Exercise – the cure for all ills?

I’ve been practising or working in the physiotherapy field for 23 years so you would expect me to know a bit about the importance of physical health. But this week, it’s REALLY struck me that physical health is not just important – it’s vital! And the more I think about it, the more I think that good physical health, and therefore exercise, is the keystone to ALL health!

Exercise and Workplace Health

In fact there doesn’t seem to be many illnesses or conditions where exercise doesn’t have a role in prevention and cure. This is what I have read about the benefits of exercise just in the last 2 weeks:

Cancer

This past week alone, I have woken up to the news that many researchers believe that exercise is the most effective treatment for cancer prevention.

Diabetes

Exercise should be prescribed by doctors to those with Type II Diabetes to control blood sugar and insulin insensitivity.

Arthritis

It has been long proven that exercise plays a vital role in reducing arthritis symptoms, but this past month, new research suggests that high intensity training can reduce Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain.

Cardiovascular Disease

Still the Number 1 biggest killer in the UK yet news out today shows we are getting complacent despite it being preventable in many cases. Lack of exercise doubles our risk of having a heart attack.

Respiratory Disease

Research has shown that exercise can improve breathing among people with a respiratory disease, although it is recognised that participating in any type of physical activity while your lung function progressively declines is not an enjoyable experience.

Back Pain

A new piece of research confirmed that a combination of exercise and education is still the most effective approach for treatment and prevention of back pain.

Mental Health Conditions

People with mental health disorders are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic physical health conditions, says new research, but as physiotherapists, we have long known of the link between physical and mental health.

So what does that mean for us involved with sickness absence in the workplace? For me, it is clear. Occupational Health and Wellbeing Services and Programmes should focus on improving their employees’ physical fitness. The need for physiotherapists, as the exercise rehabilitation specialists, in the work place has never been stronger. By addressing employees’ physical activity into their treatment plan, we can proactively help with all sickness absence, not just musculoskeletal cases.

Stress

The BIA Philosophy Gains Momentum and Beating The January Gym Crowds

An article published in Science Daily recently proved music to our team’s ears as it spoke of the effectiveness of wellness programs, and how many dollars are lost to ineffective programs. Additionally, we came across a fun piece in The Huffington Post about hot to navigate busy workout spaces as newly invigorated resolutions are run, x-trained and stepped up in the gym.

Study Details

Firstly, In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Michigan have looked into workplace wellness programs and their effectiveness. Ten modifiable health risks across seven industries were assessed using a colossal sample size of 223,500 participants.

Study Results

In short, the study results show that one out of every four dollars that employers spend on healthcare is for lifestyle-related ailments such as smoking, stress or obesity. The catch comes in that most large employers have wellness programs! So despite actively investing in their employee’s health, they still spend a quarter of their healthcare budget on treating preventable conditions.

Thus the question arises, how effective is the typical corporate wellness program, and how can it be made more-so? One of the main points made was that wellness programs can be very superficial, lessening their effectiveness as they don’t get to the crux of the problem.

What We Think

This study was music to our ears and we recommend reading the rest of it here. Our in-house physiotherapy clinics run monthly for our clients which means our ROI value is one of the highest around at 11 to 1. If you’re going to invest in a wellness program that works, something substantial and ongoing is far more likely to pay dividends when it comes to saved healthcare spend, particularly around lifestyle-related illnesses.

January Gym Fever Hits the UK

Lastly, it’s January and people’s New Year’s Resolution’s are firmly in play – as a result, your gym has never likely seemed busier. For this reason, Huffington Post has the below ideas for navigating your way through the running machines for the remainder of this month!

Lunchtimes are quieter: If you can nip out of work at lunchtime to train, this can result in a much easier session with far less queuing! Mornings and evenings before and after work are commonly the busiest.
Brave the cold: Get your vitamin D, wake up call and endorphins all in one hit and without a queue in sight by taking your workout outside this month.
Try something new: Challenging your body with something new and a machine that doesn’t have a big queue in front of it can help your workout, and your January fitness goals.
Cancel for January: Lots of big gym chains allow for memberships to be paused, so if you really can’t stand the extra people, knock it on the head for the month.

