Initiatives designed to improve the health and wellbeing of employees can have a positive impact, according to the results of a new government-funded pilot scheme.

The Well @ Work programme, which is run by the British Heart Foundation, has put to the test initiatives such as free fruit in workplaces, regular employee health checks and weekly pedometer challenges to encourage staff to eat well and stay active.

Initial findings from the scheme reveal that such initiatives can make a significant difference to the health and wellbeing of workers and can also boost staff morale and productivity levels.

Employees taking part in active commuting schemes spent an extra 24 minutes cycling or walking to and from work, while redecorating stairwells resulted in a 28 per cent increase in the number of workers using the stairs instead of the lift.

Dame Carol Black, national director for health and work, said: "I’m encouraged to see pilots like this. Employers have a crucial role to play if we are to make wellness at work a reality for all, not a privilege for the few."

Employers have also been urged by health secretary Alan Johnson to contribute to nationwide efforts to tackle obesity.