Sitting down at work is ‘the new smoking’ says TV’s Julia Bradbury

Sitting in offices for hours at a time will become as objectionable as smoking in the post-pandemic world, the TV presenter and environmental campaigner Julia Bradbury has predicted.

Julia Bradury with Jack Tate

The former Countryfile host has launched an initiative to get workers to spend at least part of their day outdoors – even if only to walk round the block.

She said she had been inspired by the example of Jack Tate, a marketing manager from Kirklington, near Bedale, who walked the 476 miles from there to Cornwall, and is now encouraging colleagues to embark on less ambitious journeys.

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Ms Bradbury, whose own walks across Yorkshire have been filmed for TV, said his story could become a template for others.

“Sitting still is the new smoking,” she said. “I genuinely think that being forced to change our working practices has made everybody revisit their work-life balance. A sedentary lifestyle can have a big impact on our health, and we’ve realised that many of us have been spending far too much time in cars, commuting or going to meetings. The truth is that you don’t need to spend all that time in the office.

“There are going to be lots of long-term side effects from the pandemic and those businesses that can continue will have some people still working from home and others on different kinds of schedules. I’m not saying that people don’t need to get together at all in workplaces but what we’ve all realised is that we need the outdoors. Nature is essential to human health.”

Her “outdoor ambassador” campaign will see companies encouraged to appoint staff members to organise outdoor working or other al freso activities for colleagues.

“Employers need to actively encourage their teams to get out and about – whether it’s a walk round the block with a colleague who might live close by or a walk and talk on the phone,” she said.

“An outdoor ambassador could also support mental health which has taken a terrible toll in the last 12 months. In the future, we are going to encourage companies to ramp up their activity, with walking adventures and regular desk breaks to increase activity and keep people moving.”

Mr Tate, who is 29 and works for Heck Sausages in Bedale, said his marathon walk had given him a “different perspective” on life.

“When I came back to work I made sure that I took a walking lunch break each day, and out of that it really made me think about how more companies could embrace something as simple as the outdoors to really increase mental health and well-being,” he said.

Heck has installed dog kennels so that its staff can bring their pets to work and take them for walks during their lunch breaks.

“They are living what they preach,” said TV presenter Julia Bradbury, whose walking series in Devon and Cornwall is currently on ITV. She said the company was “fortunate to have some green space around them” but that even companies in built-up areas could follow the same principles.

“They’ve done it because they genuinely think it increases productivity and makes everybody happier, which of course it does,” she said.

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