Getting fit and active

June 4, 2019

Stacey Smith, head of business development in the North East for Life Fitness, owner of nutrition consultancy business SpoonFed, and former professional GB Athlete, looks at how the corporate world can help workers improve their health and wellbeing

Government figures show obesity levels in the UK are at an all-time high; 29 per cent of the adult population. More worryingly, the North East tops the rankings for the most obese region.

Now, fitness activity across the UK is at a high, with 28.2 million people meeting the Chief Medical Officers guidelines and nearly half a million more people doing 150 minutes of exercise a week than last year, according to the Sport England’s Active Lives survey.

With a focus on outdoor living and the positive impact nature has on our mental and physical wellbeing, combined with fitness trackers sold at an all-time high, meant that walking and hiking activities came out top, with around 26.9 million people engaging in this. General gym and fitness activities came in second place, showing that the important message of physical activity on long- term general health is getting through.

But with obesity levels still at an all-time high, not enough is being done and it’s not just physical activity being the answer to all our problems. Nutritional education, stress reduction, mental health and habit setting are also important features to add to the equation.

The health and fitness omnibus survey (HAFOS) found that 40 per cent of adults don’t do enough exercise and encouraging factors to increase this includes lower costs, more information/education, improved facilities, better fitness equipment, better programming, better public transport and childcare facilities. When you take into account 45 per cent of people say that a lack of time, due to work-related pressures, is why they don’t exercise, perhaps the corporate world can do its bit to contribute towards this.

So, what’s the solution?

1. If your place of work doesn’t have a gym facility or an activity programme, ask if it has plans to do so, or if it would be willing to contribute to a gym membership? If you are reading this as a business owner or fitness facility, and want to increase memberships or staff usage, then look at what your product offering is.

  • Are you giving enough variety for your staff, are you connecting with them enough, have you provided a community for them, so members feel accountable for attending and receiving a personalised experience?
  • How about coaching and trainer standards? Do you keep on top of them, do they regularly update their CPDs?
  • Have you kept on top of trends and have you been able to provide facilities which are in demand now?
  • Are you able to offer advice to your members on nutrition, mental health, or know of people and companies that can if you can’t? Have you thought of partnering up with such companies?

2. If you travel regularly with work, then my recommendations are to always book a hotel with a gym or book one near a park/nature area so you can get out and walk. Eating while on the road is easier than what people think. Breakfast (if in the hotel) can be poached eggs, a slice of toast and grilled tomatoes. Try and stay away from the pastries, fried foods and sugary cereals. Many chain cafes offer egg protein pots and wholegrain porridge and swap your regular latte for a skimmed milk cappuccino to half your calories.

Lunch can be grilled chicken salad, but stay clear or calorific dressings, fried toppings and cheeses, which will bump up the calories drastically. Many service stations now have food courts with plenty of healthier options. M&S is a regular on the road and now has high protein bowls, low-calorie dishes and plenty of salads. However, always read the nutrition label. Just because it says salad doesn’t mean it is low calorie. Jacket potato and beans is a popular choice in winter and consider taking in your own lunch if you can prepare it the night before. I advise batch cooking and storing it in the freezer ready to be taken out the next day. Things like lean meat chilli con carne with whole grain rice, chicken curries (low sugar/fat homemade sauces), chickpea and lentil stews, tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches with low fat mayo on wholegrain bread are also easy options.

Snacks can be some people’s biggest downfall. Try and avoid high sugar soda, full-fat milky coffees, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, cake and cut down on nuts and dried fruit (yes, they need moderating too as they are extremely calorific). Instead, aim for filling, nutritious foods, such as no-sugar high protein yogurts, boiled eggs, protein bars, low-fat humus on Ryvita, crudities, such as carrot, cucumber, celery, pepper, cherry tomatoes and some fruit.

Dinner out at a restaurant can simply be steamed fish/grilled steak/chicken, accompanied with vegetables, boiled potatoes or rice. There you have a healthy nutritious dinner. Where people fail when working away is ordering starters, mains and dessert, with alcohol too. But ask yourself, would you really have this if you were at home? Probably not.

Calorific dishes to look out for are creamy/ cheesy pasta dishes, pizzas, extra-large burgers, deep fat foods and stir fries in lots of oil. Now, I’m not demonising any foods, I would never recommend banning them. But do be aware that these foods are going to be very calorific and that you should bare this in mind if you are wanting to lose weight and look after your health.

Stacey Smith
stacey.smith@lifefitness.com

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