Low self-esteem and unhelpful bosses thwart employee fitness

20 September 2017

  • Low self-esteem (22 per cent) and embarrassment around poor fitness (25 per cent) are stopping UK employees exercising with workmates
  • One in 10 employees (11 per cent) are deterred by the prospect of wearing spandex and gym gear in front of colleagues – a worry that may be fuelled by over a quarter (26 per cent) of managers seeing this as unprofessional
  • 61 per cent of UK employees say their employer doesn’t encourage them to lead an active lifestyle
  • AXA PPP healthcare and ukactive are calling upon the working population to take part in National Fitness Day – giving an extra hour during the working day for employees to take part in exercise.

New research by AXA PPP healthcare reveals body issues and low self-esteem are preventing nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of UK employees from exercising with their workmates.1 One in 10 (11 per cent) are also deterred by the prospect of wearing spandex and leggings in front of colleagues – a reluctance that may be fuelled by the perception of a quarter of bosses2 (26 per cent) that colleagues wearing gym clothes at work is unprofessional. But it’s not just a lack of confidence about appearance that’s stopping employees being more active with colleagues; embarrassment around feeling unfit compared with others is putting off one in four of them too.

What’s more, 61 per cent of the employees polled by the healthcare company say their employer doesn’t encourage them to lead an active lifestyle. On the other hand, most bosses agree that exercise has a positive effect on employees’ productivity (78 per cent) and on their ability to handle stress (82 per cent). The evident disconnect between employers acknowledging the benefits of exercise and employees saying they fail to promote it is a shortcoming AXA PPP healthcare director, Chris Horlick, says needs addressing, and is why AXA PPP healthcare has partnered with ukactive to support National Fitness Day:

“A sedentary lifestyle often comes with the territory of an office job. Previous research by AXA PPP healthcare has shown that UK workers rack up an average of eight hours sitting time a day – that’s equivalent to a UK flight to the Caribbean.3 Yet prolonged sitting has been linked to health risks, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer, that employers shouldn’t ignore.4 Promoting an active workforce is in their own interests and the benefits of doing so, such as boosting employees’ energy and productivity and their ability to deal with stress, can pay dividends in the short and long-term.” [Chris Horlick, director, AXA PPP healthcare]

The scale of employee inactivity revealed by AXA PPP’s research is alarming: nearly half (45 per cent) admit they don’t do the 30 minutes of daily exercise, five times a week, recommended by the NHS.5 And more than one in four (27 per cent) don’t do any during their working week. Those who do try to fit some exercise around their working day – before or after work, as part of their commute or during their lunch break – may find their plans thwarted by work demands. For example, 62 per cent of those with good intentions to exercise during their lunchbreak say they sometimes find themselves having to cancel their fitness plans due to workload or work commitments and 79 per cent of those who exercise after work but would prefer to do so in the morning blame lack of time before their working day for not being able to do so. Perhaps bosses could be more flexible in their approach to working hours to help employees who want to be more active but find their working pattern is an impediment.

“Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees’ health and safety. But we’re urging them to go further than simply meeting their statutory duty of care. Creating a workplace culture where being active is not just encouraged but is the norm should be conducive to a happy, productive workforce where employees feel valued and supported and want to give their best. Whether it’s allowing greater flexibility around working patterns, providing subsidised gym access or simply encouraging a more active commute, our research shows that employees want more support from their employer to lead an active lifestyle.” [Chris Horlick, director, AXA PPP healthcare]

Three quarters of employees who routinely exercise before work say that doing so makes them more effective and better able to concentrate and focus. That’s why AXA PPP healthcare is partnering with ukactive and calling on employers throughout the UK to push back the working day by one hour this National Fitness Day (27th September) to enable employees to get off to a flying, active start. For information and resources on how to get off to a Flying Start, visit www.axappphealthcare.co.uk/myflyingstart and join the conversation using #MyFlyingStart.



1Research of 1,000 full-time employees undertaken in August 2017 by 3Gem for AXA PPP healthcare

2Research of 500 decision-makers undertaken in August 2017 by 3Gem for AXA PPP healthcare

3Online survey of 2,007 UK employees who use a chair during some or most of their working day, undertaken for AXA PPP healthcare in October 2016 by Atomik

4NHS Choices, ‘Why we should sit less

5NHS Choices, ‘Physical activity guidelines for adults


Further information

Notes to editors



Ben Faulkner/John DuBois AXA PPP healthcare press office 01892 612822

About AXA PPP healthcare

AXA PPP healthcare – one of the largest and most experienced private medical insurance providers in the UK – has been helping people to access healthcare services since 1940. Today it forms the UK healthcare arm of AXA and provides cover for medical and dental care for individuals and employers, and employee wellbeing, counselling, occupational health and rehabilitation services through its specialist Health Services division.        AXA PPP healthcare has been named the Best Healthcare Provider for three years running in the Your Money Awards and, in June 2015, was awarded the prestigious accolade of European Large Contact Centre of the Year at the 2015 European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards, followed in September 2015 by the Best Customer Experience accolade in the Large Contact Centre category of the UK Customer Experience Awards 2015.

About AXA

The AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with 166,000 employees serving 107 million clients in 64 countries. In 2016, IFRS revenues amounted to Euro 100.2 billion and IFRS underlying earnings to Euro 5.7 billion. AXA had Euro 1,429 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2016. In 2016 Interbrand ranked AXA the 1st insurance brand worldwide for the 8th consecutive year.

In the UK AXA operates through a number of business units including: AXA Insurance, AXA PPP healthcare and AXA Ireland. AXA employs over 10,000 staff in the UK. The AXA ordinary share is listed on compartment A of Euronext Paris under the ticker symbol CS (ISN FR 0000120628 – Bloomberg: CS FP – Reuters: AXAF.PA). AXA’s American Depository Share is also quoted on the OTC QX platform under the ticker symbol AXAHY. 

The AXA Group is included in the main international SRI indexes, such as Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and FTSE4GOOD.

It is a founding member of the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Sustainable Insurance and a signatory of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment.