The National institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has released a new guidance encouraging employers to help their staff become active in a fight against obesity.

The publication is aimed at healthcare commissioners, service providers, health and public health practitioners, employers, schools, voluntary and community sector and the public.

In keeping with the NHS Long Term Plan, the drive has prevention at its core, as official figures from the Office for National Statistics show that more than 131 million working days were lost to sickness in 2017, including 13 million working days lost to stress, depression or anxiety.

The Royal College of GPs welcomed the 'pragmatic' standard, with Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard saying: "Exercise can have a hugely positive impact on our physical and mental health, so making it easier for people to be more active as part of their daily routine – both at work and in their leisure time - is key to helping patients live a long and healthy life.

"This new quality standard from NICE offers useful advice for professionals and commissioners across society – and for employers, it includes pragmatic suggestions that can be tailored to workplaces of different sizes and with varying resources available. We would urge employers to seek to swiftly implement the recommendations in some capacity as ultimately, a healthy workforce will be a more productive, and hopefully happier one.

"Physical Activity and Lifestyle is a clinical priority for the RCGP and we have developed resources to support GPs and other healthcare professionals to encourage their patients to live healthier lifestyles. We will soon launch our own scheme to tackle sedentary behaviour in the workplace, which should complement NICE's new quality standard."

Data show that one in four people were classed as obese in 2016, up from one in six in 1993. Also, almost two thirds of people fall within the overweight or obese category compared with just over half in 1993, according to NHS Digital.