hospitality, which had an average time of 105 minutes per day.

Media and journalism came in third, with employees spend an average of 98 minutes per day exercising. 

The survey also found the percentage of workers who identified the benefits of exercise on mental health had increased to 48 per cent in 2019, up eight percentage points from the previous year, suggesting more workers are becoming aware of the role physical activity plays in enhancing wellbeing.

Similarly, 46 per cent of respondents linked exercise with stress relief.

The results come just a week after the release of a separate survey that showed employers took on average four ‘mental health’ days a year, for reasons including stress, exhaustion and depression.

The poll, released by Slater and Gordon, also found more than half of those taking mental health days were lying to their managers about being physically unwell because they thought they would not be understood by their boss or were too embarrassed to admit the real reason.

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