UK is a nation of stressed out “desk potatoes”, Bupa finds

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One in five UK workers is a sedentary "desk potato", according to a study by health insurer and healthcare provider Bupa – and, in a separate poll, it has argued that more than two-fifths of employees are suffering from stress.

The first poll of more 2,000 people carried out by pollster YouGov concluded that 20% of workers only ever left their desk to go to the bathroom or grab a drink. One-third also said that the lure of sitting at their desk put them off leaving their workplace at lunchtime.

The sedentary lifestyle was a key part of the average commute to and from work, it found, with 60% of workers opting for the ease, speed and convenience of driving to work, despite more than one-third claiming they would prefer to be able to walk. A total of 15% of employees admitted to starting off walking but then giving up and taking public transport, with most averaging just 10 minutes a day of walking during the working week rather than the recommended 30 minutes.

In response, Bupa has launched a campaign called "Ground Miles" to get people moving about more on foot. The campaign includes a free app that allows people to track the distance they walk each day. The younger generation (18- to 24-year-olds) was the least active, with one in four only walking when they absolutely had to.

Dr Paula Franklin, UK medical director at Bupa, said: "Walking can usually fit easily into the daily routine and something as simple as choosing to walk even part of the way to work instead of taking the car or bus can have a huge impact."

The company’s second poll on stress concluded that more than two-fifths of Britons are suffering from mental ill health, with some six million having experienced stress for more than one year. The study of more than 10,000 people found that 44% said they were going through a period of stress.

Nearly one-third of those feeling stressed said that they had been feeling this way for more than one year, and more than one in four said they regularly felt close to breaking point.

Stress was most prevalent among the 45- to 54-year-old cohort, with 50% saying that they felt stressed, and least prevalent among the 55 and overs, with a figure of 38%.

Women were more likely to consider themselves stressed, at 49%, compared with 39% of men.

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