Over a third of office workers (35%) are too busy to take time out for health and wellbeing activities that could benefit them now and in later life, according to new research by Age UK and Bupa.

The survey found that office-based employees spend just an hour or less on physical exercise per week, with nearly one in ten admitting (9%) they do no exercise at all. Other recreational activities that could have a positive impact on wellbeing, such as reading, are also being neglected, with nearly half (48%) devoting just an hour or less to them every week.

Richard Adams, Chief Nurse at Bupa UK, said:

“It’s really important that we all take steps to think about how our everyday actions could affect our health when we are older. The good news is that it’s not difficult to make simple changes that can have a positive effect today and help us all live longer, healthier and happier lives in the years to come.

“As well as employees thinking about their health, we would urge employers to create an environment where their workforce can take time to lead healthy, active lifestyles, and lead by example. The risks of not thinking ahead are high – dementia, diabetes are just two examples of diseases that are potential outcomes of unhealthy lifestyles.”

Stress management is the lowest priority for time-stretched office workers, with 52 percent saying they practice no mindfulness or meditation at all and just 27 percent of respondents reporting that they make an effort to recognise the signs of stress and take action to deal with it.

Laurie Boult, Head of Fundraising at Age UK, said:

“Research has shown that looking after our mental wellbeing is just as important as protecting our physical health when it comes to ageing. While genes have an effect, 75 percent of the factors that lead to longer life are within our own control, like lifestyle and nutrition3. Everyone can take steps to help them age better and it’s never too early or too late to start. That’s why we’re working with Bupa to empower people to lead a healthy life now and support older people to do the same.”

The good news is that amongst the general UK population there is an appetite to prepare for a healthy later life, with the majority of people surveyed (65%) saying they would like to make changes to their current lifestyle to prepare for a healthy later life. Of those who are taking action to follow a healthy lifestyle, almost two thirds (64%) are doing so to reduce the risk of any future health conditions. Among the worries people have about growing older, dementia was revealed as the top concern (55%), followed by physical ill health (52%) and loss of mobility (48%).