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Once assessment and planning have been completed, including analysis of the collected data, the next step is implementing the strategies and interventions that will comprise the workplace health program. The intervention descriptions below provide the public health evidence baseThe development, implementation, and evaluation of effective programs and policies in public health through application of principles of scientific reasoning, including systematic uses of data and information systems, and appropriate use of behavioral science theory and program planning models. for each intervention, details on designing physical activity interventions, and links to examples and resources.
Before implementing any interventions, the evaluation plan should also be developed. Potential baseline, process, health outcome, and organizational change measures for these programs are listed under evaluation of physical activity programs.
Regular physical activity is one of the most effective disease prevention behaviors. Physical activity programs:
- Reduce feelings of depression
- Improve stamina and strength
- Reduce obesity and particularly when combined with diet
- Reduce risks of cardiovascular disease (e.g., high blood pressure and
cholesterol, stroke, and type 2 diabetes)
Physical activity programs can range from simple to extensive, with varying implementation costs. The primary purposes of workplace interventions are to encourage employee education and physical activity.
Health-related programs for physical activity1-3
Employee programs refer to activities that include active employee involvement such as classes, seminars or competitions. Employee programs are frequently provided on-site at the workplace.
Individually-adapted health behavior change physical activity programs have demonstrated success and can be offered in the workplace
- The Task Force for Community Preventive Services has found that health promotion activities tailored to an individual’s specific needs increase the likelihood of beginning an exercise program and increase the frequency of exercise. Individualized programs have resulted in a 35% increase in the amount of time individuals spend in physical activity
- Employee education programs for physical activity include individual counseling after an employee health survey. Individualized programs for behavior change and personalized counseling by nurses or health educators are effective in increasing an individual’s physical activity. This counseling and education may include:
- Setting personalized goals and monitoring progress toward achieving them
- Building social support for new behaviors
- Reinforcing behavior change with awards
- Developing new problem-solving approaches to enable the individual to maintain behavior change
- Educational materials can be distributed in the workplace through classes, bulletin boards, newsletters, and high traffic locations such as the company cafeteria
- Social support programs are also effective at improving participation in physical activity. Examples can include company sports teams or walking clubs. Company departments can compete with each other in walking clubs, softball, tennis, golf and other events, which develop and maintain commitment to physical activity
Tools and Resources
- Steps to Wellness: A Guide to Implementing the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans in the Workplace [PDF - 2.7MB] provides employers with easy and understandable steps on how to get employees moving.
- North Carolina’s Eat Smart Move More Worksite Initiative has developed a guide to creating walking maps to encourage walking on worksite campuses
- The American Cancer Society’s Active for Life Program is an online, 10 week program that uses individual and group strategies to encourage people to be more active on a regular basis
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Physical Activity for Everyone website contains extensive educational material on physical activity. Topics include recommended activity levels, examples of moderate-level and vigorous-level activities, recommended activities according to age, ways to avoid injury, and a list of additional resources from organizations such as the American Heart Association
- The President’s Challenge program for corporations is a good approach to encouraging team physical activity competitions without penalizing employees who don’t participate in sports. If desired, award certificates are sold on the website. The corporate webpage offers tips to employers on using this program effectively
- The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans describes the types and amounts of physical activity that offer health benefits
Health-related policies for physical activity4
Workplace policies promote a corporate “culture of good healthThe creation of a working environment where employee health and safety is valued, supported and promoted through workplace health programs, policies, benefits, and environmental supports. Building a Culture of Health involves all levels of the organization and establishes the workplace health program as a routine part of business operations aligned with overall business goals. The results of this culture change include engaged and empowered employees, an impact on health care costs, and improved worker productivity..”
