Are employees getting fitter?

18 Jun 2019

By all accounts, the UK is turning into a nation of fitness fanatics: according to the 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report, the total number of gym memberships increased by 2 per cent to 9.9 million, with an additional 275 facilities opening across the UK last year.

But, although many of us are nestling gym membership cards in our wallets, how many of us are using them? And are our fitness levels (or lack thereof) affecting our work lives?

Current fitness levels in the UK

Despite the increase in gym membership, the UK’s overall fitness levels are not improving. According to the NHS’s Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity, and Diet, England, 2019 report:

  • In 2017/18, 10,660 hospital admissions were directly caused by obesity, around the same level as the previous year.
  • 711,000 hospital admissions cited obesity as a contributing factor in 2017/18, an increase of 15 per cent on 2016/17.
  • In 2017/18, 29 per cent of adults are classed as obese, compared to 26 per cent the previous year.
  • Only 29 per cent of adults consumed five or more portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

Clearly, there’s room for improvement. But why should workplaces care?

The benefits of fitter staff

There’s a fine line between an employer helping out and an employer meddling, but taking a genuine interest in employee fitness levels can be beneficial to the overall workforce.

After all, a healthy workforce is generally more:

  • Productive — healthy employees have been observed to be 3.1 times more productive
  • Engaged — the morale boost that comes along with better health can encourage cooperation and confidence.
  • Happier — of course, the endorphins from exercising makes for happier people all round!

Plus, a boost to health means fewer sick days! One study suggests that a good diet and exercise regime among employees can reduce absence by around 27 per cent.

How to encourage fitness in the workplace

There are many ways an employer can help their workforce get fit. Some amazing examples are…

Lambert Smith Hampton

In Glasgow, staff at Lambert Smith Hampton benefited from an eight-week challenge at a nearby Ignite Fitness. The programme addresses both nutrition and diet, creating an opportunity for staff member to relearn and rethink their lifestyle choices, and pursue a healthier path.


In a similar way, supermarket giants Tesco subsidised gym membership to 300,000 employees across the UK at the start of 2019. These gym membership rates have been held alongside the company’s wellness events and overall wellness strategy for its employees, surrounding the idea of having a healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy nutritional habits.

There are certainly benefits to encouraging healthier habits in your employees. Whether you push the boat out with assisting with gym costs, or simply offer an upgraded range of healthy snack options in the kitchen, your employees’ health is certainly something to watch.


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