National workplace activity program discourages sitting

A new program to help employers create a more active workplace culture is being piloted in British Columbia before a nationwide rollout. UPnGO with ParticipACTION nudges and rewards Canadians for sitting less and moving more at work.“Canadians know that being active is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, yet so many of us struggle to the find time to exercise,” said federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott. “This is why I am excited about the creative and sustainable strategies UPnGO with ParticipACTION offers Canadians to incorporate physical activity into their everyday work lives.”

UPnGO with ParticipACTION seeks to create healthier workplaces by supporting employees at all levels in making physical activity both accepted and expected in the workplace. Through a digital platform and app, the program provides employees with weekly challenges and personalized goals, based on their self-described level of activity and sitting time. UPnGO then rewards users’ achievements with points that can be redeemed in the online store for healthy products, such as a Pilates kit, gift certificates to Mountain Equipment Co-op or donations to specific charities.

UPnGO is being piloted in five B.C. workplaces, including Telus, the City of Richmond, the University of British Columbia, Providence Healthcare and AutoTRADER and will roll out in other provinces in the fall. The program is delivered in partnership by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the B.C. Ministry of Health, Public Inc, ParticipACTION, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and AstraZeneca.

Workplace physical activity initiatives have been proven to increase productivity and job performance, boost creativity, reduce turnover and improve employee satisfaction and loyalty. However, for many Canadians, work involves sitting down in front of a computer for hours at a time, with only 20 per cent getting enough daily exercise. Nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of Canadian adults are overweight with the average adult spending 9.8 hours per day being sedentary, according to Health Canada.

A new survey from ParticipACTION found 48 per cent of British Columbians worry they spend too much time sitting at work, with 46 per cent saying they spend too much time sitting in meetings. These sedentary lifestyles contribute to obesity and can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

“Many of us spend most of our day at work and get caught up in the day-to-day activities, forgetting to look after ourselves. UPnGO can change that by incorporating physical activity into the workplace,” said Andrea Cohen Barrack, CEO, Ontario Trillium Foundation. “Staff can be more active and lead a healthy lifestyle, resulting in a positive work environment." 

British Columbians are interested in changing their ways at work by walking outside during meetings (53 per cent), stretching (51 per cent) or standing (38 per cent), found the survey.