We recently extolled the virtues of starting a workplace sports team, and now health experts are urging the government to introduce tax breaks on gym memberships and home fitness / workout equipment.

SITTING AT A DESK ALL DAY IS BAD FOR OUR HEALTH

Increasingly sedentary lifestyles for many of us mean, alarmingly, around one in four adults in England now don’t even manage half an hour’s activity per week. The chances are you’re reading this as you sit at your desk – and research has found that sitting for eight hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60%. The Lancet study of trends in insufficient physical activity also found that one hour’s activity every day could offset the potential harm of those days on end spent sitting at your desk.

The cycle to work scheme, introduced in 1999, offers bikes as tax-free benefits, and leading figures in the UK health sector are now calling on that to be expanded into other perks.

TIME TO INCENTIVISE BUSINESSES AND WORKERS TO GET ACTIVE

Their letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond warns that, shockingly, the UK is now one of the least active countries in the world, ranking 123rd of 168 countries by the World Health Organisation.

It goes on to say many employees struggle to fit physical activity into busy working days, and might be nudged into doing so if financial incentives were put in place.

In the letter, they also say: “Office-based employees in the UK now spend up to three quarters of their day sitting down – often for extended periods of time, and every year, employee ill-health negatively impacts UK businesses, despite the fact that much of it is preventable.”

Steven Ward, chief executive of ukactive, said:

Physical inactivity is the silent killer that has crept into our offices, so we need the government to work with the business community to reimagine workplace culture. The biggest barriers to physical activity for most people are convenience and cost. While Cycle to Work helped more than a million people to get active, we urgently need a broader scheme which offers tax breaks to more workers, with more options for exercise.

It is incumbent on us all – employers and employees alike – to take positive action and to somehow incorporate some physical activity into our working day. Employers, if forking out for kit, could even claim tax relief through the Work Clothing Tax Deduction. Is it reasonable to expect people to undertake an hour’s exercise during the working day? For despite the overwhelming evidence that it would benefit us all, modern life is fast and relentless. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page.

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