Almost 13,000 BT people have joined the world’s largest online company lifestyle programme launched today in a bid to improve their health and fitness and increase their life expectancy.
Driven by the startling statistic that one BT person dies prematurely every two weeks, employees have flocked to join the company’s Work Fit initiative which aims to make them slimmer, fitter and healthier in sixteen weeks.
“Poor diet and lack of exercise has led to an epidemic of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – it is estimated that one million people in the UK have diabetes and don’t yet realise it,” said Dr Paul Litchfield, BT’s chief medical officer.
Dr Litchfield has been stunned by the response to the company’s campaign. “Obviously a huge number of people, more than 15 per cent of the workforce, feel they have to do something to change their lifestyle. I think they will be amazed by what they can achieve in four months.”
Dr Litchfield believes that men will especially benefit as they do not look after themselves as well as women and are slower to seek medical advice.
Work Fit is BT’s initial response to the challenge of reducing life-threatening illnesses and the company has worked closely with the unions, Men’s Health Forum, the British Heart Foundation and the National Obesity Forum to develop the online programme which will supply simple advice on fitness and health emailed weekly to those taking part.
The breakdown of men to women registered is 72 per cent to 28 per cent and the participants range in age from 18 to 66. The largest age group is 35-55 and more than 400 teams have been formed to help each other reach their targets. London and the south east have the most people involved in the programme with northern Ireland bottom of the list.
BT chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, a former member of the Irish Olympic fencing team who has also signed-on for Work Fit said: “This has been an astonishing response from BT people. Let’s hope we can all stick to the programme and look and feel much better in four months.”
The Men’s Health Forum director Peter Baker said: “We were keen to get involved because of the importance of reaching male staff as well as female with this sort of programme, not least because 75 per cent of BT people are men. The workplace can be an ideal setting for engaging men in health initiatives and we also felt that a programme delivered largely online and with an element of competition could be particularly attractive to male employees.”