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Office workers feel squeeze on time for wellbeing

Published on 30 June 2015 12:01 AM

1 in 3 office workers feel squeeze on time for health and wellbeing

  • More than a third (35%) of office workers spend just an hour or less on exercise a week
  • Nearly one in ten (9%) admit they do no exercise at all

More than one in three (35%) office workers(1) are too busy to take time out for health and wellbeing activities that could benefit them now and in later life, according to new research by Age UK and Bupa.

The survey found that more than a third (35%) of people whose work is solely or mainly office based, spend just an hour or less on physical exercise per week, with nearly one in ten admitting (9%) they do no exercise at all. Activities which can have a positive impact on wellbeing, such as reading a book or doing a crossword, are also being squeezed, with nearly half (48%) devoting just an hour or less every week to such activities.

Taking time out to manage stress comes at the biggest price for time-poor office workers, with over half (52%) admitting to spending no time at all on mental wellbeing activities such as practising mindfulness, meditation, or other stress relieving activities. Despite the toll stress can take on the mind and body now and in the future, just under a third (27%) make an effort to recognise the signs of stress and take action to deal with it.

Office workers, however, are trying to find ways to incorporate activities which they feel improves their health and wellbeing into their daily lifestyle, with more than half (53%) opting to take the stairs instead of the lift and a third (33%) making time to visit friends and family part of their daily routine.

The good news is that amongst the general UK population there is an appetite to prepare for a healthy later life, with the majority of people surveyed(2) (65%) saying they would like to make changes to their current lifestyle to prepare for a healthy later life. Of those who are taking action to follow a healthy lifestyle, almost two thirds (64%) are doing so to reduce the risk of any future health conditions. Among the worries people have about growing older, dementia was revealed as the top concern (55%), followed by physical ill health (52%) and loss of mobility (48%).

The findings come as Age UK and Bupa launch a partnership which sees the organisations come together to help more older people to live well, age well and ‘love later life'.

Laurie Boult, Head of Fundraising at Age UK, said: 'Research has shown that looking after our mental wellbeing is just as important as protecting our physical health when it comes to ageing. While genes have an effect, 75% of the factors that lead to longer life are within our own control, like lifestyle and nutrition(3). Everyone can take steps to help them age better and it's never too early or too late to start. That's why we're working with Bupa to empower people to lead a healthy life now and support older people to do the same.'

Richard Adams, Chief Nurse at Bupa UK, comments: 'It's really important that we all take steps to think about how our everyday actions could affect our health when we are older. The good news is that it's not difficult to make simple changes that can have a positive effect today and help us all live longer, healthier and happier lives in the years to come.

'As well as employees thinking about their health, we would urge employers to create an environment where their workforce can take time to lead healthy, active lifestyles, and lead by example. The risks of not thinking ahead are high - dementia, diabetes are just two examples of diseases that are potential outcomes of unhealthy lifestyles.'

For office workers feeling the squeeze on time to dedicate to their health, there are lots of fun ways for people to get fit, keep active and help improve their physical and mental wellbeing. Age UK and Bupa have reviewed existing academic studies and research to compile 10 tips that can help maintain healthy ageing - benefiting both physiological and cognitive health. These tips can be found at www.ageuk.org.uk/ageingtips.

Age UK has been chosen as Bupa's strategic charity partner in the UK, and all aspects of Bupa UK will be getting involved, from employees to customers and beyond. The healthcare specialist and its more than 32,000 employees will be raising funds and volunteering for Age UK with the aim of raising £1m over the next two years to support thousands of older people across the UK.

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Media contacts

For more information please contact Marilena Luxmoore on 020 3033 120 or email Marilena.Luxmoore@ageuk.org.uk.

Notes to editors

(1) YouGov online poll for Age UK of 2,061 people aged 18+, UK 6 - 9 April 2015. 660 of whom said they solely or mainly work in an office. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults.

(2) YouGov online poll for Age UK of 2,061 people aged 18+, UK 6 - 9 April 2015, all people surveyed. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults.