WSB Supports Telephone Triage in Improving Employee Wellbeing

The WSB (Workplace Savings and Benefits) website recently revealed trends from the Aon Employee Annual Benefits and Trends Survey. The survey questions employers and their influence on employee health.

Medical Equipment

Employers Take Responsibility

“Three-quarters (75%) of employers believe they are responsible for positively influencing employee health.”

Employers recognise their responsibility to look after their teams and the lost income that can result from having members of staff off sick.

Other Survey Results

However when it comes to the specifics of just how they help their worker’s wellbeing, it gets a little blurry as 72% of survey respondents lack a specific health budget.

Some other interesting findings include:

  • 38% of respondents do not make use of data or analytics to inform or drive their corporate health and wellbeing strategy
  • 52% cite the implementation of some sort of telephone medical/GP service, these were also recommended from the survey
  • 23% do not communicate around health and wellness at all
  • 53% of the 294 respondents believe flexible working to be key in ensuring employee wellbeing

Telephone Triage

With telephone being mentioned as one of the more popular wellbeing strategies, our telephone triage services fits in perfectly. We align ourselves with the latest scientific knowledge to pass on to our clients and improve their health in a cost-effective way. You can learn more here and see just how effective this wellbeing tactic is at providing ROI for businesses and outstanding value for money.

The awareness of health and the need for employers to improve this in their teams is recognised and has increased on last year. However, there is still some way to go in translating to specific budgets and quantifiable results for wellbeing initiatives.

We’re witnessing a positive change – and may the change continue to take place!

Latest Updates from Fit for Work

Employees at workNow the Government’s Fit for Work scheme has had time to be digested and analysed by media channels and health professionals alike, it’s interesting to see just where the dust has settled in the world of work. We’ve got the latest news on Fit for Work and how employers in particular are viewing the regime.

Employers Remain Willing

Results from the 2015/16 Jelf Employee Benefits survey indicate that 7 out of 10 employers questioned would be happy to refer absent employees towards the new scheme if family doctor’s did not do so, indicating they’re generally positive about the initiative.

Existing Occupational Physiotherapists Hold Favour

Twenty two percent of those questioned also maintained they would refer their long term absent to their existing occupational physiotherapy provider; with wellbeing being a huge issue at the moment, a number of companies have monthly onsite or in-house clinics so their staff can stay healthy. The numbers show these private clinics are proving themselves ever more popular and valuable to the companies using them.

From the survey, only 3% said they would not take any action.

Fit for Work Awareness

On the other side of the coin concerns have arisen from those affiliated with the scheme that awareness of Fit for Work is too low. To this end the survey results also indicated that nearly half of employers would be communicating to their workforces about Fit for Work in the coming year not before – therefore it is unlikely we will see many referrals until then. Awareness among GPs at the moment is also said to be low.

Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at Jelf Employee Benefits said:

“Our figures suggest that many more absent employees will now benefit from an assessment by an occupational health professional either via Fit for Work, or a more bespoke company-sponsored occupational health arrangement. This can only be a good thing for all concerned”.

Thoughts are positive for Fit for Work, but there’s still a long way to go until we can comment on its success.

Back in Action UK

If you’d like to learn more about Fit for Work and how it affects you, you can read our Director Alex Bell’s blog – here.

Stress in the Workplace: Keep calm (take a deep breath) and carry on

StressIt was National Stress Awareness Day on November 4th, 2015, so our Director, Alex Bell took the opportunity to share a bit of information about stress.

Firstly, let’s set the record straight. Despite what the media tell us, not all stress is bad. In fact, in many situations, it’s a very appropriate state to be in. When we are in a stressed state, we are focused and alert – the best state for when we are presenting to The Board or in the middle of cooking Christmas dinner. But being stressed for too long is mentally and physically exhausting and it then starts to deplete our inner resources which in time can create health problems. The answer therefore lies in making sure you have the right amount of recovery and rest time in your day to counteract the stressful parts. You want to go for a ratio of 2 parts stress to 1 part recovery over a 24 hour period.

