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Physical activity at work, a benefit still too little practiced

In recommendations published in March, the National Academy of Medicine considers it “important to take into account the level of physical activity and sedentary behavior at work as determinants of health”. “The digital age has increased working time in a seated position, with major medical consequences. For certain categories, the working conditions during the pandemic, with the promotion of telework, have considerably increased inactivity and sedentary time”, underlines Professor Xavier Bigard, coordinator of the report. Physical activity has a recognized benefit in the prevention of chronic diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc.) and work-related pathologies, from low back pain to burn-out.

sports in business

Nordic walking, muscle strengthening, badminton or yoga at lunchtime… “the workplace can be a privileged place” for the physical activity of employees who do not necessarily have the possibility outside, according to Mr. Bigard .

But, according to a recent report, in France, only one in five companies (18%) offers physical activity to its employees. And, within the central administrations, the practice of sport remains “peripheral”. This is certainly not the case at Decathlon. “At each team meeting once a month, there is a proposed sports sequence of 2 to 3 hours, supervised, each at their own level”, testifies, still surprised, an employee recently hired as a computer scientist and who thus did field hockey or badminton. “I have a two-hour lunch break to play sports,” he adds, and “my colleagues are more like an athlete than the clichéd computer scientist with a little paunch.”

Many brakes

The brakes are numerous: on the employers’ side, difficulties of access to sports equipment, lack of financial means, human support, fear of seeing their liability incurred in the event of an accident… but also lack of time and motivation of the employees for whom sport is a matter of leisure and the private sphere. “So far, it is primarily athletes, accustomed to practicing a sport, who benefit from the offer offered by their company”, notes a French deputy.

To attract audiences furthest away from sport, they suggest talking about physical and sporting activity (PSA) in order to evoke “health and well-being without necessarily recalling the competition and performance dimension” of sport.

The practice of an APS in the workplace is also beneficial for employers and public expenditure, details the report, referring to a 2015 study carried out in particular by the Medef.

According to this, when the employee practices APS regularly, absenteeism (which costs 60 billion euros each year and corresponds to 17.2 days of absence per employee) would be reduced by 5.6% and health of more than 300 euros per year. And productivity would jump 6 to 9%.

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