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Workers urged to have a ‘Walking Lunch’ by Loughborough researchers

‘Walking Lunch maps’ are in six organisational sites to promote incidental activity in the workplace.

Workers are being encouraged to leave their desks and have a ‘Walking Lunch’ in a new study on working later in life by Loughborough University academics.

The £1.3m ‘Working Late’ project, which has taken four years and was funded by the New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) Programme, was commissioned because of the changing nature of Britain’s workforce, which is ageing.

Working Late has developed and evaluated interventions and design solutions to promote health and quality of working life across the life course.

The ‘Walking Lunch’ was the product of a collaboration with the Royal Society of Arts and a national competition aimed at coming up with innovative ways of encouraging people to be more active at work.

Professor Cheryl Haslam, who led the Working Late team, said the idea was aimed at everyone, not just the older workers, because people will need to stay fitter and healthier to cope with working into their late 60s and 70s.

She said: “People spend a lot of time sitting at their desks, and we know from research in this area that sedentary behaviour is bad for health.  In response to this we have developed new interventions to promote physical activity at work.

"The intervention lasted for 12 months with a further 12 months follow-up.”

Part of the intervention involved the ‘Walking Lunch’ which received an enthusiastic response from employers, according to Professor Haslam, Professor of Health Psychology in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.  She said: “We have shown with BT and Ipswich Borough Council that it has been extremely successful. The Walking Lunch uses a metre radius map in a public place like a canteen.

“Rather than sitting at your desk and having lunch you go out and explore the local area, take a photograph on your smart phone and put it on the interactive map, along with useful information about where you have been. It’s a discussion point, people sharing ideas and encouraging more colleagues to explore the area and get exercise at lunchtime.

“We gave workers pedometers to measure their step count. The intervention has shown significant reductions in Body Mass Index, and improvements in productivity.”

The Working Late project started in 2008 amidst on-going changes in pensions, retirement and age discrimination.

People will have to work longer than their parents and many countries are heading for what is known as the Demographic Timebomb as an increasing proportion of their population falls into older age brackets.

Professor Haslam said: “The working population is ageing, and the contribution of older workers is of greater importance than ever.

“With pension reforms, removal of the default retirement age and a recent increase in age discrimination cases such as Miriam O'Reilly v the BBC, this research is extremely timely.”

Another part of the project, which looked at the experiences of workers, and job seekers over 50, uncovered evidence of age discrimination within recruitment.

These findings echo other similar research into age discrimination, and are extremely important with the recent removal of the default retirement age.

On Tuesday, the project will showcase the outputs of the Working Late programme, sharing research about the ageing workforce at the BT Auditorium in London.

The half day event will be interactive and include talks, demonstrations, a Q&A Twitter feed, a pedometer challenge, the launch of videos and web resources, and a first look at the collective Working Late research findings.

The event will also include talks from eminent guest speakers including:

Professor Alan Walker: Director of the New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) Programme
Professor James Goodwin: Head of Research, Age UK
Chris Ball: Chief Executive of The Age and Employment Network (TAEN)

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