Northern Ireland employees work up a sweat

Small changes add up! Over 100 employees from seven NI companies racked up 149,419 active minutes between them as part of an eight-week workplace challenge – that’s 66 ‘active weeks’!

A group of energetic employees gathered at Belfast Harbour on Thursday 12 January for a celebration event to recognise their participation in Activity Works – a new workplace-based challenge.

Business in the Community, in partnership with Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS) and sponsored by health and wellbeing provider Westfield Health, launched the exciting new workplace-based campaign in September 2016 to help support employers to tackle the harmful effects of sustained sedentary behaviour.

Seven businesses signed up to the pilot programme, which saw employees rack up a total of 149,419 ‘active minutes’, by making small changes to their normal routine. Employees were encouraged to engage in active travel, active breaks and even active meetings!

Throughout the challenge participants tracked their activity, creating a little healthy competition! Translink was recognised the Best Company for Active Travel, whilst Diageo was the Best Company for Active Meetings. Belfast Health and Social Care Trust was the Best Company for Active Breaks.

Lorraine Milne, Senior Business Development Consultant at Westfield Health, commented:

“Westfield Health is extremely proud to continue its support of Business in the Community through the exciting pilot project, Activity Works. It is something we feel strongly about as champions of health and wellbeing in the workplace and in the wider population – supporting employees, employers and local communities and championing a healthy lifestyle.

“This very much ties in to the core values of Business in the Community Northern Ireland, and our support for Activity Works has helped further enrich our long-standing partnership. It’s amazing to see how much the scheme was embraced by those involved and to hear how much people have benefited from taking part.”

Amy Kieran, Workplace Programme Manager at Business in the Community said: “We are delighted with the results of the first Activity Works Challenge. Together, participants clocked up a staggering 149,419 active minutes during the eight- week period. This equates to 2,490 active hours – or a total of 66 weeks, based on the average working week!

“The feedback from participants has been really positive, with employers noticing increased motivation and wellbeing in the office. We understand that people have busy lives, both inside and outside the office, and this initiative works really well because it doesn’t demand that you make extra time for hours in the gym, instead it encourages people to fit exercise into their normal routine. The pilot has been a great success and we hope to roll it out to even more of our member companies this year.”

Sinead Lynch, Senior Corporate Fundraising Executive, Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke added: “Congratulations to all those who participated in the pilot and clocked up ‘active minutes’. Participants made positive changes to their daily routine due to an increased understanding of the risks associated with sedentary lifestyles which enhances their wellbeing, creativity and also productivity. I also want to thank all the participants for their fundraising as this will also make a real difference to those in NI affected by a chest, heart or stroke condition.”

Research shows that sitting for more than four hours each day, irrespective of overall physical activity, can cause a range of harmful effects including a reduction in metabolic rate, disrupted blood sugar levels and a shutdown of leg muscles. And in the longer-term, sedentary lifestyles can increase the risk of developing stroke, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, raise the risk of obesity, contribute to back ache and muscle degeneration, and is linked to mental health issues including dementia and depression.

If your business is interested in getting involved in the next phase of Activity Works, please visit www.bitcni.org.uk/event/activity-works to find out more or register your interest.