So how do you go about making sure you have enough recovery time in your day? My 3 top tips are as follows:

Sleep

It’s not just about the length of time you are in bed, but more importantly the quality of your sleep when you are asleep. You can think you are asleep but actually you are still in a stressed state for much of the night which therefore gives you very poor recovery time.Alcohol has a very significant effect on delaying us getting into a restful state. As a rough rule of thumb, for every unit of alcohol you drink, it delays you going into a restful state by 1 hour. I am not suggesting giving up alcohol, but would recommend that you try and have at least 3 dry days a week to give you that decent quality of sleep to replenish your resources.

Take a break

It’s not always easy or possible to have time-out during the day, but research shows that if we can give ourselves a total of 30 minutes rest during the day, we will be more productive and better at making decisions. So stop for a quick lunch, jump on board with the Mindfulness trend (it really does work), take some deep breaths, or go and get some fresh air. It can be a few minutes here or there or in bigger chunks throughout your day – it’s all good and will really make a difference.

Get some exercise

Recommended guidelines are that we should do some moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week. This seems a lot but when you break it down, it’s only 30 minutes 5 times a week. And to make it even more manageable, that 30 minutes doesn’t need to be done in one go. So jump off the bus a stop earlier when coming home from work, walk up the stairs rather than take the lift….as long as you are walking at a brisk pace, then you can achieve this goal. Exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of managing stress, and as a physiotherapist, I see first-hand that this is true.

So for the rest of today, keep calm (take a deep breath) and carry on…

Find out exactly how your body reacts to the stressors in your life by having a lifestyle assessment.

Fit for Work Service – Make it Fit For Your Work

It is early days for the Government’s new Fit for Work Service which opened its doors last month. Since September 2015, employers and GP’s can now refer anyone who is off sick from work for a free Occupational Health Assessment and a Return to Work Plan by an Occupational Health Professional as long as the following criteria are met:

1. They have been off sick for 28 consecutive days or more.
2. They have a reasonable chance of returning to work.
3. They live in the UK.
4. They are an employee of a company. The service is not available to the self-employed or unemployed.

Fit for Work

In association with this new service, the Government has also introduced a new tax exemption of up to £500 per employee per year, for medical treatment to help employees return to work. To qualify, an employee must have been off sick for at least 28 consecutive days and the treatment needs to be recommended by an Occupational Health Professional.

As a Private Occupational Physiotherapy Company, Back in Action UK welcomes this initiative. Last year, sickness absence cost UK businesses in the region of £33bn. This is just taking into account the direct costs associated with decreased productivity as a result of absence. If you also account for the indirect costs, such as the associated increase in demand on the NHS and increased claims for benefits, the costs will be significantly higher.

Whilst many Companies engage with Occupational Health Services such as ours to help manage and reduce their absence, a YouGov poll in 2013 showed that 31% of employees work for Companies that provide no Occupational Health service at all. This is quite a gap to fill and it is these companies, namely small and medium size businesses, which the Fit for Work Service needs and must target. Whilst the service is available to aUK business of all sizes, larger Companies must find and use their own Occupational Health Services and realise that the Fit for Work service cannot be seen as a cheaper replacement.

Employers and GP’s should also be aware that the Fit for Work Service has its limitations where Private Occupational Health Services do not:

1. Employees can only be referred after being off sick for 28 consecutive days. 28 days is a long time: Private Occupational Health Services can take care of the employee and start having an impact from Day 1. We know from the research that early intervention is key in improving health and back to work outcomes. With the treatment of back pain for example, bed rest is one of the worst things to do in the acute stages of a back problem. Gentle movement, activity and work duties – where it is safe to do so – aid a much to a quicker recovery and future uninterrupted employment.

