David Martin, Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager

Q&A: Do businesses need to promote and support ‘being active’ to their workforce?

20 January 2022

What’s your role at AXA Health?  

I’m a Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager, which entails working with clients to launch and embed wellbeing programmes and ensure the services are delivered seamlessly. Ultimately the role is about ensuring the wellbeing programme delivers real value to both the employees and the business. I’m also a line manager, supporting members of our Physiology team. 


Are you and your team seeing increased prevalence of sedentary lifestyles or less active lifestyles since COVID?


During the COVID-19 lockdown, gyms and physical activity/sport facilities were closed. The ‘work from home whenever possible’ directive has also caused a significant reduction in commute walking with people only needing to commute to their home office / kitchen table.    

Research has shown that the first lockdown had a variable effect on the population in regard to physical activity depending on age. Public Health England have published data in their ‘wider impacts of COVID-19 on physical activity, deconditioning and falls in older adults’ report which showed that the first lockdown resulted in adults between 35-65 being more likely to be doing less physical activity than they were before. However, those aged between 16-34 were more likely to be doing more physical activity than they were before. 


What are the longer term impacts of inactivity? 

Research has shown that physical inactivity is responsible for 1 in 6 deaths, equivalent to smoking, and costs the UK economy 7.4 billion annually. Additionally, the Physiological Society and Centre for Ageing Better report the long term impacts of physical inactivity to be depression, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal problems. 


What three areas would you prioritise in supporting an organisation address an inactive workforce?

  1. Role models - leaders and managers need to be positive role models and perform the behaviours they want their teams to implement e.g. going for a walk at lunch time. This really helps to create a workplace culture of being active. 
  2. Education – people are often more motivated if they are aware of why they should be doing the behaviour you’re desiring them to do. The delivery of education sessions such as seminars/webinars on Physical Activity would help educate employees on the benefits of being active and also the negative impacts of being inactive.    
  3. Physical Activity Benefits – for example offering employees gym discounts, cycle to work schemes, or partnering with an activity based app e.g. the fit app. Maybe even more so allowing people the time to move around the office and not be sedentary. 


What role should seminars and webinars play in a connected wellbeing programme beyond raising awareness?

Seminars and webinars are crucial for being able to reach large numbers of people and target specific topics that have been highlighted as a risk area. This helps to ensure the wellbeing programme is evidence based and delivering what is actually needed as opposed to what is wanted. 


About the author

David is Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager at AXA Health. An experienced physiologist he works with large corporate clients to better understand their needs and provide health and wellbeing programmes that support improved health outcomes for their workforce.