(3) Professor Tom Kirkwood's chapter in Improving Later Life Book , Age UK 2010 http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/knowledge-hub-evidence-statistics/improving-later-life-series/

Top 10 tips for healthy ageing:

In light of the findings, Age UK and Bupa have reviewed existing academic studies and research to compile the top 10 factors that can help maintain healthy ageing - benefiting both physiological and cognitive health.

The top 10 tips for healthy ageing are:

1. Take exercise: as well as the physical benefits, regular exercise has positive effects on your brain

2. Don't smoke: it's bad for your body and your brain(4)

3. Make use of health checks on offer: contact your GP surgery for information(5)

4. Be sociable: avoid the harmful effects of loneliness by keeping up your social contacts(6)

5. Eat and drink well: a Mediterranean diet or similar which is rich in nuts, whole grains and fruit, vegetables and oily fish, alcohol in moderation(7)

6. Manage stress: keep your stress levels and your blood pressure down(8)

7. Rest: get enough sleep. Most experts suggest about eight hours a night(9)

8. Keep your brain active and challenge yourself: through work or volunteering: people in jobs that demand complex dealings with people or data are more likely to stay mentally sharp in later life(10)

9. Learn a language: people who speak more than one language are more likely to stay sharp in old age(11)

10. Love later life: a positive attitude towards growing older can increase your life expectancy by up to seven and a half years(12)

Bupa's recent research into employee health and wellbeing:

Following recent research [insert hyperlink to release], which revealed that the majority of UK employees believe their employer has a responsibility to look after their employees' health and wellbeing, Bupa urge employers to think about how healthy ageing can be encouraged in the work place.

About Bupa and Age UK's partnership

Bupa and Age UK are working together to raise £1 million and empower people to live and age well.

Fundraising and volunteering will support Information & Advice services, Age UK's Call in Time telephone friendship service and a number of local wellness programmes such as lunch clubs, exercise classes and befriending schemes through the Age UK network in England*, Wales*, Scotland* and Northern Ireland*.

* Funds raised will go to respective Charities: Age Cymru, Age Scotland and Age Northern Ireland

Bupa has previously supported charities such as Diabetes UK and Alzheimer's Society through the Bupa Great Run series. In contrast, this new partnership will integrate across all aspects of Bupa UK from employees to customers and beyond.

About Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and wellbeing, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is longer, healthier, happier lives.

As a leading global health and care company, we offer health insurance, medical subscription and other health and care funding products; we run care homes, retirement and care villages, primary care, diagnostic and wellness centres, hospitals and dental clinics. We also provide workplace health services, home healthcare, health assessments and long-term condition management services.

We have 29m customers in 190 countries. With no shareholders, we invest our profits around the world to provide more and better healthcare and fulfil our purpose.

We employ almost 80,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, New Zealand and Chile, as well as Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, India, Thailand and the USA.

For more information, visit www.bupa.com.

(4) Dr Alan Maryon-Davis' chapter in Improving Later Life Book , Age UK 2010 http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/knowledge-hub-evidence-statistics/later-life-series

Also brain health http://www.nhs.uk/news/2015/02February/Pages/Long-term-smoking-may-cause-brain-shrinkage.aspx

(5) Ian Philp's chapter in Improving Later Life Book , Age UK 2010 http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/knowledge-hub-evidence-statistics/improving-later-life-series/

(6) Best summary is Campaign to End Loneliness Research Hub http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/threat-to-health/

(7) Dr Lisa Methven and Dr Orla Kennedy's chapter in Improving Later Life Book , Age UK 2010 http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/knowledge-hub-evidence-statistics/improving-later-life-series/

(8) Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell's chapter in Improving Later Life Book , Age UK 2010 http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/knowledge-hub-evidence-statistics/improving-later-life-series/

(9) Professor Kevin Morgan's chapter in Improving Later Life Book , Age UK 2010 http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/knowledge-hub-evidence-statistics/improving-later-life-series/

(10) Smart, E et al, Occupational complexity and lifetime

cognitive abilities, Neurology, 2014 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4277669/

(11) Bak, T et al, Does bilingualism influence cognitive aging? Annals of Neurology, 2014

(12) Professor Becca Levy's chapter in Improving Later Life Book , Age UK 2010 http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/knowledge-hub-evidence-statistics/improving-later-life-series/

Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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