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Sedentary lifestyle increases risk of health issues


15 September 2017

Working body

Working body

Problems with muscles, bones and joints have a habit of getting worse if they’re not treated. With Working Body, your employees can talk to a physiotherapist over the phone without a GP referral.

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It may not come as a surprise that the majority of the UK workforce spends most of their time sitting down. What is shocking however is the amount of time workers spend sitting on a daily basis.

According to research from AXA Health nearly half (46%) of workers spend 4 to 6 hours sitting during office hours and a further 25% spend 7 to 8 hours being seated. For most the time they spend sitting isn’t just limited to office hours as a large percentage of workers commute to work. 27% spend 30-60 minutes seat bound during their daily commute and additionally 17% say their seated commute can take 1-2 hours.

Worryingly 50% have also admitted to being seated for 2-3 hours a day during their own leisure and home time, a further 31% declared even more hours, clocking in 4-6 hours of lounging time.

What is particularly concerning about these findings is that almost three quarters (73%) of respondents have experienced musculoskeletal problems such as back, neck and shoulder pain which are all caused by long periods of immobility. Despite this half (51%) of workers are “okay” with their sedentary lifestyle and a third (33%) admit to being “happy” with it¹.

Gaining perspective

Jan Vickery, head of musculoskeletal services for AXA Health, comments: “We cannot escape from the fact that many of us do much of our day-to-day business on our bottoms. To help bring this home, this nine-hour sit-time is tantamount to a UK flight to the Caribbean and, while it’s encouraging that some are taking steps to lower the risks associated with prolonged sitting, it’s a concern that, for others, this seems to be a low priority. To make matters worse, sedentary home and leisure patterns may further increase our susceptibility to chronic health problems.”

Only 36% of the respondents actively try to do something about the inertia by frequently getting out of their work seats to frequently move around.

Vickery adds: “For the sake of our health we need to break the sedentary cycle. Employees – and their employers – should be aware that adopting and developing better habits can make a big difference. Making a point of getting up and about every half hour – whether to speak with a colleague or just to stretch your legs – should help you to feel more energised and productive. Perhaps it’s time to give that old exhortation ‘Bottoms up’ a new lease of life to remind ourselves to get up and off our chairs more often.”

Getting help when it’s needed

It almost goes without saying that early intervention and support is key should a member of your workforce be suffering from joint, muscle or bone pain. Waiting to see a GP can create yet another barrier to reaching out for help. That’s where AXA Health’s Working Body service can provide the support they need from the very first phone call. Our evidenced based pathway actively tackles the many issues posed by musculoskeletal health conditions, delivering fast access to the most appropriate care. There are several clear benefits of the pathway:

1. A better member journey

 Our qualified and experienced physiotherapists are at the heart of Working Body so members can arrange to speak with one of our experts without the need to see a GP first. Members will also receive case management and, where required, escalation to see a specialist for on-going treatment through our nationwide partner network. The telephone clinical consultation directs members to one of three pathways:

  • Self-Management - This is where we provide the member with easy to follow guidance on how best to manage their condition. This is a bespoke programme designed with their needs in mind and on-going support throughout their treatment. 
  • Alternatively they could be referred to face-to-face manual therapy with one of our approved clinicians. 
  • Specialist referral and referral to diagnostics is provided where members need further investigation or specialist involvement.

2. Better financial control

Through careful management and input into the treatment pathway, we ensure that members are being directed to the most appropriate treatment for their condition. This approach can generate cost savings for business in the form of reduced musculoskeletal claims costs as employees receive appropriate and timely treatment. We would also expect to see improved productivity and reduced absenteeism within the workplace as members are guided to the most appropriate care quicker helping to reduce the impact that their complaint can have on their personal and working lives. 

3. Better choice and flexibility

Working Body offers choice and flexibility, and works alongside any existing in-house arrangements an organisation may have. At AXA Health we’re confident that Working Body is the best way for a business and its employees to manage musculoskeletal conditions.



Jan, a chartered physiotherapist and chartered ergonomist and human factors specialist, is head of musculoskeletal health for AXA Health’s specialist Health Services division. She is the immediate past chair of the executive committee of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics (ACPOHE) and in April 2015 was elected to the board of directors of the Council for Work and Health.

Jan has extensive experience of the management of musculoskeletal health and has experience across a wide variety of employment settings, including aviation, financial services, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, retail and the NHS. Her understanding of musculoskeletal pathology and expertise in ergonomics give her a powerful insight into effectively managing work-related musculoskeletal conditions.


If you would like to find out more about Working Body and how it can help support your workforce call your Account Manager today.