2. The Fit for Work Assessment and any other activity will be carried out over the telephone. Face-to-face intervention will be rare and in these exceptional circumstances, the employee may need to travel up to 90 minutes from his/her home.

3. The Fit for Work Occupational Health Practitioners will be skilled in the field of Occupational Health as a whole. They will therefore not have the specific knowledge about the Company’s industry and operations to be able to provide really effective and successful return to work plans.

4. Employees are only eligible to use the Fit for Work service once in a 12 month period. Therefore if their injury/problem returns after they have gone back to work within 12 months, employers cannot use the service again for this employee until another 12 months has passed.

Getting people back to work and keeping people at work is the right thing for everyone: for employers, for businesses, for the government, but mostly for us – the individuals. If we all work together we can surely have an impact.

To find out more about Fit for Work watch the video below.


To find out more about how Back in Action UK can help your business to thrive by looking after your most important asset, your employees, then please drop us a line.

Guardian Angels? Guardian Reports on Wellbeing Initiatives at Work

We promoted a fascinating piece of news we read in The Guardian recently about wellbeing initiatives and how these are being implemented at work by real companies.

As we’ve reported on, wellbeing is at the forefront of corporate and HR practices and budgets and with the beneficial effects speaking for themselves, wellbeing at work really is a zeitgeist of sorts with plenty of media coverage speaking of various initiatives and programs.

Outside the BoxThinking Outside the Box

The article had some fantastic examples of how companies are using new and innovative ways to invest in their worker’s health which we’ve summarised below:

Williamson: Brought in a free, weekly fitness session called the “Swoon Sweater”, PLUS offered free gym membership for all their workers. The cost is around £10,000 per year… but the business owner is delighted. Morale has increased and working relationships have solidified as colleagues can hang out away from the office.
Crunch Accounting: This firm offered free breakfasts to stop workers eating lunch at their desk and encourage them to get out and about. The cost is around £200 per month, but the benefits vastly outweigh it, and productivity has increased.

Reducing Workers Stress

In addition to these ideas being nice add-ons to existing HR policy, there are increasing numbers of those who believe they are not only a luxury, but a necessary step. Preventing stress has become crucial, perhaps in part due to the fact that fighting it has become more expensive. Not only do high stress levels affect productivity – although some stress can be beneficial – the effect on physical and mental health, and the subsequent cost to businesses has spiralled, placing it at the fore of business targets and media attention.

Occupational Physiotherapy In-house Clinics

That leads us nicely on to ourselves! In-house occupational physiotherapy clinics are another, highly effective way to increase worker productivity. Additionally, they pay for themselves in abundance as sick leave is vastly diminished when preventative measures such as physiotherapy are in place to alleviate any existing and eliminate any anticipated back pain for workers.

Learn more about our clinics here.

Let’s Talk About It: Research Shows Talk Therapy Helps Chronic Back Pain

Corporate Physiotherapy SessionWe all know occupational physiotherapy is one of the best ways to prevent both short-term and chronic back pain, but new research suggests that simply talking about it could help as well! We look at the research into CCBT (Contextual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and how it can help prevent and ease the suffering of musculoskeletal disorders.

Talking Therapy

New research conducted by Arthritis Research UK and published in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders shows that a new kind of talking therapy could hold the key to reducing the stress surrounding chronic back pain, which can often make existing conditions worse. Patients questioned during the research stated that they preferred a mix of physiotherapy and spoken therapy in order to cope with both the physical and mental effects of a life lived in chronic pain.

The new therapy is called Contextual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CCBT, and works in the same way as its more well known predecessor CBT, which is often used in psychology to identify stress triggers and lessen the chance of a mental episode. In terms of chronic back pain, CCBT works by helping patients accept that the pain they suffer may not be able to be cured, rather offering them practical solutions regarding how to cope and enjoy a good quality of life.