Flextime can provide more physical activity opportunities for employees
- Flexible times for beginning and ending work each day, or “flextimeAllowing employees to shift their work schedules, such as coming in earlier or later or taking a lunch break at alternate times. Flextime can be useful in creating opportunities for employees to engage in health promotion activities such as physical activity during the day and yet maintain their expected number of work hours. ,” policies can be useful in creating opportunities for employees to engage in physical activity during the day yet maintain their expected number of work hours. Flextime policies allow employees to shift their work schedules, such as coming in earlier or later or taking a lunch break at alternate times
Tools and Resources
- North Carolina’s Eat Smart Move More Worksite Initiative has created an organizational physical activity policy template
- The Utah Department of Health [PDF - 30KB] has developed an exercise and health activity time policy for its employees that can be adapted for other worksites
- The Oregon Department of Human Services has developed a Healthy Worksites toolkit that includes guidance on establishing policies to support physical activity at work as well as a sample flextime policy template
Health benefits for physical activity5-7
Employee health benefits are part of an overall compensation package and affect an employee’s willingness to seek preventive services and clinical care.
Partnering with local fitness facilities such as local gyms, YMCAs, and similar programs can increase employee physical activity
- Enhancing access to places for physical activity combined with information outreach is an important strategy to encourage employees to become more physically active
- Not all worksites have facilities, classes, or space for physical activity programs and some employees may find membership fees or a facility’s hours of operation prohibitive to participating.
- While not an evidence-based community guide recommendation, employers can provide opportunities and reduce barriers related to access or cost by partnering with local fitness facilities. Implementing an incentive where memberships are provided to local fitness facilities and physical activity programs and membership fees are reduced or subsidized can increase access and reduce barriers such as cost for employees
Tools and Resources
- The CDC Healthier Worksite Initiative includes information on selecting fitness centers
- CDC is collaborating with the YMCA and other partners on the Activate America Initiative. This initiative will bring together government, business, not for profits, schools, media, and other community partners to address the health of Americans
Environmental support provides a worksite physically designed to encourage good health.
Worksite campus design encourages incorporating physical activity into daily routines
- Encouraging employee physical activity on-site can include building safe walking trails or paths on the company campus, installing showers for joggers and exercisers, and installing gyms with aerobic and weight training equipment (with instructions on proper equipment use)
Encouraging stairwell use is easy and effective.
- Encouraging stairwell use deserves special attention as it is an inexpensive, proven approach to increasing employee physical activity. Use of “point of decision” signs (i.e., brief messages encouraging stairwell use) near elevators or escalators can increase stair use (median net increase of 53.9%)
- Effective encouragement requires more than signs. Improvements in stairwell safety and appearance, such as carpeting and lighting to make stair climbing more secure and bright wall colors to increase stairwell appeal are relatively inexpensive ways to enhance stair use
Tools and Resources
- North Carolina’s Eat Smart Move More Worksite Initiative has developed a step by step guide to establishing a worksite stairwell initiative
- Leading by Example: Creating Healthy Communities through Corporate Engagement published in 2011 by the Partnership for Prevention features 19 businesses and business groups who are providing leadership and reaching out to improve the health and wellness of their communities providing many benefits to their organizations.
- Leading by Example: The Value of Worksite Health Promotion to Small- and Medium-sized Employers published in 2011 by the Partnership for Prevention provides best practices and strategies for creating or enhancing a worksite health promotion program as well as worksite health program descriptions from almost 20 small employers
- Investing in Health: Evidence-Based Health Promotion Practices for the Workplace developed by the Partnership for Prevention contains multiple tips for increasing physical activity at the worksite. These include secure bicycle racks, identifying safe walking paths through or near the company campus, and allowing flextime so employees can exercise during the workday
- The CDC Healthier Worksite Initiative stairWELL to Better Health provides information on developing a stairwell program
- The CDC Healthier Worksite Initiative has developed information and ideas on creating stairwell messages
- The CDC Healthier Worksite Initiative has published a complete workplace toolkit for encouraging physical activity. The toolkit includes assessment of workplace walkability, strategies for increasing stairwell use, and establishing relationships with local fitness facilities