More than one in three office workers 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 35 percent of people whose work is solely or mainly office based, spend just an hour or less on physical exercise per week, with 9 percent admitting they do no exercise at all. Activities which can have a positive impact on wellbeing, such as reading a book or doing a crossword, are also being squeezed, with nearly half (48 percent) devoting just an hour or less every week to such activities.
Taking time out to manage stress comes at the biggest price for time-poor office workers, with 52 percent admitting to spending no time at all on mental wellbeing activities such as practising mindfulness, meditation, or other stress relieving activities. Despite the toll stress can take on the mind and body now and in the future, just 27 percent make an effort to recognise the signs of stress and take action to deal with it.
Office workers, however, are trying to find ways to incorporate activities which they feel improves their health and wellbeing into their daily lifestyle, with more than half (53 percent) opting to take the stairs instead of the lift and a third making time to visit friends and family part of their daily routine.
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 percent) 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 percent) 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 percent), followed by physical ill health (52 percent) and loss of mobility (48 percent).
The findings come as Age UK and Bupa launch a partnership which sees the organisations come together to help more older people to live well, age well and ‘love later life’.
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 nutrition. 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.”
Richard Adams, Chief Nurse at Bupa UK, comments: “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.”
Top ten tips for healthy ageing
In light of the findings, Age UK and Bupa have reviewed existing academic studies and research to compile the top 10 factors that can help maintain healthy ageing – benefiting both physiological and cognitive health.
The top 10 tips for healthy ageing are:
- Take exercise: as well as the physical benefits, regular exercise has positive effects on your brain
- Don’t smoke: it’s bad for your body and your brain
- Make use of health checks on offer: contact your GP surgery for information
- Be sociable: avoid the harmful effects of loneliness by keeping up your social contacts
- Eat and drink well: a Mediterranean diet or similar which is rich in nuts, whole grains and fruit, vegetables and oily fish, alcohol in moderation
- Manage stress: keep your stress levels and your blood pressure down
- Rest: get enough sleep. Most experts suggest about eight hours a night
- Keep your brain active and challenge yourself: through work or volunteering: people in jobs that demand complex dealings with people or data are more likely to stay mentally sharp in later life
- Learn a language: people who speak more than one language are more likely to stay sharp in old age
- Love later life: a positive attitude towards growing older can increase your life expectancy by up to seven and a half years