The Study

The research study was conducted on 89 patients who had suffered with lower back pain for longer than three months. They were also determined to be ‘fear avoidant’ which meant they shied away from daily activities they thought may encourage more pain and had high levels of emotional and psychological distress. The patients were then placed in randomly selected groups with some receiving CCBT, some just physiotherapy and others a mixture of both. Both patients and physicians noted a preference in dealing with both sides of the coin, helping to cope with the sometimes inevitable pain whilst helping them return to the daily activities they once shied away from with renewed vigour.

The research suggested that CCBT was helpful, however was found to be more so when given with physiotherapy. The blend of both types of therapy is of help to both those who have just been diagnosed with a musculoskeletal disorder, who may be wondering how their quality of life will be affected in the future, and those who have been suffering for an extended period of time, as they can benefit from the continued support of both mental and physical professionals.

Occupational Physiotherapy and CCBT

In the corporate world, it can be hard for employees to pinpoint the stress triggers associated with a busy working life. However, workers may be suffering with a back condition in silence and giving them the option to voice their stress-related concerns may help improve recovery time. It has been proven by many research studies that the presence of a dedicated occupational physiotherapy service maintained by professionals has helped employees deal with any issues as and when the arise, as well as aiding in the recovery of employees who may be dealing with long-term absence as a result of chronic pain.

This new research into CCBT may also help employers understand the importance of offering staff an outlet for both physical and mental strain, giving practical tips on how to enjoy life regardless of the pain, lessening stress and decreasing the chances of taking sick leave, saving a business money and improving the quality of life of the employee.

Wellbeing Responsibility Deal: Businesses Begin to Understand Benefits of Occupational Physiotherapy

Employees Receiving Inhouse PhysiotherapyA voluntary pledge intended for businesses and public-sector bodies has gained momentum after many companies chose to decrease the risk of sickness absence through dedicated initiatives including occupational physiotherapy.

Wellbeing is Key

With wellbeing becoming a buzzword over the last couple of years, it is no surprise that a large number of businesses are focussing on the best ways to ensure employees have the right outlets for any stress-related issues that may occur, whether they be psychological or physiological. The Department of Health’s ‘responsibility deal’ requests businesses focus on managing four such aspects: physical activity, health at work, alcohol and food.

Companies who want to take part in the pledge can implement various plans to help maintain the aforementioned four key aspects of wellbeing in the workplace. To this end, occupational physiotherapy has been a proven tool in the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders and, as such, is an excellent way to kickstart a responsibility deal with employees. Physical activity at work can take primary focus in any wellbeing initiative due to its far-reaching effects on health as a whole.

Occupational Physiotherapy Praised as a Preventative Therapy

The House of Commons health committee published a report in March that outlined the benefits of the responsibility deal by highlighting the positive impact of diet and physicality on health. In addition a 2011 Frost/Black report demonstrated the positive effects experienced as a result of early intervention and preventative action through occupational health therapy, including physiotherapy.

In order to gain the most benefits from a corporate physiotherapy wellbeing program, staff and management need to be aware of the trigger factors surrounding stress and be able to offer dedicated support to workers at all levels of employment.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has been singing the praises of occupational health and physiotherapy since their Workout at Work day in 2011 and it appears as though numerous businesses are beginning to realise that preventing physical problems that result from work is the best way to combat the millions of days of sickness absence taken each year. You can read the full story in The Guardian here.

 

Burgers and Benefits: Back in Action UK Visit London City Airport

Our team of occupational physiotherapists has visited London City Airport before for their Health and Safety Awareness Week. This time, we were invited to take part in their “Burger and Benefits” day, organised by HR.

Our corporate team held mini physio triage sessions for all London City Airport employees as well as running a Physio Spin the Wheel competition. Over 170 staff turned out and lots of advice was given!

See the pictures below and on our Facebook page:

Physio Team at London City Airport Physio Team Getting Set Up Physio Stall at London City Airport Spin the Physiotherapy Wheel! Burger Van  Our team of occupational physiotherapists Spin a Prize on our Physiotherapy Wheel!