By Claire West

~ Over half chained to their desks for most of the day ~

The British Heart Foundation has today revealed new survey results which show that more than one in three (35%) workers avoid exercise during their working day because they don’t want to be seen getting hot and sweaty in front of colleagues. Over half (55%) spend more than half their working day sitting or standing still. Nearly as many (48%) eat lunch at their desks, while just over one in six workers (16%) feel the pressure to take a shorter break.

The figures paint a worrying picture of Britain’s workplace habits, with 81% of UK workers failing to get the recommended amount of exercise a week.

The charity releases these statistics to mark World Heart Day on Sunday 26 September and promote its Health at Work programme, which helps workers get active and lead a healthier lifestyle. A recent government report estimates that at the current rate of waistline expansion 36% of men and 28% of women in England will be obese in just five years, paving the way for a surge in heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

The new survey also suggests that workplaces are the perfect location for keeping fit and active, with half of UK workers (50%) admitting they won’t travel more than 10 minutes from work or home to exercise.

Lisa Purcell, project manager for the BHF’s Health at Work Programme says:

“Embarrassment shouldn’t prevent people from being healthy at work. You don’t have to don a lycra leotard to get fit and healthy, the payoffs from even simple changes like taking a walk at lunchtime are too great to ignore. Getting healthy during the working day means you are less stressed and better motivated.

“Bosses need to understand there’s a massive return on investment here. Simple measures to improve the health of your workforce — like swapping tea-break biscuits for fruit, or getting the team together for a lunchtime kickaround in the car park - can improve productivity, reduce staff turnover, and mean fewer sick days.”

The BHF is calling on businesses to take their employee’s health and wellbeing seriously, and start reaping the rewards.

The BHF Health at Work programme, sponsored by Legal & General, has already signed up more than 800 organisations. Employees from bin men to bank tellers are finding there’s no need for blushes when they’re all in it together.

Apprentice celebrity Claire Young is supporting the campaign:

“Since taking part in The Apprentice 2008, I've lost almost 4 stone through good diet and exercise. All companies need a fit workforce — a healthy mind is a productive mind. How about banning eating at desks or putting together a health club at work?

“The more employers look after their staff, the better they will perform, and the BHF Health at Work Programme can give you the support you need. It's a great way to ensure a happier and healthier workplace!”

Sign up for free and get all the advice and resources you need to start your own health club at work at bhf.org.uk/healthatwork