Healthy lifestyle choices

Last reviewed on 26/06/2014 09:30

The link between lifestyle and health and wellbeing is often underestimated. As a nation, Scotland is inactive, unfit and increasingly overweight or obese. The effects of poor lifestyle choices are associated with disease, disability and poor mental health. Next to smoking, the most significant contributor to Scotland's poor health is an unhealthy diet.

Poor nutrition is associated with an increased risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, some types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. According to the British Heart Foundation, more than half of the adult UK population is overweight and a further one in four are classified as obese. It is estimated that 18 million working days are lost each year due to obesity.

Similarly, evidence shows that people who are physically active take less sickness absence leave. Regular physical activity has wider personal, social and environment benefits as well as having beneficial effects on some chronic diseases and disorders.

We know that the majority of people in Scotland do not meet the minimum recommended levels of physical activity, particularly women.

What you should do

  • Recognise that the workplace can have a positive influence on the choices and opportunities people make to improve lifestyle behaviours.
  • As far as healthy eating is concerned, the workplace can encourage employees to eat more healthily through a number of simple actions.
  • Encourage staff to consider ways of cutting down on their carbon footprint, for example walking or cycling to work, which will also have a positive effect on their levels of physical activity.

Promoting Healthy Lifestyle Choices at work

  • Provide regular information to staff on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle - healthy recipes, information on local services such as local fitness classes and facilities, running/cycling or walking groups, weight maintenance groups, etc.
  • Provide staff with opportunities to become more active such as promoting use of stairs, lunchtime walking groups, incentives to use public transport, installing bike racks, etc.
  • Provide fridge and food storage facilities as well as clean food preparation and eating areas.
  • Provide healthy snacks, including fruit, at meetings.
  • Participate in national programmes, for example British Heart Foundation 'Think Fit! Eat Well!' - free resources are available to help employers introduce a workplace programme of this kind.​

Further information

Jog Scotland (external link) - can assist you in setting up a jogging group within your workplace

EatWell.gov.uk - contains lots of great advice and a community where you or your staff can ask questions around topics from healthy eating to physical activity

Active Scotland - can tell you some of the many opportunities in your area to get active

Cycling Scotland (external link) - can connect you to cycling skills and training courses among many things

Physical activity and Health Alliance (PAHA) - connects people and groups from a variety of sectors and professions with the shared goal of promoting physical activity across Scotland.

You can also call our Adviceline for free confidential advice, to request a workplace visit, or to register for our Award programme which recognises and accredits good practice.