active workplace wellness

Can Tai Chi Provide Engagement Example for Workplace Wellness?

We have reported frequently on the importance of regular movement and physical activity as part of a well-run workplace wellness program.

In fact, the workplace is an excellent location to help individuals gain the health benefits of activity.

One study, titled “Work-related correlates of occupational sitting in a diverse sample of employees in Midwest metropolitan cities” and published in Preventive Medicine Reports was generated because “The worksite serves as an ideal setting to reduce sedentary time. Yet little research has focused on occupational sitting, and few have considered factors beyond the personal or socio-demographic level. The current study i) examined variation in occupational sitting across different occupations, ii) explored whether worksite level factors (e.g., employer size, worksite supports and policies) may be associated with occupational sitting.”

Another report published in PLoS One titled “Happier People Live More Active Lives: Using Smartphones to Link Happiness and Physical Activity” notes: “Physical activity, both exercise and non-exercise, has far-reaching benefits to physical health.”

But a key challenge for any workplace wellness program: Engagement — How to encourage employees to stay part of a movement program.

Insights might come from a recent study on the benefits of Tai chi.

MedPage Today reports that “Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, MD, PhD, of The Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, and colleagues recruited patients with coronary heart disease who refused to enroll in cardiac rehabilitation (mean age 67.9%, 26.9% women) into their trial. The setup: two groups, one randomized to lower-frequency tai chi  and one to high-frequency tai chi (three sessions per week for 12 weeks, with subsequent maintenance classes once every other week for 24 additional weeks.”

“What they found was that the more-frequent tai chi group performed more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at 3 months and 6 months, the researchers reported online in the Journal of the American Heart Association.”

The authors wrote: “Such a trend is important because it suggests a more enduring behavioral change that persisted even when support from the instructor and group was no longer present. This finding is particularly remarkable considering that our population was clearly resistant to behavioral change, as shown by the high proportion of current smokers and obese individuals in our study population.”

Perhaps one key for engagement can be found in this comment from the authors: “During training, participants are constantly reminded they do not need to strive or struggle to achieve predetermined goals in terms of heart rate or exercise intensity. Instead, they are invited to focus their attention on the breath and/or on the movements of the body.”