exercise workplace wellness

Employees Can Benefit from Physical Activity Via Workplace Wellness Programs

We have reported on the key role that a well-run workplace wellness program can play to incorporate regular movement and physical activity (PA) into the workday.

We noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 20 percent of American adults meet the minimum national exercise guidelines of at least 150 minutes per week of mixed aerobic workouts and strength training.

Further, “a health study published last month concluded that, over all, fewer than 3 percent of American adults live the kind of comprehensively healthy life that we all know we should, with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, no smoking, a normal weight and regular exercise.”

An updated National Physical Activity Plan includes content for Business & Industry: “Lack of physical activity is an important underlying health risk for NCD-related costs and is associated with reduced worker performance. The potential for business and industry to improve the level of physical activity among workers at the workplace is strong. However, the role of business and industry in promoting physical activity should go beyond the workplace itself and reach deep into the family and the community. Business can play an important leadership role in creating, coordinating, supporting, and sustaining public-private partnerships and cross-sectoral strategies that promote physical activity.”

Now, a new study “assessed the effectiveness of two PA interventions in workplace settings,” with important results for workplace wellness efforts.

The report, published by AIMS Public Health, is titled “Changes in Physical Activity Behaviour and Health Risk Factors Following a Randomised Controlled Pilot Workplace Exercise Intervention.”

The authors write: “Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, ahead of obesity. Workplaces are increasingly facilitating extensive periods of sedentary behavior with studies reporting that over 50% of daytime sitting occurs in the workplace.”

They continue: “Growing evidence suggests workplace PA interventions can be effective in increasing PA behaviours and reducing weight among employees. Important elements of successful PA interventions, at least for the short-term, include convenience, exercise guidance, social interaction, on-going monitoring and feedback, counselling and/or education sessions, and programme variety. Notwithstanding, there are limited studies comparing different workplace-based environmental approaches to effect PA and health risk factor changes.”

Participants were randomly divided into three groups:

  1. “An after-work group that had 3 × 60 min instructor-led PA sessions each week of a six-week program.”
  2. “An in-work group that had 2 × 15 min instructor-led PA periods 3 days/wk at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Instructors collected participants from their work location and conducted circuit activities incorporating walking/stair-climbing, resistance training and callisthenic exercises (n = 23) for small groups (n ≤ 6 participants) in near-proximity to their office area.”
  3. “A wait-listed control group (n = 23) who were asked to maintain their usual PA.”

The conclusions carry important insights for well-run workplace wellness programs: Interventions matter: “These workplace interventions resulted in rapid and dramatic increases in PA behaviour and important health benefits. Short, in-work PA sessions were less efficacious than longer after-work sessions.”