In recommendations published in March, the National Academy of Medicine considers it “important to take into account the level of physical activity and sedentary behavior at work as determinants of health”.
“The digital age has increased working time in a seated position, with medical consequences of primary importance. For certain categories, working conditions during the pandemic, with the promotion of telework, have considerably increased inactivity and working time of a sedentary lifestyle”, emphasizes Professor Xavier Bigard, coordinator of the report.
Physical activity has a recognized benefit in the prevention of chronic diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc.) and work-related pathologies, from low back pain to burn-out.
Nordic walking, muscle strengthening, badminton or yoga at lunchtime … “the workplace can be a privileged place” for the physical activity of employees who do not necessarily have the possibility outside, according to M Bigard.
But, according to a recent report by outgoing MPs Aude Amadou (LREM) and Maud Petit (MoDem), only one in five companies (18%) offers physical activity to its employees. And, within the central administrations, the practice of sport remains “peripheral”.
This is certainly not the case at Decathlon. “At each team meeting once a month, there is a proposed sports sequence of 2 to 3 hours, supervised, each at their own level”, testifies, still surprised, an employee recently hired as a computer scientist and who thus did field hockey or badminton.
“I have a two-hour lunch break to work out,” he adds, and “my co-workers are more like an athlete than the stereotypical chubby computer guy.”
If physical activity is widespread in large companies, it is not so in VSEs (less than ten employees) which constitute 96% of the French economic fabric.
– many obstacles –
The brakes are numerous: on the employers’ side, difficulties of access to sports equipment, lack of financial means, human support, fear of seeing their liability incurred in the event of an accident… but also lack of time and motivation of the employees for whom sport is a matter of leisure and the private sphere.
“So far, it has been primarily athletes, accustomed to practicing a sport, who have benefited from the offer offered by their company”, note the two deputies.
To attract audiences furthest removed from sport, they suggest talking about physical and sporting activity (PSA) in order to evoke “health and well-being without necessarily recalling the competition and performance dimension” of sport.
The practice of an APS in the workplace is also beneficial for employers and public expenditure, details the report, referring to a 2015 study carried out in particular by the Medef.
According to this, when the employee practices APS regularly, absenteeism (which costs 60 billion euros each year and corresponds to 17.2 days of absence per employee) would be reduced by 5.6% and health of more than 300 euros per year. And productivity would jump 6-9%.
The government has taken several measures recently, but they remain little known according to the deputies. Since 2021, sports activities, if they are offered by the employer to all employees, are no longer considered as benefits in kind and are exempt from social security contributions up to 170 euros per year.
The MEPs also recommend raising the awareness of occupational health services, introducing a tax credit for the adaptation of premises to the practice of APS, creating a sports ticket for employees of companies with less than 250 employees, etc.
The Academy of Medicine suggests for its part “that activity recommendations be regularly sent to teleworking staff” and that the public authorities “encourage the development of useful arrangements for reducing sedentary lifestyles in workspaces (stairs , access to buildings, etc.).