THOUSANDS of workers are risking “devastating consequences” to their health by not taking a lunch break.

According to a new survey one in four workers in Brighton and Hove – around 40,000 – remain sitting at their desks during lunch time instead of engaging in physical activity.

The findings by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy raise concerns that increasing numbers work through their lunch and put their health at risk.

Karen Middleton, chief executive of the society, said: “Free facilities like outdoor gyms, or simply going for a brisk walk at lunchtime, can help people to be more active during the day.

“The consequences of not doing so can be devastating, with many people suffering ill-health and prolonged spells off work.”

Ailments that can result from the daily inactivity range from back and neck pain to more severe illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Employment law specialist Alex Jones warned firms risked litigation and sickness if they failed to follow regulations.

The lawyer at QS Howlett Clarke in Brighton and Hove said: “Working time regulations require all employers to allow workers to have at least a 20-minute break for every six hours worked, longer for younger workers aged 18 and under.

“From both a legal and wellbeing perspective it clearly makes sense to encourage employees to take a break.

“Employers who don’t follow the regulations risk expensive litigation or equally costly sickness absences.”

Cleria Humphries, of QuickFit for women, on Portland Road, Hove, said: “I always advise my members to go for a walk at lunchtime, take the stairs rather than the lift, walk to shops instead of driving and so on to fit more activity into their day.

“Apart from the obvious benefits to the heart, lungs, joints and mind, going for a walk at lunchtime will burn extra calories.

“An 11st person will burn an average 87 calories during the lunch hour if sitting at their desk eating their lunch.

“If the same person goes for a walk during the lunch hour, the calories burnt will jump up to around 202.

“And by picking up the pace a little, this will increase to around 266.”