Irish Life Health launches Workplace Fitness Challenge

  • Irish Life Health screened thousands of workers last year[i] and has released new insights on the health of Ireland’s workforce
  • Results reveal that a majority (54%) are overweight and a third (34%) had high cholesterol
  • New research also shows that 42% of Ireland’s workforce put on weight when they started their current job – with nearly a quarter (22%) of those putting on over a stone
  • Irish Life Health calls on Ireland’s workplaces to participate in the simple six-week Workplace Fitness Challenge, using the free Move Your MET app

Irish Life Health has released a shocking snapshot into the health of Ireland’s workers – with a majority of our workforce now overweight or obese.

Irish Life Health undertakes workplace health screenings nationwide, and 2016 data has revealed that 54% of workers are now overweight, and more than a third (34%) have high cholesterol. Further survey research[i] conducted by Irish Life Health showed that 42% of workers put on weight when they started their current job – with nearly a quarter (22%) putting on over a stone.

Irish Life Health has launched the 2017 Irish Life Health Workplace Fitness Challenge – a six-week challenge which encourages workers to take small consistent steps to improve their fitness.

Developed in partnership with DCU, the Irish Life Health Workplace Fitness Challenge is a pioneering initiative designed to inspire Ireland’s workforce to increase its level of physical activity to become fitter, healthier and happier. The challenge runs for six weeks, starting Monday 22nd May – Friday 30th June 2017.

The Workplace Fitness Challenge asks people to measure their cardiovascular fitness level via the app at the start of the programme, and then work to improving fitness over the course of the six weeks. All participants need to do is input their data, either walk a mile or run 1.5 miles, and then calculate their score. Fitness is measured by MET score: an increase of one point in a person’s MET Score results in an equivalent reduction of 15% risk of a cardiovascular incident and a reduction of risk of premature death by a considerable 13%.[ii]

Irish Life Health is encouraging employers to register their companies, and to support their employees in participating in this pioneering healthy initiative. The challenge is open to all companies regardless of size, location and facilities.

This year, a series of Urban Hike Maps have been launched to show workers in Dublin, Cork and Galway how they can utilise city centre locations for enjoyable exercise. The maps are downloadable on www.irishlifehealth.ie/moveyourmet/resource-centre/.

Former Ireland rugby international Gordon D’Arcy is an ambassador for the Workplace Fitness Challenge, and called for people all over Ireland to participate. Gordon D’Arcy said: “Now that exercise is no longer my job, I have to fit it around both a busy work schedule and around two children under two – I can see just how hard it is to make time for fitness! The great thing about the Irish Life Health Workplace Fitness Challenge is that it shows that small, consistent exercise really makes a huge difference to your overall health. It’s not about being a top athlete or sweating it out in the gym for hours – building regular exercise into your schedule that boosts your heart rate really results in a lifelong health boost.”

Jim Dowdall, MD at Irish Life Health said: “Research shows that exercise boosts productivity and focus, leads to a reduction in sick leave and just generally creates a more positive work environment. As Ireland’s most innovative health insurer, Irish Life Health is leading the way in promoting initiatives such as The Workplace Fitness Challenge to improve the health and fitness levels of people in Ireland. The new Urban Hikes initiative also makes it easier for people to incorporate more physical activity into their daily routines.”

Prof Niall Moyna, Head of the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU, believes that MET scores are an essential measure for health, and encourages people to become more aware of what this means.

“Your MET score is one of the best independent predictors of your current health and longevity,” he said. “It is an integrated measure of your lungs, cardiovascular system and muscles – I consider it the gold standard measure of fitness. The ultimate goal is to make this a vital sign that is always checked by your doctor, and everyone should know their MET score.”

“In addition, it’s important not to forget the mental health benefits of exercise. When you exercise, it improves your attention, information processing, storage and retrieval. It also enhances coping mechanisms and generally improves positivity,” Prof. Moyna said.

DCU Exercise Physiologist Dr Sarah Kelly, has found that despite fitness being a main focus of her work, she has found it slipping down the list of priorities now she is a parent.

“At times, squeezing in a workout can be so far down my priority list – with kids and work it often seems impossible. But it’s so important to find a place for it in my week – it needs to be non-negotiable and, in my case, it definitely requires planning and wholeheartedly committing to building it into my day. The Workplace Fitness Challenge is only for six weeks – and committing to this short timeframe will allow you to really see your fitness improve. With time, it will become easier to get it done and there will come a time, maybe sooner than you think, that you will enjoy every minute of it!”

The Irish Life Health Workplace Fitness Challenge lasts for six weeks, starting on 22nd May 2017 and ending on 30th June 2017. Awards will be given for Ireland’s Fittest Workplace, Most Improved Large Company, Most Improved Mid-Sized Company and Most Improved Small Company. More on www.irishlifehealth.ie/moveyourmet/.

[i] Survey by Empathy Research on behalf of Irish Life Health on 577 Irish adults in Ireland in April – May 2017

[ii] Source: Kodama et al, 2009, JAMA