The researcher on a mission to get staff exercising in the office


A researcher at Birmingham City University is aiming to boost staff physical activity levels, health and wellbeing by implementing interventions to encourage staff to exercise at work.

As part of his PhD research in the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences, Ayazullah Safi has developed five interventions following from his earlier research to encourage colleagues to get active.

These include placing exercise bikes and rowing machines in staff offices, challenging colleagues to complete the 10,000 step challenge and encouraging walking meetings, as well as placing signs promoting health messages by stairs and providing height-adjustable work stations for employees.

Current guidelines state that adults should complete 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, per week as well as strength exercises twice per week to benefit from a reduced risk of a number of health conditions and boosts to mental wellbeing.

However, it is estimated that one third of UK adults are not getting enough exercise.

Ayazullah explained: “Often people say that they don’t have enough time to exercise when they already have busy schedules involving work, family or personal life commitments.

“But we know how important exercising is: it can reduce your chance of major illness such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer by up to 50 per cent as well as being beneficial for mental wellbeing and daily productivity.

“There are relatively simple ways businesses can encourage their staff to be more active. Using the stairs instead of the lift or having walking meetings, for example, are easy to implement and cost effective methods.

“Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the negative impact that lack of exercise and poor fitness levels can have on their physical and mental health both within and outside of the workplace. I hope to provide evidence through my research that these interventions are effective in increasing staff’s physical activity levels, in turn improving their health and wellbeing, and that encouraging exercising at work could be rolled out more widely.”

Ayazullah will monitor and assess the physical activity levels of staff with using a mixture of research methods including questionnaires, focus groups, and ActiGraph - a physical activity monitor.

Ayazullah is one of 50 STEAM Scholars at Birmingham City University whose research is funded as part of the University’s £3 million initiative to create new subject knowledge and to power cultural, societal and economic improvements in the West Midlands.

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