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Promoting good physical health for positive impact on mental health

“Healthy body, healthy mind.” It’s an adage we all know, yet it’s something we can struggle to live by. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a worldwide drop in exercise, it’s perhaps no surprise that mental health and wellbeing has been in decline as well. As the UK’s Mental Health Foundation tells us, “when considering mental health and physical health, the two should not be thought of as separate.” It’s both physically and emotionally important to stay healthy, and our choices each day have an impact on our overall state of wellbeing. 

Exercise

In current circumstances, it’s certainly less easy for people to exercise or workout in more conventional ways and settings, such as at leisure centres and gyms, but there are ways to incorporate more movement, more calorie burning and a bit of a mood lifter into the working day.

The concept of “moving more,” introduced by a number of NHS Trusts, focuses on the benefits of everyday, functional movement. It lowers the barrier to “getting started” and makes sure that more people can readily get themselves motivated to make positively incremental changes to their exercise patterns, in a day-to-day fashion.

Whether it’s taking the stairs, doing some jogging on the spot in between calls, or taking an extra lap of the park, the concept of “doing more” will apply differently to different individuals and each should be celebrated as progress.

Diet

A recent Reuters report asserted a link between a poor diet and negative outcomes for COVID-19. This underlines the real need to try to maintain positive food choices whilst many of us are more sedentary than we previously were.

It is of course so tempting to snack on the foods we love and to order takeaway during any sort of lockdown. In fact, some of Kantar’s latest World Panel OOH Data tells us that delivery occasions, including food from the likes of Just Eat and Deliveroo, are now worth £1.8bn!

Using work-from-home scenarios to prepare quick and easy meals with fresh ingredients is a good way to eat more mindfully: if you’re putting the ingredients into the dish yourself, you will be more aware of what’s going in and in which quantities. In a time of home schooling and increased work pressure, cooking from scratch doesn’t have to equate to slaving in the kitchen, unless that’s how you unwind and switch off. Slow cooker recipes offer the best of both worlds: home cooking with minimal input and hassle - and tasty results.

Lifestyle Habits

Since the advent of the pandemic, smoking and drinking have both been on the rise. The Guardian reports that some 2.2m people are smoking more, whilst around half of us are drinking more. The reasons to resist sparking up another cigarette or pouring that extra glass of wine are well documented. There are, however, other habits, such as gaming, which have the nation gripped in a vice.

In these circumstances, accessing help is the best route to making positive changes more quickly. This is absolutely where employers can help their people, by making that help available and clearly signposted.

How can workplaces make a change for the better?

We all know that we should try to “move more,” but how can bosses make this a priority amongst the hustle and bustle of running a business? If your team is working on a largely or solely remote basis, consider advocating a power half hour, where employees down tools to do something that encourages them to stand up, stretch, and move their bodies. You will find this initiative gains more traction if communicated across your briefings, intranet or IM channels.

If your team is field-based and it’s commercially viable to do so, gifting them with an early finish or a later start on one day a week could encourage them to invest time in exercising. Even if that time is used to go to bed earlier or to sleep in, the result will be an individual with renewed energy to exercise and to bring their all to the job.

There is no silver bullet to improving physical health during the working day, most certainly since the long-term benefits from this come from an attitudinal approach to making small changes that will have an impact.

This is where business owners, leaders, managers and HR teams can make a difference. Encouragement from the top goes a long way; whether that’s encouragement to take a break and go for a stroll, or something a bit more gamified, such as ongoing team challenges to amass the largest number of steps.

How a healthcare partner can help

The most successful approach to promoting good physical health - and, in turn, improved mental health and wellbeing - involves having the resource in place to inspire and advise, along with processes for your team to follow.

This is where a healthcare partner can really come into their own, particularly if their proposition is more holistically-led. Our Benenden Health for business package takes care of the wellbeing of your organisation, with support that looks after physical and mental health: we offer our members doctor’s appointments and a diagnosis facility for all concerns, along with a 24/7 mental health helpline. Crucially, we help take everyone in your organisation along with us on this journey, so they feel empowered to access the support that you have chosen to invest in.

When it comes to the roll-out, it’s simple: we don’t use medical questionnaires, meaning that this is something available to all. Our prices are equally as transparent, at just £11.90 per employee per month. We would be more than happy to talk through our holistic approach to healthcare, so please do get in touch.

Find out how Benenden Healthcare for Business could support your employees:

Got a question and want to know more? Call us FREE on 0800 414 8179.